One shoe off

September 20, 2007

“The Mexicans are Laying Low”

Filed under: Bad Government,Idiotic ideas,immigration,Jesus,politics — Liz @ 11:01 am

I’ll say this for Muskogee, OK in contrast to many other parts of the state — it is an incredibly racially and ethnically diverse city. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum is in Muskogee, and the Cherokee Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation headquarters are in close proximity. Muskogee has a relatively large African-American population, and the Latino population has grown exponentially over the past years. There is even a growing Asian community as evidenced by the number of new Asian families moving in to my parents’ subdivision.

So imagine my surprise when, in my first few days as Spanish interpreter at the Muskogee County Health Department, I found myself with no one to interpret for! Not to mention that the tamale lady was gone from the Farmer’s Market. And the music minister from the Muskogee Hispanic Baptist Church had also disappeared. What was going on?

The answer came from my mother, who spoke with a local Latino leader yesterday during a planning meeting for Muskogee’s “Diversity Day” celebration.

“The Mexicans are laying low,” he said. “So just know that they aren’t going to show up because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

You see, back in May the Oklahoma legislature approved (and Gov. Brad Henry signed) the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007. The law requires all state and local agencies to verify resident status before approving benefits. It denies state identification cards to undocumented immigrants and requires employers to check applicants against a federal database to determine their resident status.

The rest of it is quite reprehensible, though, and deserves to be quoted word-for-word:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to transport, move, or attempt to transport within the United States any alien knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States.
B. It shall be unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
C. Any person violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. “

Of course, if you read the text of the law, it tells you that certain services are exempt from the requirement — for example, services guaranteed by federal law (like WIC), and emergency services (like emergency medical treatment or soup kitchens) are still allowed. Try explaining that to someone who was already in fear of being caught and deported, though.

The deadline for all of this is Nov. 1, which explains why people are becoming more and more worried, and why this issue is going to continue to stay at the forefront of discussions in Oklahoma for the next months. Robert Waldrop wrote an excellent piece about the legislation back when it first passed Oklahoma House. More on this as it develops.


  1. I am so frightened that we are legislating racism… the “Citizen Protection Act”?! From what, exactly, am I being protected? People who want to escape the life of poverty they were likely leading? People who want to work in fields where I have no desire to work, and for much less pay than I’d be willing to sweat in the sun for? And they’re telling me it’s a felony to transport or shelter “aliens”? That’s ludicrous! My obligation to my fellow human is much more important.

    Our country has been a culture of fear and suspicion, and this feeling has been fostered by the current administration since 9/11. This has grown to an idea that it’s right and responsible to turn in your neighbor. At the airport, for example, we’re constantly reminded to watch our bags and to “report and suspicious activity you see.” Not “potentially dangerous activity” or “potential terrorist activity,” but anything suspicious.

    Hmm. I feel a blog post of my own coming on.

    Comment by Tasha — September 20, 2007 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  2. This kind of thing makes me crazy. What kind of place makes it illegal – a felony in fact – to help people? Besides that, what in the world does “knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that…” mean? How can you disregard something you don’t know? The whole thing defies logic.

    Comment by Elissa — September 21, 2007 @ 11:09 am | Reply

  3. I would love to know more about what religious organizations are doing in response–is their a new sanctuary movement in OK. Thanks for this post. Was a real eye opener for me. Sharon

    Comment by Sharon Grvoes — September 23, 2007 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  4. I’m not sure exactly of all the responses to the new law. There is a lot of confusion on what the effect of the new law are going to be. For example, some services are guaranteed by the federal government, regardless of immigration status (for example WIC and access to public education).

    I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that there’s already been an informal network of people trying to help immigrants, at least at my parents’ church (surprised because their church tends to run conservative). Because my dad speaks Spanish and is good friends with the local Hispanic pastor, he’s often called about jobs, and he knows which church members are likely to hire workers and pay livable wages.

    One effect lately is that, with so many Latinos (mostly Mexican) leaving the area, local businesses are losing money. There were several area businesses (dollar stores, grocery stores, etc.) whose clientele was largely Latino, and they’ve taken an enormous hit.

    All that to say, I’m definitely keeping me ear to the ground on this and will be writing more about it as the effects become clear.

    Comment by Liz — September 23, 2007 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  5. Thanks for shining a light on this Liz. Hmm – I think I heard something somewhere about being a stranger in a strange land ourselves…or something like that…

    Comment by Mark — September 25, 2007 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

  6. Here the big issue is the border wall. Since everyone in this city will come into contact with it. People are pretty upset about it. I want to get a t-shirt with something like “this isn’t cold war berlin” written on it. Actually the wildlife people are really upset because the fence will keep the animals from getting to the river to drink. But no one seems to care about the ecological problems that can cause.

    Comment by Jerry — October 16, 2007 @ 7:33 am | Reply

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