New Deal Between Tulsa County Sheriff's Office And ICE
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Advocates for immigrants are unhappy about a deal between the sheriff and immigration service. Under the deal, the jail checks the immigration status of those arrested for crimes and then holding them for ICE.
The sheriff says there are about 20 inmates under that classification some see it as the county working for the immigration service and worry it creates fear for people here illegally living otherwise productive lives. They would like to see the sheriff stick to enforcing local laws.
It was a packed house at the county commissioner's meeting, where 15 people spoke against having the County identify and hold illegal immigrants. The presumption was commissioners might end the program when the contract is up this summer. The opponents argue it fills up the jail at county expense and there's a moral cost of deporting people who otherwise would only go through regular courts.
"That policy keeps people from reporting crimes thinking that any contact with law enforcement will lead to deportation," said Rev. Chris Moore, Fellowship Congregational Church.
The sheriff insists that fear is unjustified because only people accused of crimes ever make it to the jail, where their citizenship is questioned.
"You need not fear that you are undocumented or what color your skin is, or what your religion is, we will help you and we will not question that," said Sheriff Vic Regalado.
The leaders of the New Sanctuary Network say it is happening.
"We see a lot of families being broken up because of what we see as minor traffic infractions, or misdemeanors and that raises a moral question. What are we doing here and is that a good policy to have?" said Linda Allegro of the New Sanctuary Network.
The sheriff says in the last year, 37 people from traffic stops were held for ICE and all had warrants for serious crimes, not misdemeanors. In all of those cases, the Sheriff said, the people arrested were wanted on outstanding warrants or stopped for DUI.
Sometimes, Regalado said, prosecutors would drop the state charges if the inmate was due for deportation, making it appear they were deported without charges, when in fact, the charges were dropped because they were going to be deported.
But all the arguments about the new contract won't matter because even though it wasn't mentioned when the crowd was in the room, the deal had already been extended for another year.
"It's already been signed. When was it signed? Friday," said Sheriff Regalado.
The people there to speak against it didn't know it had been extended. Commissioner Karen Keith said she also didn't know and the agreement only requires the sheriff's signature, not the approval of the commissioners.