Originally Published: 24 JAN 24 09:48 ET
By Chandelis Duster, CNN
(CNN) — An Oklahoma state lawmaker says he will now change the language of a bill he proposed that designates anyone “of Hispanic descent” that is “a member of a criminal street gang” and convicted of a “gang-related offense” a terrorist.
Earlier this month, Oklahoma state Rep. Justin Humphrey, a Republican, introduced HB 3133, which states, “Any person who: 1. Is of Hispanic descent living within the state of Oklahoma; 2. Is a member of a criminal street gang … and 3. Has been convicted of a gang-related offense … shall be deemed to have committed an act of terrorism.”
The bill has been met with backlash, with some critics labeling it racist.
“I am not trying to offend any race,” Humphrey told CNN. “I support the Hispanic people. I am willing to change this to improve the language – very happy to do that.
“I do want to make certain that people understand that I don’t believe I was wrong. I can absolutely respect that and say, ‘You know what, I believe I’m right,’ but I can respect your opinion and if I offended you, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” he added.
Humphrey said he wrote the law to target anyone engaged in gang-related criminal activities, mainly those committed by Mexican drug cartels.
He said he did not intend to target people of Hispanic descent and pushed back on allegations that he is racist.
“The whole world can call me racist, doesn’t bother me because I know I’m not a racist and anybody who’s around me would know that as well,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what race you are, if you’re not engaging in those activities then this bill does not apply to you.”
Humphrey said he has talked with narcotics experts, including the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, who advised him to broaden the language of the bill to “include all the players.”
He said the next iteration of the bill will remove the term “Hispanic” and will be introduced when the Oklahoma legislature returns for a new session on February 5.
Oklahoma state Rep. Arturo Alonso-Sandoval, a Democrat, said he feels Humphrey’s decision to change the language of the bill is too little, too late.
“He might swap the term ‘Hispanic’ with something else, but he already said the quiet part out loud,” Alonso-Sandoval said.
“Conflating Hispanics with terrorists is textbook fear-mongering. I don’t see this bill going anywhere, but it does add to the negative and false stereotypes that are often portrayed by individuals that are just trying to make an enemy out of someone.”
The bill has also been criticized by Oklahoma Republican state Sen. Jessica Garvin, the state legislature’s first elected Hispanic woman. Garvin told CNN she appreciates Humphrey’s commitment to changing the language in the bill, but that is not enough.
“It doesn’t excuse the bill’s initial language that was filed and what I thought was disparaging remarks about Hispanic Oklahomans in our state, including me,” she said. “I am appalled by this bill, as it has portrayed our state in a light that does not represent the position of the Republican Party, or the vast majority of elected officials,” Garvin added.
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**This image is for use with this specific article only** An Oklahoma state lawmaker says he will now change the language of a bill he proposed that designates anyone “of Hispanic descent” that is “a member of a criminal street gang” and convicted of a “gang-related offense” a terrorist.
Nathan J. Fish/The Oklahoman/USA Today Network/Reuters
24 Jan 24