The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would establish criminal forfeiture provisions for crimes related to illegal immigration.
“This law provides illegal immigrants with a disincentive to live in Oklahoma, and provides law enforcement with additional incentive to enforce our immigration laws,” said Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City. “Illegal immigration imposes a significant fiscal burden on our state, and providing a strong disincentive is our least costly course of action. It’s time for us to end the charade of insufficient enforcement and approach immigration crimes and human trafficking with appropriate rigor.”
Senate Bill 908 mirrors federal statutes on racketeering and corrupt organizations, identifying property that may be seized and forfeited upon conviction.
Shortey said the measure would not put law-abiding business and property owners at risk.
“The law establishes a burden of proof on seizure proceedings, requiring proof that a person knowingly and willingly entered into a contract with the intention of breaking the law,” Shortey said. “If a property owner rents to a legal citizen, and is unaware the tenant is housing illegal immigrants, our courts would take that into consideration.”
Shortey noted that through Tulsa County’s involvement in the Federal Government’s 287 (g) Program, the County has netted $6.9 million through asset seizure and forfeiture stemming from immigration crime. A significant percentage of those funds have been dedicated to the Tulsa County Jail Fund. The program authorizes the federal government to enter into agreements with local law enforcement, permitting authorized officers to perform immigration related functions.
“We want all of our local law enforcement agencies to be able to approach the enforcement of immigration law in just this fashion, without the application process,” Shortey said. “I’ve always been told that we can pass whatever we like, but it means nothing if law enforcement doesn’t have the ability and incentive to enforce the law. This measure would alleviate both concerns.”
Rep. Randy Terrill, House author of the proposal, credited Shortey for introducing strong legislation to tackle the issue.
“Obviously, everything that can and should be done about illegal immigration has not been done, but this proposal is a strong step in the right direction,” said Terrill, R-Moore. “This measure would provide our law enforcement officials with the tools and motivation needed to enforce our immigration laws.”
Senate Bill 908 must now be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.