A group of conservative Oklahoma legislators is catching heat over comments made exclusively to News 9 about their budget proposal.
Friday, students sat in legislators chairs, tackling some of the same issues lawmakers deal with. One thing on their minds is a proposal to identify students here illegally and report them to authorities.
“I grew up with people that had illegal parents and that weren’t here legally. And they’re doing so much with their lives now because they’ve had this opportunity,” said student Bailey Rodriguez. “So knowing the fact they could not have this opportunity and be sent away just because they’re not here legally, it hurts.”
This all stems from comments Representative Mike Ritze made on behalf of the newly formed 22-member Republican Platform Caucus. Ritze said there are about 80,000 students in the English-as-a-second-language (ESL) program costing taxpayers about $60 million dollars per year.
“Identify them then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens and do we really have to educate non citizens?”
The story garnered nationwide attention, and other lawmakers quickly began distancing themselves.
“The effort that they put forward would be laughable if it wasn’t so offensive,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader.
“I have no desire to target ESL children.” Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader said. “I represent a very heavy ESL district.”
Governor Mary Fallin, who at one time told News 9 when it comes to the budget everything is on the table, now says this proposal is the one thing that is off the table. And other lawmakers say it doesn’t stand a chance.
“I think it’s an ill-conceived plan that doesn’t have any support in the legislature,” Representative Greg Treat (R) Majority Floor Leader said. “I know there’s a lot of people that were distancing themselves from that pretty quickly.”
Because caucuses don’t have to register, News 9 doesn't know exactly who is a member of the Republican Platform Caucus, but News 9 has its suspicions. One representative News 9's Aaron Brilbeck that anyone who may have been a member before won’t admit to being a member now.