Despite his official statement that "we will not effectively address immigration reform until the federal government acts," Gov. Brad Henry signed the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007 on May 8.
The new law criminalizes transporting, moving, harboring, concealing and sheltering undocumented aliens in Oklahoma, and eliminates state assistance and denies education benefits and scholarships to the undocumented.
Its restrictive language has worried many social-service agencies and churches that provide aid to poor and indigent people.
"This law is certainly a concern to any organization that is giving aid," said Rev. Jim Goins of Catholic Charities. "Everyone is unsettled about how the law's language will be interpreted."
State Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, one of the bill's authors, said, "This law will not penalize private charities that use private funds. Catholic Charities uses public funds, though. They are one of the few, if not the only, religious organization that uses taxpayer dollars."
OPEN TO INTERPRETATION
State Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, said the law's verbiage was open to interpretation.
"The actual application and interpretation will be up to individual district attorneys, though," Rice said.
Pat Fennell, the executive director of the Latino Community Development Agency, said she was disappointed that Rice voted in favor of the bill.
"He knows how bad this law is," she said. "The sad thing is that we have the numbers to make a difference in elections, but until we get eligible voters registered, we will continue to see decisions like this one." "Greg Horton