Controversial Oklahoma immigration law draws second legal challenge

Hundreds of people, most of them Latino, attend a Hispanic Cultural Day rally outside the Oklahoma State Capitol on May 15 to protest the newly enacted House Bill 4156, which creates the criminal offense of impermissible occupation. (Photo by Nuria Martinez-Keel/Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY – A second federal lawsuit was filed Thursday against a controversial Oklahoma immigration law.

Padres Unidos de Tulsa, an advocacy organization, and Ximena Monserrat Lopez Mena, a 20-year-old Oklahoma City resident and Mexican national who was brought to the United States as a baby, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District.

The suit seeks a declaration that the law, which takes effect July 1, is unlawful, a prohibition on its enforcement and attorney fees.

The lawsuit comes two days after the federal government filed a similar suit seeking to invalidate House Bill 4156.

Both suits allege the measure violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Immigration matters are reserved for Congress, the suits allege.

The measure “creates a new state system to regulate immigration that completely bypasses and conflicts within the federal system,” Thursday’s suit said. “It allows state officers to arrest, detain, and expel from Oklahoma noncitizens who are convicted of the new state crimes – all without any direction, input, or involvement whatsoever from federal officials.”

The measure banishes large categories of immigrants who are entitled to remain in the United States while their cases are pending, the suit said.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, National Immigration Law Center and law firm Rivas & Associates against Attorney General Gentner Drummond, Public Safety Commissioner Tim Tipton, Oklahoma County District Attorney Vicki Behenna and Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler.

“Neither the Biden administration nor the ACLU will keep Oklahoma from working to ensure public safety,” Drummond said. “Our state has a sovereign right to protect our people, and I will vigorously defend our law in court.”

Drummond encouraged lawmakers to pass the law.

“Everyday people are suffering from discrimination, mistreatment, and isolation as a result of unjust and illogical laws and attitudes,” said Lorena Rivas, an attorney with the Tulsa-based law firm Rivas & Associates.

House Bill 4156, by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, was signed last month. It takes effect July 1.

It creates a new crime called “impermissible occupation” for willfully entering the state without legal authorization to be in the United States.

The first offense is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in county jail and a fine of up to $500 or both.

The person would be required to leave the state within 72 hours.

A second offense is a felony with up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.


The post Controversial Oklahoma immigration law draws second legal challenge appeared first on Oklahoma Voice.