Sen. Daisy Lawler has been chosen to chair a task force examining the issue of illegal immigration in Oklahoma. Lawler, D-Comanche, was author of a resolution calling for the creation of the task force during the 2006 session.
“Immigrants have played a critical role in the history of our great state, and I believe they will continue to be a vital part of Oklahoma, but illegal immigration is a different thing altogether,” Lawler said. “The social implications are something we should all be concerned about, from issues related to national security to the strain this places on public resources for education and other services.”
In Oklahoma alone, based on 2000 census figures, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated that approximately 46,000 illegal or undocumented immigrants live in Oklahoma.
“That represents a 188 percent increase from just 1990. I’m sure the figures are much higher now,” Lawler said. “It is critical that we do whatever we can to get a handle on this situation.”
In addition to appointing Lawler as chair of the task force, Senate leader Mike Morgan has also appointed Sen. Kenneth Corn, D-Poteau, and Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, to serve on the 11 member panel. The remaining eight members will come from law enforcement, education, human services, business and a major Hispanic community organization.
“While some areas are specifically within the realm of federal jurisdiction, there are other areas where we do have the authority and the responsibility to act. We want to examine what reforms may be needed to protect resources and services in our state,” Lawler said. “We’ll be looking at a number of issues, including education, public safety, homeland security, taxation, human trafficking as well as state and federal coordination on illegal immigration policies.”
Lawler said she expected to hold the first meeting by September. The task force will have until November 30 to submit a report of its findings and proposed legislation to the President Pro Tempore.