State senator seeks changes to immigration law

Monday, December 10th 2007, 1:45 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

A Republican state senator has begun a war against a member of his own party. Sen. Harry Coates (R-Seminole) is seeking to repeal portions of the new immigration law, House Bill 1804.

As the only republican to vote against House Bill 1804, Coates has been working to repeal the more stringent elements of the new law that went into effect Nov 1. The senator said he has heard from several legislators who voted in favor of House Bill 1804 and are regretting that vote. Coates questions elements of the bill and the author's motives.

"Representative (Randy) Terrill has two motives that aren't entirely pure," Coates said. "I think it's getting attention and I think there is an element of racism."

Coates has started writing several bills of his own to fix what he calls "unintended consequences."

One of Coates's bills would exempt some employers from stiff penalties for hiring undocumented workers. He said the bill is a result of numerous complaints from business owners and farmers to his office.

"We struggle currently to find workers to fill our crews, domestic workers here," said Mel McGowan with national-wide Aduddel Roofing Company. "These are not low-wage jobs, they're great jobs."

Coates also wants to repeal a portion of the law that makes harboring and transporting illegal immigrants a felony. He plans to draft a bill providing prenatal care to all mothers, including illegal immigrants, a measure Rep. Randy Terrill, co-author of HB 1804, opposes.

Terrill said HB 1804 was overwhelmingly supported by the legislature and he takes issue with the racism charge.

"That's the same sort of inflammatory rhetoric is neither constructive nor productive and it's frequently designed to avoid substantive debate on the merits of an issue that they they know they will lose," Terrill said.