Unemployment rates are rising across the United States, except Oklahoma. That state is experiencing the most dramatic reduction in unemployment since 2007, an improvement many in Oklahoma attribute to the passage last year by the state legislature of a strong employment-focused immigration reform law.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday reported unemployment in Oklahoma had fallen to 3.1 percent in March, down from 4 percent in March last year, while unemployment nationwide was 5.1 percent, up from 4.4 percent in March last year.
“Oklahoma is no longer ‘OK’ for illegal aliens,” said State Rep. Randy Terrill, who sponsored House Bill 1804 which passed by overwhelming majorities last year in both the House (84-14) and Senate (41-6) of the Oklahoma Legislature.
“The bottom line is illegal aliens will not come here if there are no jobs waiting for them,” Terrill said. “They will not stay here if there is no government subsidy, and they certainly won’t stay here if they know that if they ever encounter our state and local law enforcement officers, they will be physically detained until they are deported.”
House Bill 1804, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, has been characterized by USA Today as “arguably the nation’s toughest state law targeting illegal immigration.”
The Oklahoma law imposes strict penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, makes it a felony to transport or shelter illegal immigrants, forbids the state to issue drivers licenses or pay social welfare benefits to illegal aliens or their families, and empowers state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
Last month, the Oklahoma Bankers Association threatened Oklahoma would lose about $1.8 billion annually in productivity and wages, largely because House Bill 1804, which went into effect in November last year, will force an estimated 50,000 illegal immigrants to leave the state.
The group based the conclusions on a study done by economists Russell Evans and Kyle Dean of the Oklahoma-based Economic Impact Group that estimated as many as 70,000 illegal immigrants were living in Oklahoma when the legislation was passed.
Proponents of the law would counter that forcing illegal aliens to leave Oklahoma was precisely the intended effect of the bill.
“The next question to ask would be whether citizens have taken jobs that illegals used to do,” observed blogger Tom Blumer. “Though the lower unemployment rate doesn’t in and of itself prove that, it does point strongly in that direction.”
“Will anyone in Old Media dig more deeply into the Sooner State’s situation?” Blumer wondered. “Or will they try to pretend that Oklahoma’s improvement doesn’t exist, because finding out why might expose some inconvenient truths, and hurt the cause of illegal-immigrant ‘amnesty.'”