Thousands of Hispanics have fled the Tulsa, Okla., area in the shadow of a looming state law that limits benefits and mandates deportation for illegal aliens, according to a report from KTUL television in Tulsa.

The state of Oklahoma recently approved a new law that requires deportation for illegal aliens who are arrested, and limits benefits and jobs to those individuals. The report said in East Tulsa, where a community of Hispanics has grown over recent years, there’s been a sudden drop in population.

Business owner Simon Navarro has been in business there 11 years, and said the tough law has chased away 30 percent of the state’s Hispanic population.

“Two months ago I heard 25,000 Hispanics have left Oklahoma,” he told the station. “They are leaving. A lot have already left.

“People are leaving,” he said. “They’re scared of the sheriff.”

A spokesman for Tulsa’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Francisco Trevino, said he believes the law – and its results – will hurt restaurants, construction companies and other service corporations such as lawn care.

“They do everything we don’t want to do,” he said.

Homebuilders also have expressed concerns.

“Sitting here today I understand it’s about rounding up criminals, and illegals,” said Paul Kane. “But, the Hispanics are fleeing Oklahoma because they think an anti-Hispanic environment is being created.”

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz, telling KTUL television about the departure of illegal aliens from his county (Screen shot of KTUL video)

However, authorities are making their preparations for a full enforcement of the law when it takes effect in November.

Deputies from the Tulsa County sheriff’s office are going through training to handle the apprehension and deportation procedures that are being set up. Their training will prepare them to handle the multiple duties of deputy sheriff as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

When they are finished they will be prepared to identify illegal aliens who commit crimes, and make sure they are deported.

Officials say many of those departing apparently are heading either to Kansas or Arkansas. But that may not be for long, since Arkansas is about to adopt a law similar to Oklahoma’s, and Kansas is considering a similar move.

Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz told KTUL that the impact of the illegal alien population is evident all over, especially in the jail.

“We see the effects of gangs, we see the effects of illegal immigrants, we see the effects of drugs, we see the effects of methamphetamines,” he said.

“We want to go after the criminal element that we have in this community,” added U.S. Rep. John Sullivan. “People that commit crimes, drug trafficking, murder, rape, DUI, carrying a concealed weapon.”

The newly trained officers will be on the job as early as October, before the November effective date of the new law. They say the bottom line is that illegal aliens in Tulsa County who commit a crime will be deported.

The state law still may face a legal challenge. Miguel Rivera of the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders said it could be in federal court as soon as Oct. 1.

He said the argument likely would be that Oklahoma’s House Bill 1804 pre-empts federal immigration law, which is much more lenient than the Oklahoma statute.

The new effort to tighten and enforce immigration limits has prompted a severe reaction. Several billboards have gone up questioning the new law.

One, funded by the United Front Task Force, asks, “Is it OK for Oklahoma to have a law that promotes hate among people?”

The other, by the American Dream Coalition, shows a tearful girl clutching a teddy bear with the statement, “My mommy is not a criminal. She is a hardworking Hispanic woman.”

But on the television station’s forum page, a listener responded: “We need to put up more signs that say: OKIES don’t hate illegal immigrants they just want them legal! Deport all illegal immigrants now.”

The Republican who wrote HB 1804, Randy Terrill of Moore, said the plan doesn’t discriminate, harass or single out anyone, unless they are breaking the law.

“This isn’t about whether you are for or against immigration, or for or against immigrants. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is or if you speak with an accent. What matters is if you are in the country legally or illegally. The only people threatened by House Bill 1804 are those who choose to break the law,” he said.

It eliminates most taxpayer subsidies for illegal immigrants and allows state and local law enforcement officers to verify the residency status of those arrested. It also cracks down on business owners who employ illegal immigrants.

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