Debate Over Tulsa County Jail Citizenship Checks Continue
TULSA COUNTY, Oklahoma - Protests continue over the practice of Tulsa County checking citizenship when new inmates are booked into the Tulsa County jail.
The Sheriff's office reports there an average of 18 immigrants arrested locally are held at the jail, and as of Monday, 104 immigrants picked up elsewhere were being held for possible deportation. Both practices have critics and supporters trying to influence Tulsa County Commissioners.
On Monday, the Commissioners had a room filled with people wanting to speak about having the jail hold undocumented immigrants. More than 20 speakers asked commissioners to either end or continue, what's called "287g" the verification of citizenship for anyone booked into jail.
"I would encourage us to consider what 287g does, and doesn't do, and what it says about our community and country," said school teacher Alex Koenig.
The opponents of the program believe people who look like immigrants are arrested on questionable charges, and taken to jail just so they can be asked about citizenship, and turned over to ICE.
Law Professor Elizabeth McCormick says the process results in immigrants going into federal custody for issues that started with local charges and many times the local charges are dropped once the feds are involved.
"Once they go into Moss, if they're a foreign national, they're not allowed to bond out," said McCormick.
Sheriff Vic Regalado stands behind the program, arguing that only suspected criminals ever come into contact with the 287g program.
"As long as I am Sheriff, I will not get rid of 287g, because it deals with the criminal element," said Regalado.
Both sides have plenty of supporters. Tulsa resident Paul Bernett says he supports the jail confirming citizenship
"Because I can see the deterioration of our country from the way it used to be and how well things went in the '60s. They ain't going that well now," said Bernett.
The many opponents of the program have been pressuring commissioners for a couple of months. Now people who support the program are pushing back. Ronda Vuillemont-Smith helped gather program supporters.
"And I just thought it was time that citizens who stand in support of our Sheriff and 287, stand and show their support," she said.
The sheriff has extended the program for another year through next summer. The Commissioners could vote to end the program when the full contract is up for renewal then.