Business groups seek to block Okla. immigration law

Chris Rizo Oct. 15, 2008, 1:41am

Drew Edmondson (D)

Robin Conrad

OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline)-Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are at odds over whether the state's anti-illegal immigration law can be enforced.

The Democratic attorney general has asked the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to allow him to enforce a new state law that requires employers to verify the immigration status of their employees and contractors or subcontractors.

The Oklahoma law requires that businesses that have state contracts withhold income taxes of contractors and subcontractors if they do not use the federal verification system.

The U.S. Chamber and other business groups have sued to block the law from being enforced by Oklahoma officials. The provision was set to go into effect July 1.

"The Oklahoma Legislature had the authority to enact a statute which protects the taxpayers and legal residents of the State of Oklahoma from suffering the adverse effects of illegal aliens," Edmondson said in a court filing. "While HB 1804 is enjoined, the state cannot protect its legal workers."

The case is now in federal appeals court.

At trial, U.S. District Chief Judge Robin Cauthron of the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that the law's employer provisions are unconstitutional because they subject employers to penalties for not using a federal online verification system to determine workers' legal status.

Business groups critical of the law, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association, and the Oklahoma Hotel and Lodging Association argue the Oklahoma statute conflicts with federal law that makes participation in the worker verification system purely voluntary.

"Federal regulation of the employment of aliens leaves no room for state interference," said Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center. "Federal law broadly preempts the field of employment verification and any attempt by states to meddle in this domain is unconstitutional."

Immigration is a national issue that requires a national solution, Conrad said in a statement Tuesday.

"A patchwork of conflicting and inconsistent state laws is not the answer," she added.

Legal Newsline is owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at

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