Sebastian Lantos called Oklahoma's new immigration law inhuman,
unethical, and immoral. Kris Kobach said it helped Oklahoma comply
with several key federal immigration laws.
Francisco Trevino equated it to racism. Kobach thought it
humanizing and fair.
Linda Allegro referred to state House Bill 1804 as our best
example of a policy of exclusion. Kobach, who preferred the Arizona
law for a case study, said both experiments proved effective at
freely encouraging people to obey the law.
The University of Tulsa's broad investigation of state and
federal immigration law trends Friday could not escape the divisive
shadow of Oklahoma's controversial law. The Tulsa Journal of
Comparative and International Law Symposium saw panelists voice
criticism of 1804 in almost every program. The panel on inclusivity
or exclusivity quickly emerged a lopsided tag-team match, with
almost every point debated.
"When immigration laws are enforced poorly, that's when claims of
inhumanity are raised most," said Kobach, a professor of law at the
University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
From his insights as the director of U.S. Department of Justice
efforts to tighten border security and immigration rules of law
after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and as senior counsel at the
Immigration Reform Law Institute in Washington, D.C., Kobach said
the new laws in Oklahoma and Arizona try to rectify perceived
problems by augmenting inadequate federal enforcement resources with
local resources and tapping electronic databases that nullify
Kobach estimated the number of people unlawfully in the United
States at anywhere from 12 million to 20 million - representing not
just Hispanic, but many other ethnic backgrounds and cultures. That
to Kobach broadened the issue beyond race, although it did not
lessen other panelist protests, many seeing the law as profiling
"Oklahoma has become ground zero to see if this works," said
Lantos, the owner of the translation services company Sebastian
Lantos LLC. "We want safe borders. We want people to check out and
we agree with the rule of the law. But we have to change the law."
Linda Allegro, a TU visiting assistant professor of political
science, said 1804's denial of local and state services to illegal
residents and increased local enforcement of immigration laws opened
the doors to selective and unfair targeting. She added the refrain
that 1804 was to encourage legalization only shielded its backers
from racism allegations.
Kobach said the bill offered an alternative from the only other
perceived options: mass roundups of illegals or granting mass
amnesty, which he equated to simply rewarding people for breaking
"No other area of law uses that dichotomy," he said, making
comparisons from drunk driving to theft. "Most areas of law ratchet
Kobach compared 1804 to placing a traffic cop at a known speeding
zone - which leads to changed behavior due to the realistic
probability of enforcement.
Huyen Pham, associate professor of law at Texas Wesleyan
University, spoke of the difficulties in charting the effects of
recent state and local immigration efforts, although that didn't
keep others from trying.
Since HB 1804 took effect Nov. 1, more than 25,000 Hispanics
voluntarily left Oklahoma for new homes in neighboring states or
their native lands, said Allegro. Lantos estimated 30,000 had left
just the Tulsa area.
Both Allegro and Kobach called that voluntary deportation, but
where Allegro said it reflected a policy of exclusion, Kobach said
it provides the most economical solution.
"By definition, immigration laws are exclusive," he said, a
reality forced on nations by difficult resource allocation choices.
"Every country on earth wants control on those people."
Kobach said our nation's efforts to increase security after 9/11
illustrated how the federal government had no system of immigration
departure controls. …