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Oklahoma may join several other U.S. states in giving police the power to detain illegal immigrants and punish companies which hire them, it was reported on Tuesday. The state is expected to pass a tough bill which will deny welfare benefits, in-state college tuition rates and numerous state subsidies to those in the country illegally, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The law would also empower police to detain illegal immigrants and require businesses that do work for the state to prove that their employees are legally in the country.

Several states in the U.S. have passed similar laws to crackdown on illegal immigration, said the newspaper.

Law makers said they would take the tough measure because they were frustrated with the federal government's response to illegal immigration.

The legislation, written with help from a Washington, D.C. legal organization that opposes illegal immigration, comes after similar laws were passed last year in Colorado and Georgia. Like legislators in those states, the leader of the Oklahoma said he was tired of waiting for Washington politicians to fix a problem that costs his state millions of dollars a year.

"Illegal aliens will not come here if there are no jobs waiting for them. They will not come if there are no taxpayer subsidies. And they certainly won't come if they know they will be physically detained until they are deported," said the bill's author, Republican state Rep. Randy Terrill. "Oklahoma is obviously not the wealthiest state in the union. We can't afford to become a welfare state for the rest of the world."

Despite opposition from religious groups and some of the state's most powerful business lobbyists, the legislation passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives 88-9 last month. The bill is scheduled for a vote later Tuesday in a state Senate committee; if approved there, it would advance to the Senate floor.

But business circles voiced concern that the law, if passed, would hurt the economy in the state.


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