The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — Vowing to become more politically active, Latino groups Monday praised a federal judge’s decision to block enforcement of parts of a state law that targets illegal immigrants and promised to support state lawmakers who have opposed the measure.
A coalition of Hispanic organizations said momentum against the law, House Bill 1804, is building seven months after parts of it went into effect. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robin J. Cauthron issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of other provisions scheduled to go into effect on July 1.
“Countless thousands of families have been separated, torn apart,” said the Rev. Victor Orta of the Coalition of Latin American Ministers. He said the anti-immigrant law and its harsh penalties sends a message that immigrants are not wanted in the state.
“This must stop. Enough is enough,” Orta said.
Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, author of HB1804, has said he was disappointed but not surprised by Cauthron’s ruling, which he labels “a blatant act of judicial activism” and predicted an appeal if the ruling is made permanent.
Franco Cevallos of the Hispanic Action Coalition said the law’s effect on Oklahoma’s economy “has been catastrophic.”
“Hundreds of stores have closed their doors permanently. Houses have been abandoned,” Cevallos said.
He said Latino workers are skilled and hardworking and “are the energy behind the motor that sustains the economy.”
“Their presence in the state has proven to be good for the economy,” Cevallos said.
Coalition members said Latino organizations are conducting citizenship and English courses for Hispanic immigrants and have registered as many as 17,000 Hispanic citizens to vote.
“There will be more Hispanics going to the polls in November than ever in the history of Oklahoma,” Orta said. “And thousands of us can influence non-Hispanics to vote.
“We will see a difference. There will be a change in Oklahoma,” Orta said.
Mauro Yanez, a native of Venezuela, said thousands of Hispanic immigrants have left the state since the state law went into effect. Yanez said more emphasis needs to be placed on federal immigration policy and streamlining the citizenship process for immigrants.
“Justice is going to prevail,” Yanez said.
Richard Klinge, director of advocacy and legal services for Catholic Charities, said Cauthron enjoined parts of the law from being enforced after ruling that federal immigration policy pre-empted the state from adopting rules aimed at illegal aliens.
“What she has done has shown the importance of the balance of power in our country,” Klinge said.
The preliminary injunction handed down by Cauthron prohibits enforcement of provisions that subject employers to penalties for failing to comply with a federal employee verification system.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing that the electronic verification system is voluntary under federal law and employers should not be subjected to state penalties.
Among other things, employers could face civil lawsuits and tax penalties under the Oklahoma law.
Cauthron’s ruling had no effect on other areas of the law, such as provisions that prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving tax-supported services and make it a state crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant.
The Associated Press