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Here is the law as it reads…

It shall be unlawful for a person to intentionally engage in the smuggling of human beings for profit or commercial purpose.

B. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by incarceration in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

C. Notwithstanding any other law, in the enforcement of this section a law enforcement officer may lawfully stop any person who is operating a motor vehicle if the officer has probable cause to believe the person is in violation of any traffic law of this state.

D. For the purposes of this section:

1. “Procurement of transportation” means any participation in or facilitation of transportation and includes:

a. providing services that facilitate transportation, including travel arrangement services or money transmission services, or

b. providing property that facilitates transportation, including a weapon, a vehicle or other means of transportation, or false identification, or selling, leasing, renting or otherwise making available property or real property; and

2. “Smuggling of human beings” means the transportation, procurement of transportation or use of property or real property by a person or an entity that knows or has reason to know that the person or persons transported or to be transported are not United States citizens, permanent resident aliens or persons otherwise lawfully in this state or have attempted to enter, entered or remained in the United States in violation of law.

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Here is what I like.

I like that they are only specifically targeting with this law the people who profit on the trafficking of immigrants. At first glance, this would seem to target people coming over the border and the people who provide for the illegal smuggling of peoples into the US. I think that is the major issue that we as a country need to address is the act of immigrating illegally. Immigrants who are already here and abiding by every other US and Oklahoma law, we don’t need to be hunting them down.  Why not you may ask. Simply, it’s not cost effective and it’s not necessary. The only agency that has an interest in casing down undocumented immigrants would be the IRS, but I have not heard anyone argue that point. I think mainly because outside of day laborers the majority of long term immigrants are paying into the tax system even though until their legal status changes, they are not seeing refunds or benefits from those contributions.

What I don’t like

I don’t like that this law was pushed forward in front of a lot of other pressing matters. It’s a politically motivated law to a politically motivated fear of a problem that has yet to be fully identified. I read the intent of the law but it also puts to much power in the hands of the local authorities to interpret and misuse. We have seen case after case in other states of laws like this being abused by rural authorities looking to profit from preying on undocumented immigrants by taking their possessions but not fully chasing and charing them for any law breaking. I have no problem with a judge or jury taking away a persons property, but there are no checks and balances with a police department who has the authority to seize your property for 90 days without evidence or a court order. I worry that this law will be abused and that we will never know because the victim will be afraid to step forward.

What I did about it

I contacted all my representatives about the new law with some simple questions. I will give my state senator Clark Jolley the most credit for being responsive and open to a dialog on the issue. My state house representative Marian Cooksey never responded to my email on the issue. I was most interested in hearing from her as to how this bill became authored since she is listed as a co-sponsor and what the primary motivation was behind the focus on immigration in Oklahoma. There is a buzz in state politics that if we don’t pass laws like this then we will get all of the immigrants from Arizona and Texas.

I have seen no direct evidence pointing to Oklahoma having an immigration problem. We have a very efficient and effective drug enforcement strategy through state and local agencies that does a good job of keeping out the drug runners. In fact, when most people go to defend these kinds of laws they point out the drug busts and how the people involved were undocumented immigrants. Two issues with that argument. Those individuals were busted for smuggling drugs. If they had been white people with valid paperwork, they probably still would have been busted after being pulled over. I have never heard of a cop who just felt like he had to let a suspect go because he didn’t have a reason to search the car. In Oklahoma when a cop has a reason to pull you over, he also has a reason to search your car. Second issue with the drug argument is that it just isn’t true by the numbers. I have done a lot of research looking for statistics to show how undocumented immigrants have caused a rise in drug related crime and the numbers just are not there. Drug crime rises with the population fairly evenly, in fact data shows that black non-Hispanic population increases are more likely to increase the drug crime rate then any Hispanic population increase. At least from the data I compared from 2000 to 2005 census and OSBI arrest data.

If someone has better, more recent data or a better analysis that would prove me wrong, I would love to hear it. But I have not been presented with any real information on the issue. The presentation of these laws have all been based on political posturing and conjecturer about a misunderstood and misrepresented population. I have written a blog post before on this issue of blaming immigrants for our issues.

Final Thoughts

I will end with this thought. If you support immigration reform that requires local law enforces to discriminate how and who they serve based on legal status, you create an underground of un-reported crime that creates and re-enforces the existence of gangs and an increase in gang violence or what they call street justice. What we need is an open dialog between the immigrant community and local law enforcement so that drugs and gangs can’t gain a foothold in our community. That kind of reform solves no real problems and creates new ones. I look forward to the day when the Federal government addresses immigration reform issue and we can remove these laws from the books or at least re address them to protect the civil liberties of individuals who will no doubt be effected by these laws.

Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the issue.