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Videographer: Christopher Hunt. Editor: Ilea Shutler. Producer: Dick Pryor.

“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s important issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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Michael Brooks-Jimenez grew up as the only blond and blue-eyed child in catechism classes at Little Flower Catholic Church, a Latino parish in south Oklahoma City.

His father, Bud Brooks, is white, and his mother, Patricia Jimenez Brooks, is Mexican-American. Brooks-Jimenez identifies as Latino because, thanks mainly to his mother, “it’s my culture, in my heart.”

Brooks-Jimenez majored in political science at Oklahoma State University and obtained a law degree at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He hung a shingle in the area where he grew up and built a law firm that specializes in immigration issues, criminal defense and other areas.

He has become a prominent voice for the rights of undocumented and legalized immigrants. He says political rhetoric has reinforced misconceptions about the Latino community and the benefits immigrants bring to the state.

A Democrat, Brooks-Jimenez ran for the state Senate in 2014 in District 44, citing education and the economy as top issues. His main opponent, then-incumbent Republican Sen. Ralph Shortey, pointed to immigration as a big problem. Shortey won with 52 percent of the vote, compared to Brooks-Jimenez’s 42 percent.

Then and now, there are only two Oklahoma legislators of Hispanic descent, although Hispanics make up 10 percent of the state’s population.

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