An Oklahoma bill has stirred controversy in the state Legislature for seeking to label Hispanic people who are gang members as terrorists. No other racial or ethnic group is singled out in the legislation.
The bill, written by Republican state Rep. Justin Humphrey, proposes that any person who “is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma,” is a member of a gang and has been convicted of “gang-related offenses” would be deemed a terrorist. Humphrey has since apologized for zeroing in on Hispanic people and plans to change the language in the bill to "undocumented."
Humphrey told NBC News that the bill was meant to focus on “those people who are here illegally and who are coming across the border and trying to do harm to America and to Oklahoma.”
He added that its intended targets are cartel members bringing fentanyl and other illicit drugs into the United States through the southern border.
"I don't believe that the Mexican cartel, the Hispanic gangs, are the only bad actors ... I don't really say, 'I made a mistake' or that it was racial, because it wasn't, but it was an oversight and it could be made much, much better by expanding that to say, 'any undocumented person,'" Humphrey said, adding that he spoke with Hispanic friends who told him they were somewhat offended by the bill.
Humphrey has also said that “Chinese nationals” are contributing to the fentanyl crisis, but did not explicitly mention that group in the bill. There were 3,547 unintentional drug overdose deaths in the state between 2017 to 2021, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Fentanyl was involved in 579 of those deaths.
Tell us you’re racist without telling us you’re racist… #OKGOP SCREAMING: No funding to American citizens of Hispanic immigrants. Label them all as terrorists. #Oklahoma #VoteBlue #VoteBlue2024ProtectDemocracy #OKLatinos #OKCLatino #VotingMatters pic.twitter.com/rUpnXTc4kk
— Ohemgeeitsalyssa (@Ohemgeeitsalys1) January 17, 2024
State Sen. Michael Brooks, a Democrat and chair of the Legislative Latino Caucus, told KFOR, NBC's Oklahoma affiliate, that the bill is unlikely to pass.
“All groups have a constitutional right to due process and also a constitutional right not to be discriminated against or to be singled out,” Brooks said. “Nobody is in favor or I don’t think there’s an appetite anymore for more divisive politics. Personally, I think his constituents deserve better than this type of legislation.”
I think this is truly the worst thing to come out of Oklahoma….and that’s a great deal of choices. Not undocumented, not foreign born, but just Hispanic. How does this even make it to paper? Will they be using the one drop rule? This is state supported racism and it’s sick. https://t.co/C8nXrYmZ4h
— Nichole Beer (@Beerlibraries) January 17, 2024
Humphrey has proposed another controversial bill this legislative session that seeks to use animal control to remove "furries," individuals who role-play as anthropomorphized animal characters, from school activities.
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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com