The nation's strictest immigration crackdown went into effect this week in Oklahoma after a federal judge refused Hispanic and immigrants rights groups' attempt to block it.
The new law prevents illegal aliens from getting driver's licenses, denies them every possible public service or benefit not required by federal law, gives state and local police the ability to enforce immigration laws and, beginning next year, requires employers to check new employees' identities through a federal database.
"It is the toughest state-level immigration reform bill in the nation," said state Rep. Randy Terrill, the Republican who wrote House Bill 1804, which became law on Thursday. "The judge has effectively validated this approach, and he has effectively given the green light to other states to begin to proceed with measures that are similar to House Bill 1804."
As important as the new law was this week's decision by U.S. District Judge James H. Payne, who rejected immigrants rights groups' request for an injunction. In his ruling on Wednesday, Judge Payne said the groups didn't have any evidence to support their claims of harm.
The judge allowed the law to take effect while the case proceeds. The parties will be back in court next week.
Other states — notably Arizona and Georgia — also have passed laws cracking down on illegal entry, as have some localities. Rulings on those regulations have been mixed, including a judge who overturned an effort in Hazleton, Pa., to try to prevent landlords from renting to illegal aliens.
The adverse rulings have said immigration is a responsibility of the federal government, not states.
But the Oklahoma law was written carefully to get around those prohibitions by weaving together places where the state has a right to act in such a way that can "functionally criminalize" illegal entry, Mr. Terrill said.
Some states are going the other direction. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer has announced his state will issue driver's licenses to some illegal aliens, while Illinois passed a law blocking companies from using federal databases to check employees' work eligibility.
But in Oklahoma, the crackdown is extremely popular.
A federal judge this week allowed Oklahoma's law cracking down on illegal aliens to go into effect. As the toughest law in the nation, it would:
•Eliminate illegal aliens' ability to get an official government identification card, such as a driver's or occupational license.
•Prevent illegal aliens from obtaining public benefits or assistance other than what is required by federal law, such as education and emergency medical care.
•Create a state felony offense for persons who knowingly harbor, transport, conceal or shelter illegal aliens. Each offense is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
•Make illegal aliens arrested for felonies or alcohol-related misdemeanors generally ineligible for parole, meaning they must be held until federal authorities come to pick them up.
•As of July 2008, businesses will have to check new employees' work authorization with federal databases.
•Create incentives for businesses not to hire illegal aliens, including creating a private cause of action for anyone who is fired from a position that later is given to an illegal alien.
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