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Federal judge puts temporary hold on Oklahoma immigration law

Oklahoma City resident Mauricio Fonseca holds a blended Mexican and American flag in the air during a protest against HB 4156 on May 15 outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Lionel Ramos
/
KOSU
Oklahoma City resident Mauricio Fonseca holds a blended Mexican and American flag in the air during a protest against HB 4156 on May 15 outside the Oklahoma State Capitol.

A federal judge on Friday temporarily blocked Oklahoma’s controversial immigration lawtargeting people in the U.S. without documentation.

While Oklahoma may have frustrations with problems caused by illegal immigration, the state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law, the opinion by U.S. District Judge Bernard M. Jones said.

The order prohibited the state from enforcing House Bill 4156, which was set to take effect Monday, pending the outcome of the case.

“While today’s court ruling is disappointing, I will not stop fighting for Oklahoma and our right to protect our borders,” Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said.

Drummond said the ruling will be appealed.

House Bill 4156 was authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. Drummond requested and supported the measure.

It creates a new crime called “impermissible occupation” for willfully entering the state without legal authorization to be in the United States.

The first offense is a misdemeanor punishable by one year in county jail and a fine of up to $500 or both.

The person would be required to leave the state within 72 hours.

A second offense is a felony with up to two years in prison, a fine of $1,000 or both.

Shortly after it was signed into law, the bill drew two legal challenges, first by the federal government.

The suit alleged the state was trying to regulate immigration, which is under the purview of the federal government.

“It is preempted by federal law and thus violates the Supremacy Law of the United States Constitution,” the federal government alleged in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Oklahoma City.

A second lawsuit, filed by an individual and an advocacy organization, was filed two days later.

The two suits were consolidated.

“This Court finds these cases persuasive and concludes that the balance of equities and public interest factors weigh in favor of granting injunctive relief when, as here, the state law is likely preempted by federal law,” the order said.