Every week, we (and several coalition partners) monitor the bills being heard at our State Capitol. Unfortunately, there have been numerous harmful, degrading bills heard and voted through to the other chamber. Even some of the positive bills that are heard illuminate some dark, hateful rhetoric by opposing members.
Senate Bill 669 is one of those good bills that sparked some dehumanizing commentary.
Sen. Brooks has authored Senate Bill 669 that would allow people who have an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to be eligible to apply for a driver’s license. Currently there are over 33,000 people who have an ITIN and pay state income taxes that amount to $26 million dollars. However, they are not eligible for a driver’s license due to various pitfalls in our immigration system.
The author also mentioned the multitude of groups affected by our current outdated and unsafe driving laws. Immigration is complicated and takes many forms. Whether people are here as temporary professors, medical researchers, or immigrating to start a new life, there are over 85,000 people impacted by not having a driver’s license in Oklahoma.
Sen. Brooks also covered many of the legal bases, including working with the State Election Board to clarify that this measure would only allow people to apply for a driver’s license. The license would not grant citizenship (as only the federal government can do that) nor allow people to vote, as you are required to be a citizen to do so.
The bill would allow for application for a license that would mark them not having permanent residency and install an auditing system prohibiting that individual to vote. Permitting people to have licenses would increase state revenue, safety and lower everyone’s insurance premiums. There are sixteen states using a similar approach, also including the District of Columbia.
While opponents spent time harping on voting fraud and international licenses (which are NOT permitted in Oklahoma if you are residing here for more than 30 days), the author was berated with questions based in fearmongering on voter fraud and citizenship.
The debate about this bill proceeded to dehumanize immigrants by the use of the word “illegal,” referring to undocumented immigrants, many times during the debate, across social media, and by protestors of the bill. As a country built on Indigenous land, there are few of us in Oklahoma that can claim we are native to our home. In a globalized world, Oklahoma needs to modernize its laws and its language to model the reality that we live in.
However, our State Legislature continues to oppose measures for the benefit of all who call Oklahoma home. They also continue to dehumanize residents of all identities.
Human beings can’t be illegal. People cannot choose where they are born or where they grow up. Some people are born in safe, peaceful, profitable houses; some people are born into areas of war, violence, and fear. Some people are born with no home and no hope.
None of this is our choice, whether we are born in wealthy, democratic countries run by people who look like us or if we are born into places where even one’s parents look foreign.
Borders have been drawn and redrawn over thousands of years, often by foreign powers with no regard for the impact on residents. Stronger, wealthier powers act without knowledge of the land or respect for the people. Even to this day, being born on some invisible fabricated line drastically changes a person’s future.
Being born in one place does not make a person illegal. Relocating for a better future does not make a person illegal. Nothing can make a person illegal.
Oklahomans deserve better. Whether you were born here, moved here, or are just passing through. We want everyone that has called Oklahoma home to feel dignity and respect. If you aren’t happy with how things are going this session, you need to vote and voice your opinion on these issues!
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Active voter but still not satisfied? Maybe it’s time to explore running for office. Many of the seats at all levels of government run opposed. Contact us to find out more!