Senator Daisy Lawler’s Task Force on Illegal Immigration has announced its first meeting and added new members.
During the 2006 legislative session, Lawler authored Senate Resolution 125, requesting the creation of the panel.
Based on 2000 census figures, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated that approximately 46,000 illegal immigrants or undocumented workers live in Oklahoma, representing a 188 percent increase from figures obtained in the 1990 census.
Additionally, statistics recently released by the State Department of Corrections show that Oklahoma taxpayers are paying nearly $7 million a year to incarcerate illegal immigrants in Oklahoma prisons.
“While border control, security and granting of legal citizenship status are solely within the realm of federal jurisdiction, there are many issues we can address,” said Lawler. “Our hope is to ensure the most efficient and appropriate stewardship of taxpayer money, by pursuing reforms that protect our valuable resources and services.”
On September 18, the task force will meet at the State Capitol to begin discussing model language to address illegal immigration in the next session of the legislature.
Lawler noted the Oklahoma Health Care Authority had this week determined that illegal immigrants with medical emergencies cost Oklahoma taxpayers nearly $10 million last year, marking a 154 percent increase from the $3.8 million spent on illegal immigrants in 2003.
“These figures underscore the serious nature of the problems posed by illegal immigration,” Lawler said. “We have to determine which policies can help our state and where we have the authority to act. In addition to areas such as health care and taxation, our task force will also focus on drug trafficking, public safety and homeland security issues associated with illegal immigration.”
Lawler will chair the task force, and President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan has also appointed State Senators Kenneth Corn, D-Howe, and Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, to the 11-member panel. The task force is required to submit to the President Pro Tempore a report of its findings and proposed legislation by November 30.
“The implications of illegal immigration are far-reaching, and it is an issue we must confront,” said Lawler, D-Comanche. “Illegal immigration places a strain on our public resources, in addition to our health care system, public education and various other services. Legal immigration has long been an important part of our state’s history, but illegal immigration has become a significant problem that demands effective solutions.”