Federal judge temporarily stops Oklahoma from enforcing new anti-immigration law

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal judge granted a motion Friday to temporarily stop Oklahoma from enforcing its new anti-immigration law that would make it a crime to live in the state without legal immigration status.

U.S. District Judge Bernard M. Jones issued a preliminary injunction requested by the U.S. Department of Justice to go into effect while their lawsuit challenging it continues. The law would have taken effect on Monday.

The lawsuit in federal court in Oklahoma City challenges the measure, which makes it a state crime — punishable by up to two years in prison — to live in Oklahoma without legal immigration status. Similar laws passed in Texas and Iowa are also facing challenges from the Justice Department.

The Justice Department says the Oklahoma statute violates the U.S. Constitution and is asking the court to declare it invalid and bar the state from enforcing it.

The judge's Friday order says Oklahoma “may have understandable frustrations with the problems caused by illegal immigration," but that "the State may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond said the ruling was disappointing and claimed that the law is necessary because the Biden administration is failing to secure the nation’s borders.

"We intend to appeal today’s decision and defend one of the most powerful tools we have,” Drummond said.

Noor Zafar, staff attorney with The American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants’ Rights Project called the law harmful, and said in a statement that it threatens to tear apart Oklahoma families and communities.

“The court was right to block it," Zafar said. ”This ruling is a victory.”