Oklahoma City, OK 73105
For Immediate Release:
December 6, 2007
Senator Harry Coates discusses his measure,
SB 1143, to repeal sections of the immigration bill, HB 1804.
Also pictured in the back from left to right: The owner of
the Centennial Company Standard Roofing, Jack Gray; Rep. Shane
Jett; the Chair of the Council of Priests of the Catholic
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, Father Tony Taylor; Mel McGowan
with Aduddell Roofing; the Director of Advocacy and Legal
Services for Catholic Charities, Richard Klinge; the president
of the Wattie Wolfe Company, Bill Wolf; and Bobby Stem representing
the Association of General Contractors, Highway Division.
Sen. Coates Discusses His Legislation to
Repeal Sections of Immigration Bill
Coates on Thursday addressed his decision to file legislation
that would repeal portions of House Bill 1804, citing both economic
and moral concerns with the sweeping immigration reform bill approved
earlier this year by the Legislature.
Coates said the legislation is already having a negative impact
on the Oklahoma economy, as employers in the agricultural and construction
industries are beginning to see the first effects of a potential
labor shortage. Coates filed Senate Bill 1143 on Wednesday which
would repeal parts of the immigration bill.
“What people don’t seem to realize is that the chilling
effect of this law has resulted in the loss of both documented and
undocumented employees in Oklahoma,” said Coates, R-Seminole.
“These are good jobs and they pay good wages, but few American
workers are willing to take them. Not only are we losing employees,
but we’re losing employers and businesses to surrounding states.”
Coates noted that Oklahoma’s agricultural industry felt an
immediate impact following the passage of HB 1804. Oklahoma’s
Farm-to-School Program which provides fresh Oklahoma-grown produce
to the state’s school children is now at risk due to the passage
of HB 1804, the Senator said.
“I’ve personally heard from farmers who have had to
leave crops in the field because there are no workers,” Coates
said. “Cotton growers in western Oklahoma are among those
who are already hurting. This is just the tip of the iceberg, and
I’m sure we’ll be hearing much more about this from
our agricultural community.”
Coates was accompanied by members of both the faith and business
communities who expressed support for the effort to repeal parts
of the immigration bill. Father Tony Taylor, Chair of the Council
of Priests for the Oklahoma City Catholic Archdiocese, said he was
pleased Coates had chosen to bring forward his legislation.
“House Bill 1804 is obviously a bad law, and it does not reflect
the values of our society,” Taylor said. “I look forward
to migratory reform on the federal level that will protect human
dignity in our country.”
Jack Gray of Standard Roofing said HB 1804 could force his company
out of business. Standard Roofing has been designated as an Oklahoma
Centennial Company, having been in operation since 1892.
“We haven’t lost any business, but we will not be able
to bid on any future business,” said Gray. “There just
aren’t enough Americans who are willing to work construction.”
Rep. Shane Jett, House co-author of Senate Bill 1143, also expressed
moral concerns with the consequences of the immigration bill, citing
provisions that could have a destructive effect on Oklahoma families.
“I do support the state’s ability to enforce state and
federal laws, but they should not be enforced to the detriment of
our economy or to the detriment of our moral conscience,”
said Jett, R-Tecumseh. “I don’t believe there was a
state representative or senator who intended to have a family living
in fear. The family is the first institute consecrated by God, and
I believe it’s our responsibility to protect families. That’s
one of the reasons why I’d like to bring forward legislation
to curb some of the unintended consequences of HB 1804.”
Rep. Jett plans to file legislation that would create a pilot program
for those who wish to continue working in Oklahoma. Workers would
be able to purchase a tax number ID card that would be an affidavit
documentation of good-faith intent and effort to comply with Oklahoma
state law. Coates plans to co-author the measure in the Senate.
Coates said he understood that Oklahomans want effective immigration
reform but that the Legislature must take a closer look at HB 1804
and take another approach.
“We’re all frustrated with the federal government not
coming in and doing something that is good for our state and the
entire country,” Coates said. “This is a polarizing
issue and everyone wants to do something, but I feel a moral obligation
to say loud and clear that this legislation is hurting our state.”
For more information contact:
Senator Coates' Office - (405) 521-5547