Friday, June 13, 2008

Do the federally suspended provisions of H.B. 1804 require Oklahoma businesses to enforce immigration laws?

Apparently one Oklahoma legislator believes so. In a June 6 Tulsa World story Republican Oklahoma Senator Harry Coates of Seminole sets the world straight about whose responsibility it is, and whose it isn't, to enforce immigration laws:

Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said that "all bets are off having to do with those provisions."

Coates filed unsuccessful legislation in the past session to repeal sections of the law. He noted that federal statutes still apply to businesses.

Coates said portions of the law are good.

However, he said, enforcing immigration laws is up to the federal government, not businesses.

The law has caused many legal citizens to leave, creating a major work force problem for many businesses, Coates said. He said many Oklahoma businesses pay well more than minimum wage but still can't find workers. (italics added)

With all due respect to the Senator, I don't get his line of argument re who should and shouldn't be tasked with enforcing immigration law. But I've heard the argument stated in his exact terms more times than I want to count during this whole debate over H.B. 1804. And we've all heard it said before, but it bears repeating in this case:

"There's nothing so absurd than if you repeat something often enough people begin to believe it."

If H.B. 1804 contains no provision requiring Oklahoma businesses to enforce immigration laws, then what relevance does the good Senator's statements bear to the issue at hand? In other words, what impelled him to make the statement? Is that the best he can come up with, or has he heard it said so many times himself that he's been conditioned to repeat it on command? Can the Senator cite a specific provision in the law which in fact requires law enforcement of Oklahoma businesses? The answer is no. All the law requires of Oklahoma businesses is that they comply with its provisions concerning the hiring of illegal immigrants. And if they don't comply then there are penalties for non-compliance. And it goes without mentioning the absurdity of having a law without the means to enforce it.

At the Immigration Seminar I attended a few months back someone raised the issue of whether businesses, according to the law, could be held liable for not reporting a known illegal applicant to the proper authorities. A discussion ensued and I interjected pointing out that businesses using the E-Verify system in compliance with the law would, on entering questionable or falsified information provided them by the applicant (that's the way it works; the applicant provides the employer with his information and the employer, in turn, runs it through the E-Verify system -- it's the incentive program; if you're an illegal alien residing in the state of Oklahoma, don't apply for a job unless you wish to be deported, or, stated more directly, if you're an illegal alien residing in Oklahoma, you're not welcome here so leave!), automatically be alerting authorities as to the potentiality of the applicant's illegality; that on this basis the concern was ill-founded and that the legislature had in fact provided, whether intentional or not, a measure of protection to businesses using the E-Verify system. But I don't want to lose sight of the fact that the law does not even require businesses to register with E-Verify; that it merely denies them access to government contracts if they choose not to comply with that provision of the law. So, if a business is not interested in obtaining government contracts, and if it has a reasonable internal policy regarding the hiring of employees, i.e., don't hire illegal aliens, then the business in question may continue to operate as if H.B. 1804 were never enacted. Somehow though this is considered an undue burden on businesses, that to secure government contracts they must be registered with and using E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of their new applicants.

But the main point still stands. Has Senator Coates, a State law-maker, fallen prey to the absurdity of having heard the implied statement "H.B. 1804 wrongly requires businesses to enforce immigration law" so often that he now believes it and thus instinctively repeats it in public pronouncements of opposition to the law?


Call Me Mom said...

I must agree with Mr. Coates that enforcing the law is the job of the government.

However, it is the responsibility of the people, (Last time I checked business owners were people.) to assist law enforcement by:
1.) obeying the law
2.) reporting crimes to law enforcement
3.) testifying in court when necessary.

Perhaps Mr. Coates requires a course in citizenship so he understands the vital link between good citizenship and law enforcement.

Terry Morris said...


Yes; I agree with you, of course, that law enforcement is the job of government. But Senator Coates's statement carries the implication that the sections of Oklahoma's law currently under federal suspension (Section 7 in particular) somehow makes Oklahoma businesses into quasi law enforcement entities, which is abjectly false:

SECTION 7. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 1313 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. Every public employer [government] shall register and participate in the Basic Pilot Program to verify the work authorization status of all new employees.

B. 1. No public employer shall enter into a contract for the physical performance of services within this state unless the contractor [private business] registers and participates in the Basic Pilot Program to verify the work authorization status of all new employees.

2. No contractor or subcontractor who enters a contract with a public employer shall enter into such a contract or subcontract in connection with the physical performance of services within this state unless the contractor or subcontractor registers and participates in the Basic Pilot Program to verify information of all new employees.

3. The discharge of any United States citizen or permanent resident alien employee by an employer of this state, who, on the date of the discharge employed an unauthorized alien, shall be an unfair trade practice as defined in Section 752 of Title 15 of the Oklahoma Statutes. The discharged employee shall have a private cause of action for such unfair trade practice.

C. The provisions of this section shall be enforced without regard to race or national origin.

D. The Department of Labor shall prescribe forms and promulgate rules and regulations deemed necessary in order to administer and effectuate the provisions of this section and publish such rules and regulations on the Department of Labor website.

Again I ask, what in the name of all that is holy would impel Senator Coates to argue from such an outrageous and blatantly false position? Senator Coates?