April 2008 Editorial Winner

Let's wait and see on state immigration law's impact

By Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle

Illegal immigration is, everyone agrees, a problem in the United States. According to the Web site immigrationcounters.com, there are 21.4 million illegal immigrants in the United States. In an effort to crack down on illegal immigration in Oklahoma, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, authored House Bill 1804, which was passed last session and went into effect Nov. 1.

The measure prevents undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver's licenses and public services. The bill made it illegal to transport, conceal or harbor illegal immigrants and eventually will require employers to check immigration status of employees through an online federal program.

The bill also, according to a recent report, is costing Oklahoma money.

A study, commissioned by Oklahoma Bankers' Association and conducted by Economic Impact Group of Edmond, found HB 1804 will cost our state $1.8 billion in economic losses as foreign-born workers leave the state.

This projection is based on 50,000 workers, both documented an undocumented, leaving the state, causing a 1.3 percent drop in the gross state product.

But do the numbers add up? Not necessarily, according to local Hispanic representatives. Tillie Sewell, of Enid Hispanic Council, said she believes the impact of HB 1804 already would have been seen around Enid. She said she doesn't see many people leaving Enid at this time and says she doesn't expect a mass exodus.

That likely is because most foreign-born workers in this area are properly documented, either as naturalized citizens or resident aliens.

Local lawmakers, like state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, and Rep. Mike Jackson, R-Enid, are skeptical of the economic impact report, and we agree.

It is too early to tell the full economic impact of HB 1804. There may be isolated sectors where there is a larger impact than others - such as construction - but it is too soon to issue dire predictions about the economic impact of immigration reform.