(The Center Square) – An interim study committee of the Legislature will look for ways Oklahoma can provide a work permit for illegal immigrants in the state.

“This is not to go to citizenship at all,” said state Rep. Danny Williams, R-Seminole, who is one of four lawmakers that requested the study. “This is just looking at a way to have them be able to work, pay their taxes and protect their families from worrying about being sent back to their home country.”

Williams said federal immigration polices are not working very well. Oklahoma could be first to address immigration on a state level, he said.

“We in Oklahoma believe we have sovereign rights,” Williams said. “it’s not to keep the federal government from doing what they think they can do, but it allows us to do what we want to do and then maybe, just maybe, it makes sense and something happens.”

The process will be long and Williams said he doesn’t expect the study committee to have quick answers.

State Rep. Justin Humphreys, R-Lane, another lawmaker involved in the study, is critical of the Biden administration’s policies on immigration. He is encouraging Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor to sue the federal government for what he calls “an utter failure to protect the nation’s borders.”

But he said he is willing to work with others to find solutions. One of Humphrey’s suggestions is a fee for illegal immigrants.

“If you are going to be here illegally, we want to know who you are and we are going to charge a fee for being here. You are going to be productive, you are not going to be breaking the law or we need to get you out of here,” Humphreys said in an interview with The Center Square.

One of the challenges is finding out how many illegal immigrants are in the state, Humphreys said.

“We should look at what’s the total number we are spending on education what’s the number we’re spending on health care,” Humphreys said. “And a lot of these agencies don’t want to report that because they want to report the number and they want to continue to collect money for their agency.”

The study was also requested by state Rep. Ross Ford, R-Broken Arrow, and state Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton.

Pae co-authored a bill that would have removed residency requirements from driver’s licenses. The bill passed the state Senate but died in the House of Representatives.

The interim study committee is one of 82 approved by House Speaker Charles McCall. The committees begin its meetings in August and end them in November.

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