JUNE 06, 2008
A judge has blocked a key provision of an Oklahoma law to curb illegal immigration, stating that it’s unconstitutional to subject state employers to penalties for failing to comply with a federal employee verification system.
Legislators passed a law last year intended to help the state’s illegal immigration crisis by limiting public benefits to illegal aliens, requiring deportation for those arrested and cracking down on businesses that employ them. That portion of the law (Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007) subjects employers to stiff penalties if they are caught hiring illegal immigrants.
While most provisions of the new law are scheduled to go into effect later this year, a federal judge in Oklahoma blocked the employment verification portion this week, ruling that the state measure preempts federal law on immigration and that the state cannot create or impose guidelines that conflict with the Constitution or federal law.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged the employment verification provision, claiming that the electronic verification system is voluntary under federal law and that employers should not be subjected to state penalties. In other words, Oklahoma employers want the cheap illegal immigrant labor without consequences. Rejoicing at the judge’s decision, the chamber’s vice president said that Oklahoma’s law unfairly shifts the burden of immigration enforcement from government onto the backs of businesses.
Last October a different federal judge (James Payne) dismissed a separate lawsuit aimed at killing Oklahoma’s new law, which also denies state identification cards to illegal immigrants, in its entirety. Filed on behalf of a group of anonymous illegal immigrants, the suit claimed that the state measure discriminates against all immigrants but Judge Payne disagreed.
In his strongly worded ruling, Judge Payne said that anonymous illegal alien plaintiffs did not have standing (or the right to sue) to prevent the law’s implementation. He also pointed out that the illegal immigrants filed the suit in order to remove any barriers the state of Oklahoma had erected to their continued violation of federal laws. “These illegal alien Plaintiffs seek nothing more than to use this Court as a vehicle for their continued unlawful presence in this country,” he wrote.
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