An Oklahoma State Senator has proposed legislation to create a state guest worker program for illegal aliens. Senator Harry Coates of Seminole, Oklahoma submitted Senate Bill 995 last Monday. The bill is a response to House Bill 1804, which cracked down on illegal aliens across the state. The intention of the bill is allow illegal aliens to legally work in the state of Oklahoma, which Coates believes will provide a boost to sales and tax revenues.
"Since the passage of House Bill 1804, we've seen a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants who have taken up residence in Texas and other surrounding states where they pump millions of dollars into those economies," said Coates. "House Bill 1804 did little more than put Oklahoma companies at a disadvantage by sending dedicated, knowledgeable workers to competing companies in other states. Losing that workforce has been devastating for many of Oklahoma's industries including agriculture, energy and construction."
Coates argues that out-of-state companies are now coming to Oklahoma, competing for and winning contracts with the workforce that was driven out of the state by HB 1804.
Under SB 995, the state Department of Labor would be responsible for operating the program. Individuals 18 years or older would be able to purchase a guest worker program for $2000 and find a sponsor who would agree to hire them and provide basic health insurance. For an additional $500, illegal aliens would also be entitled to a immediate family permit that would protect the guest workers immediate family from deportation.
Rep. Randy Terril, the author of HB 1804, called the bill "outrageous", and compared it to selling citizenship.
"The bottom line is his proposal is so unbelievably out of touch that I don't think it has a snowball's chance of passing," Terrill said.
Rep. Terril credits HB 1804 with reducing the state's unemployment rate and increasing pay in certain fields.
HB 1804 bans workers here illegally from obtaining a government-issued identification card and most forms of public assistance or entitlements. It makes it a felony to harbor, transport, conceal or shelter an illegal alien. The bill also requires public employers to verify the legal status of all employees.