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Oklahoma Senate passes Arizona-style immigration bill

posted Mar 17, 2011, 11:16 AM by Sumiyia Jafri   [ updated Mar 17, 2011, 11:17 AM ]
By Steve Olafson. 
Wed Mar 16, 10:21 pm ET.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – The Oklahoma state Senate on Wednesday approved an Arizona-style immigration bill that gives police the authority to verify the citizenship status of motorists during legal traffic stops.

The bill, passed by a 29-15 vote, also enables police to seize vehicles, real estate, firearms and computers used to engage in human smuggling, armed robberies and other crimes.

The bill now goes to the state House, which last week passed an immigration reform bill that gives officers more authority to question citizenship status.

"Today's vote sends a message to the people of Oklahoma that we have listened to their concerns and acted accordingly," said state Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, sponsor of the bill.

"I authored this proposal because I care about the people of my district and have witnessed firsthand the manner in which illegal immigration can limit economic development, increase crime rates and tear families apart," he said.

Opponents questioned whether the bill could withstand court challenges. They also raised concerns about the effect the immigration reform bill could have on the state's economy.

The original bill called for penalties to be assessed against employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers and included a requirement that the employers fire such workers.

That provision was stripped from the bill after business interests in the state lobbied against it.

(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Peter Bohan)