Oklahoma’s proposed immigration legislation appears to be a fear tactic

Following the lead of states like Florida and Texas, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, along with House Speaker Charles McCall, introduced House Bill 4156 this week to crack down on illegal immigrants in Oklahoma. The bill has been passed by the House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate. The main argument behind this legislation is that it gives law enforcement officers the opportunity to tackle criminals.

Under this measure, anyone found in the country illegally faces a misdemeanor and a $500 dollar fine. Violators are given 72 hours to leave the state. A second offense would be a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to two years in prison.

How big is the problem?

It is understandable why the federal government and border states with large numbers of undocumented immigrants are addressing this issue. But how big is the problem for Oklahoma? According to the American Immigration Council, there are 217,967 immigrants in Oklahoma, 68,869 of whom are undocumented. Should addressing 1.7% of the population be a priority given the many pressing issues the state currently faces – education, workforce development, housing and an already overcrowded and underfunded prison system?

The false claim that immigration brings crime waves can be traced back to the first immigrants who arrived in the United States. Yet extensive research by Stanford University and several other institutions shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than U.S.-born Americans.

More: Why Oklahoma Joins Lawsuit to Support Texas Law to Arrest and Deport Illegal Immigrants | AG

What is the economic impact?

According to the American Immigration Council, immigrants in Oklahoma are responsible for $5.5 billion in consumer spending and contribute more than $1.7 billion in Oklahoma taxes. More than 20,000 are entrepreneurs who generate $321 million in annual revenue and 6,125 are international students who pay $165 million in tuition to higher education institutions. Additionally, undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma pay $200 million in taxes and are responsible for $1.7 billion in consumer spending.

Imagine if this law were passed and we got rid of undocumented immigrants. Forget the direct costs of mass deportation, the loss of consumer spending and tax contributions. Who will pay the remaining home, car and business loans? What happens to minors who are legally resident here if their parents are deported? Will they be placed in our overwhelmed and underfunded Oklahoma Department of Human Services system?

More: Oklahoma’s Republican lawmakers are calling for a state immigration policy similar to Texas’

How will this law be implemented?

Immigration is an area of ​​federal oversight, and many undocumented immigrants wait for their cases to be processed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This means that many undocumented immigrants are already in the ICE system. How will officials decide how to treat those with pending status? Who pays for law enforcement training? Who pays for possible lawsuits if people are wrongly profiled?

Given the data and the potential economic impact, I question the true motive of this legislation. It appears to be a fear tactic often used by politicians to rattle their base. The sad thing is that we are talking about real people. Most undocumented immigrants make a net contribution to our economy and society. They are parents, friends and family to many Oklahomans. We absolutely need to arrest and deport bad characters, but how we do that matters. Demonizing groups of people is not the way to go.

On Friday we remembered the victims and survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing that took place 29 years ago. This horrific event should remind us what extremely radicalized individuals can do and how important it is not to fuel extremism for political purposes.

Erika Lucas is the founder of StitchCrew, an organization that supports emerging majority entrepreneurs, and VEST, a peer network of women professionals and investment fund for women-led businesses.