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Oklahoma Attorney General responds to federal immigration lawsuit

Gentner Drummond announced his plans for legal action at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Tuesday.
Graycen Wheeler
Gentner Drummond announced his plans for legal action at the Oklahoma State Capitol on Tuesday.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is reaffirming his push for state-level immigration enforcement in federal court. He responded to a lawsuit by Department of Justice officials over House Bill 4156 by calling all of their claims unjustifiable.

In his June 13 court filing in the Western District Court of Oklahoma, Drummond took aim at each of the federal government’s complaints about the state’s new law criminalizing anyone in the country without legal permission.

He claimed federal authorities are “not likely” to show the measure is unconstitutional because it complements federal law.

“To start, HB 4156 is not facially preempted because a state law that essentially duplicates federal law does not “conflict” with that law—it comports with it,” Drummond wrote.

But what Drummond calls complementing, Department of Justice officials are calling overstepping.

They said the new law oversteps federal authority over matters of immigration and interferes with the United States’ foreign commerce relationships.

The state attorney general has dismissed that and every other argument plaintiffs have made, saying Oklahoma is entitled to protect itself under the U.S. Constitution during what he claims is an invasion at the southern border.

“This law in no way conflicts with or undermines federal law,” he said. “Challenges to HB 4156 are based on speculative assumptions about how it will be implemented, spurious legal conclusions about the law’s underpinnings, and fundamental misconceptions about a state’s sovereign rights and duties in a federalist system of government.”

Oklahoma’s legal battle over immigration enforcement with the federal government isn’t the only one simmering. Days after the justice department sued, activist groups and individual plaintiffs in Tulsa filed a second petition against the state over the measure.

Either one of the lawsuits could result in a pause to the rollout of the bill's enforcement before it takes effect on July 1. That is, if either judge sides with the plaintiffs and against the state before then.

Lionel Ramos covers state government at KOSU. He joined the station in January 2024 after covering race and equity as a Report For America corps member at Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit investigative newsroom in Oklahoma City.