Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. State Rep. Ortega: No Need for Tougher Immigration Legislation

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. State Rep. Ortega: No Need for Tougher Immigration Legislation

Article excerpt

Though the new co-chairman of a legislative committee on immigration said he doubted the state needed more immigration legislation, officials in the Hispanic community say they are taking a wait-and-see attitude, but remain hopeful that no tougher legislation will be considered next year.

Not long after being named co-chairman of the Legislature's joint committee on immigration, state Rep. Charles Ortega, R-Altus, said he saw no evidence supporting the need for new, broad immigration laws.

Ortega's statement drew cautious praise from Juanita Sykes- Vasquez, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

"If what Rep. Ortega says is the consensus of the Legislature's leadership, then we are elated," Sykes-Vasquez said. "But right now we remain very skeptical."

Representatives of the Latino community, she said, were waiting to see just what legislation was filed.

"Until the bills actually come, we haven't taken any action," she said. "So we are waiting. Over the past couple of years, we've had a few great surprises. So there's still some skepticism and a tinge of uncertainty there."

Ortega told the Associated Press in late September that he was concerned by the effects of Oklahoma's earlier immigration legislation, House Bill 1804.

"I keep hearing and have heard and continue to hear that because the cost is so monumental we need to really address this issue and impose these laws and penalties," he said. "But when you go to criminalizing people and you go to criminalizing businesses and you go to disrupting lives, I think we need to be careful where we tread in that area."

Pat Fennell, executive director of Latino Community Development Agency in Oklahoma City, said she supported Ortega's decision.

"I absolutely agree with him," she said. "I think it was proven across the country that these anti-immigration laws are destroying people's lives and impacting local economies."

Undocumented immigrants, Fennell said, come to Oklahoma to work and contribute to the state's economy.

"Why create additional expenditures and unnecessary litigation?" she said. "Lawmakers should focus on other, bigger problems in Oklahoma. …

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