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Press Release

Justice Department Files Lawsuit Against the State of Oklahoma Regarding Unconstitutional State Immigration Law

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department today filed suit against the State of Oklahoma to challenge House Bill 4156 (HB 4156) under the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and Foreign Commerce Clause. The Constitution assigns the federal government the authority to regulate immigration and manage our international borders. Pursuant to this authority, Congress has established a comprehensive immigration framework governing noncitizens’ entry, reentry and presence. Because HB 4156 is preempted by federal law and violates the U.S. Constitution, the Justice Department seeks a declaration that HB 4156 is invalid and an order enjoining the state from enforcing the law.

“Oklahoma cannot disregard the U.S. Constitution and settled Supreme Court precedent,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We have brought this action to ensure that Oklahoma adheres to the Constitution and the framework adopted by Congress for regulation of immigration.”   

As outlined in the complaint, Oklahoma’s law would create new state crimes to regulate noncitizens’ entry and reentry into and presence in, the United States, with charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a felony. In particular, HB 4156 requires noncitizens convicted of violating its provisions to leave the State, effectively granting Oklahoma the independent authority to exile noncitizens from the State and permitting a patchwork of state immigration schemes. The Supreme Court recognized in Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012), however, that the authority to admit noncitizens and to determine their status in the United States is a core responsibility of the federal government. HB 4156 impedes the federal government’s comprehensive immigration scheme and interferes with its conduct of foreign relations.

The suit was filed on behalf of the United States, including the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security and Department of State.

Updated May 21, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-641