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Hispanic Day at the Capitol gets makeover in light of Oklahoma's new immigration law

A major part of Hispanic Day at the Capitol includes cultural demonstrations by Oklahomans representing their countries and ethnic backgrounds. This year the demonstrations will take place alongside protests against HB 4156.
Abi Ruth Martin
/
Legislative Service Bureau
A major part of Hispanic Day at the Capitol includes cultural demonstrations by Oklahomans representing their countries and ethnic backgrounds. This year the demonstrations will take place alongside protests against HB 4156.

Latino Oklahomans are raising the volume of their opposition to a recently passed law criminalizing people in the state without legal immigration status.

This year, organizers of the annual Hispanic Day at the Capitol are shifting the day’s focus from celebrating the community to protesting House Bill 4156.

Since 2016, Hispanic Day at the Capitol has been a day of celebration — a day Latino Oklahomans can share their contributions to the state with pride, regardless of their citizenship status.

On May 15 however, members of the Latino Legislative Caucus are calling on people from all immigrant communities to rally in opposition to House Bill 4156. The law, signed by Stitt late last month, labels all immigrants without legal permission to reside in the country as criminals.

Rep. Annie Menz, D- Norman, started the event eight years ago as a legislative assistant for Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City. She said in a press release Friday the event was always meant to be adaptable, to meet the needs of Latinos in Oklahoma.

"It was always meant to be a day of advocacy, while also providing the opportunity for us to share the beauty of our culture with our state's leaders," Menz said. "As the event grows each year, we have been adaptable, and this year will be no different in that regard."

Oklahoma City Democrat Arturo Alonso-Sandoval is also a part of organizing the event.

“Rather than celebrating, we're demonstrating our opposition to HB 4156,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “We’ll have a lineup of different speakers, not only within the Hispanic community, but recognizing that the immigrant community is, you know, Asian, Middle Eastern, European.”

The event will still feature food from represented Latino countries, cultural dances and storytelling opportunities for community members and a chance to meet with — or leave messages for — lawmakers regarding the immigration measure and other issues.


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Lionel Ramos covers state government for a consortium of Oklahoma’s public radio stations. He is a graduate of Texas State University in San Marcos with a degree in English. He has covered race and equity, unemployment, housing, and veterans' issues.
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