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Proposed Oklahoma Bill Receives Backlash For Targeting Hispanics

Oklahoma has introduced a new bill that will target Hispanic gang members. The bill, HB 3133, was authored by Representative Justin Humphrey, who recently gave a ‘half-apology’ regarding the backlash this bill has resulted in. HB 3133 states:

“Any person who is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma, is a member of a criminal street gang defined of the Oklahoma Statutes and, has been convicted of a gang-related offense enumerated in the Oklahoma Statutes, shall be deemed to have committed an act of terrorism and any and all property of said person shall be subject to forfeiture.”

Humphrey says that the goal of this bill is to halt fentanyl overdoses and smuggling. He claims this bill targets people of Hispanic descent, especially because of the amount of fentanyl that comes from Mexico. 

“These Mexican cartels are mainly derived from Hispanic gang members,” Humphrey said. “It’s not a racial thing to say that. It’s just a matter of fact.” However, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the primary sources for trafficking fentanyl into the US are from China and Mexico, with China remaining the major source.

Humphrey did mention that both the Chinese Nationals and Mexican cartels were to blame, however the bill only lists people of Hispanic descent throughout the text. 

Many deemed this bill to be outright racist. Oklahoma Senator Michael Brooks-Jimenez opposes the bill for directly targeting a group of people for racial reasons. “To single group us out and to have the law treat people differently based on their race or ethnicity only creates a divide,” he said. 

Humphrey said he specified a group of people based off of the crime he was targeting. Although Humphrey did apologize for the language used in the bill, he doubled down in his apology on his views. “I apologize for using the word Hispanic, but I was not wrong. Again, these are Hispanic,” said Humprhey when addressing the backlash received. Users even took to social media to call out Humphrey on being racist for proposing HB 3133. 

After receiving massive criticism, Humphrey agreed to change the language of the bill to say ‘undocumented illegals’ rather than hispanics. “It’s not because it was a racial issue, but because there are some other undocumented nationalities that are committing crimes and committing havoc in our state,” he said. “They're chemical weapons being carried out against the United States and against Oklahoma. It’s time that we call it out and it's not racist to say that.”

However, data shows that the majority of fentanyl smugglers are US citizens. In 2022, 88% of those caught trafficking fentanyl were US citizens, according to the United States Sentencing Commission annual report. In 2021, 86% of fentanyl smugglers were US citizens. 

“I think this bill is fatally flawed, and I don't know if there's going to be much of a way to change it.” Senator Brooks said

In 2022, the Biden-Harris Administration established the Trilateral Fentanyl Committee with Canada and Mexico to combat the trafficking of the drug. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the overdose death toll reached 112,000 in 2023 in the US. Humphrey believes there isn’t enough action being taken against the trafficking, which is why he believes smugglers should be classified as terrorists. 

The DEA recognizes fentanyl as “the single deadliest drug threat our nation has ever encountered.”

Other states are also proposing their own approach to combating the fentanyl crisis in the country. In March 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom released a Master Plan for Tackling the Fentanyl and Opioid Crisis. The plan includes millions of dollars being invested towards grants for testing, recovery, support services, education, fentanyl test strip availability, Prop 98 funding, and the Naloxone Distribution Project. 

Mark Woofward, Public Information Officer from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN) said that Oklahoma will be investing in a multi-pronged approach towards education, treatment, and enforcement to combat this crisis. According to the OBN, 619 citizens of Oklahoma died of a fentanyl overdose in 2022, up from 39 in 2018. “It’s a scary direction we’re going,” said Woodward. 

Many believe there would be no reason to single out Hispanic people in the bill if the concern was solely focused on punishing acts of terrorism. While many continue to call this bill unconstitutional, discriminatory, and racist, Humphrey stands his ground. He says the people who believe the bill is racist are the problem, not the bill itself. 

Humphrey has been criticized in the past for proposing other radical bills, including:

  • Punishing students in schools that identify as ‘furries’ (HB 3084)

  • Requiring abortion patient to get permission from the fetus’ father (HB 1441)

  • Directing the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission to form a bigfoot hunting season (HB 1648)

Sen. Brooks-Jimenez claimed he was not surprised that Humphrey authored this bill based on the previous bills he has proposed. If passed, HB 3133 would go into effect on Nov. 1, 2024.

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Tags: #USA #Politics #Oklahoma #NewBill


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