ACLU Files Suit to Block Far-Reaching Immigration Bill in Oklahoma

Special to the Vanguard

Oklahoma City – Civil rights groups today challenged Oklahoma’s HB 4156, a far-reaching, harmful new law that would create a state system to regulate immigration that completely bypasses and conflicts with federal law and would have dramatic consequences for Oklahoma communities.

HB 4156, which does not take effect until July 1, 2024, conflicts with existing immigration laws by usurping federal control over the immigration system, regulating people’s entry into the United States, and banishing people from Oklahoma who have a federal right to remain here. Under HB 4156, entire categories of immigrants would be barred from entering the state, or could be ordered to leave, even if they are pursuing asylum or other lawful immigration status.

The federal lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Oklahoma, National Immigration Law Center, and law firm Rivas & Associates on behalf of the Oklahoma-based organization Padres Unidos, and an individual plaintiff who came to the United States nearly 20 years ago as a 1-year-old. She has resided in Oklahoma her whole life and her entire family — including her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and U.S.-citizen siblings — all live nearby. She could be prosecuted and removed from Oklahoma under this new law and separated from her entire family and the only place she has called home.

“This divisive law will have devastating consequences for Oklahoma families and communities,” said Noor Zafar, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Friends, family members, neighbors, and community members will be pushed into harm’s way regardless of their immigration status, local resources will be unfairly strained, and constitutional due process rights will be trampled upon. Oklahoma should reject these efforts to divide their communities.”

HB 4156 is based largely on SB 4, the Texas immigration law that has received national attention and is currently blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals as likely being unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

“Oklahoma’s immigrant communities have played a crucial role in ensuring the state can overcome whatever challenges come its way,” said Nicholas Espíritu, deputy legal director at the National Immigration Law Center. “Now, with this new law, the state’s politicians are forcing those same community members into an impossible choice — to either leave the state and the families they care for behind or face nonsensical criminal sanctions. This law would be disastrous for all Oklahomans. It cannot stand.”

“HB 4156 is one of the most extreme anti-immigrant bills ever to be passed by any state. Local law enforcement and magistrates lack the expertise and the constitutional authority to interpret and enforce immigration law,” said Tamya Cox-Toure, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma. “Throughout this legislative session, Oklahoma politicians have treated immigrants seeking safety and hope with little to no regard and have continued to push policies out of touch with who we aspire to be as a state and country. That’s why we’re using every tool at our disposal, including litigation, to stop this egregious law from going into effect. Our communities should not have to live in fear under the shadow of laws rooted in white supremacy and hate.”

“Everyday people are suffering from discrimination, mistreatment, and isolation as a result of unjust and illogical immigration laws and attitudes. When Oklahoma decided to add to the problem by creating their own poorly thought immigration law, we felt we had no choice but to join the fight and support our clients, neighbors, family, and community. It was the right thing to do,” said Lorena Rivas, an attorney with the Tulsa-based law firm Rivas & Associates.


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