Tulsa City Council Talks Immigration Enforcement

Tuesday, September 12th 2006, 10:39 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's city council is talking about illegal immigration and whether the city has a role in discouraging it.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says the debate on illegal immigration has come to city hall - and here it's mainly about lost taxes and the cost to city government. No one at the city is sure how big a problem it is - they're researching that - but the council took the first step Tuesday towards an ordinance preventing companies from hiring illegals.

The Tulsa city council was divided on what to do, but seemed united on wanting to do something. Councilor Bill Christiansen: "We need to set the example in Tulsa." Councilor Jack Henderson: "My problem is the enforcement of it, how are you going to enforce it?"

The talk about the about the possibility of illegal immigrants working on city projects, drew a crowd. Most of the spectators were part of a group pushing for an illegal immigration ordinance. David O'Connor with Citizens Fair And Clean Government: "It is an overall problem of a lot of third world countries coming here excuse the pun here because Tulsa is a sanctuary city."

The council discussed whether the city knew if any of its contractors hired illegal immigrants - and the city staff said there was no one checking. There is no city law requiring contract employees to be documented, because the city defers to the federal law that requires it.

Several of the city councilors mentioned a video as part of the reason they want to do something. Announcer: "Unmarked cash. Unpaid taxes. Uninsured workers. Unsafe conditions." The video came from the Carpenters Union, which believe illegals and people who work for cash are undermining good wages. Adrian Privett with the Carpenters Union: "There are other cities in the country that have adopted ordinances to curb this."

While the city of Tulsa doesn't watch over companies building public projects to see who they're hiring, some councilors think the city should. Councilor Rick Westcott: "Whether or not it imposes an undue burden on small businesses to comply with the ordinance, this may sound harsh, but I don't think that needs to be part of the equation."

The city council is going to wait for Tulsa’s Public Works Department to do some checking on what it can require of contractors and their subcontractors.