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  • Writer's pictureKyle Persaud

Oklahoma Immigration Laws: A Quick Guide

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

Haga clic aquí para leer en español.

In a nutshell, these are some of Oklahoma’s Immigration Laws:

  • You can’t transport or shelter anyone not legally present in the U.S.

  • People not legally present in the U.S. can’t have Oklahoma ID cards or driver’s licenses

  • If you are arrested, the state must check whether you are in the U.S. legally

  • People in the U.S. illegally, can’t obtain public benefits

In further detail, here are Oklahoma’s immigration laws:

Almost all immigration law is federal law – that is, almost all immigration law is enacted by the federal government in Washington, DC. Long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that only the federal government – not state governments – can make immigration law. Because almost all immigration law is federal law, most immigration law is the same throughout the U.S., in every state.

However, recently, the U.S. Supreme Court held that states do have some authority to pass laws enforcing immigration law. Immigration laws that Oklahoma has passed, include the following:

  1. It is illegal to transport, move, conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any person, if you know, or have reckless disregard of the fact that, this person is not legally present in the U.S. If you violate this law, you can spend up to 1 year in prison, and pay a fine of up to $1,000. (statute here)

  2. State and local government agencies, and public and private schools and colleges, may not issue identification cards to anyone not legally present in the U.S. Cards that may not be issued to those not legally present, include driver’s licenses, non-driver ID cards, and birth certificates. (statute here)

  3. If a person had been charged with a felony, or driving under the influence, and is confined in jail, the state must make an effort to determine whether the person is legally present in the U.S. If the person is not legally present in the U.S., or if the state is unable to determine whether he is legally present, then the state must notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (statute here)

  4. Every public employer in Oklahoma, and every corporation that contracts with a public employer is Oklahoma, must verify that all its employees are legally present in the U.S. (statutes here and here)

  5. If any person over the age of fourteen applies to a state agency for public benefits, the person must provide the state agency with proof that he is legally present in the U.S. A state agency may not provide public benefits to a person who cannot prove that he is legally present in the U.S. If any person provides a false statement to a state agency in applying for public benefits, he may be prosecuted for fraud. (statute here) “Public benefits” includes professional and business licenses. (State Attorney General’s opinion here)

  6. No state or local government entity in Oklahoma may prohibit any employee from communicating or cooperating with federal officials regarding the immigration status of any person in Oklahoma. (statute here)

  7. No person not legally present in the U.S. may be considered a resident of Oklahoma for the purpose of receiving any college education benefit, including scholarships or financial aid. No person not legally present in the U.S. may be eligible to receive in-state tuition at any school within the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education. (statutes here and here)

The Oklahoma Legislature has also passed a number of immigration laws that courts later declared unconstitutional. These laws include:

  • A section of the immigration laws denied in-state tuition for higher education to those who had passed the GED, but had not graduated from high school. Because this law was included in an immigration statute, but did not relate to immigration, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that this law was unconstitutional, because the Oklahoma Constitution requires that every statute embrace only one subject.

  • A statute stated that anyone not legally present in the U.S., who was confined in jail for a felony or for driving under the influence, was presumed to be a “flight risk” and that therefore, a trial judge could deny such a person bail. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared this statute unconstitutional.

Read the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, holding these laws unconstitutional, here.

Other state immigration laws, which a federal court later declared unconstitutional, included:

  • A law held that an employer could not fire an employee who is lawfully present in the U.S., while retaining an employee who is not lawfully present in the U.S. A federal district court declared this law unconstitutional.

  • A law required all businesses in Oklahoma, to verify that all their independent contractors were authorized to work in the U.S. If a business could not verify that an independent contractor was so authorized, the business was required to withhold certain taxes from the contractor. A federal district court declared this law unconstitutional.

Read two federal court rulings, holding these laws unconstitutional, here and here.

Some of these statutes, which have since been declared unconstitutional, are still on the books. (You can see some of these statutes as subsections of the statutes in the links above.) However, because courts have declared these statutes unconstitutional after the statutes were passed, these statutes are not enforceable and are no longer the law of Oklahoma.


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