Tulsa area law enforcement meet with feds over illegal immigrant concerns

Tuesday, August 16th 2005, 1:32 pm
By: News On 6

Local law enforcement met with federal officials Tuesday afternoon, to discuss concerns about illegal immigration in Oklahoma.

They say it's taxing their resources and many are frustrated with what they consider is a lack of support. News on 6 anchor Tami Marler takes a look at a congressman’s efforts to bring immigration enforcement to Tulsa.

According to a recent national study, as much as 85 percent of the recent migration from Mexico is illegal. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates America's illegal Mexican population at 6-million, with a half-million more pouring over the border every year.

First District Congressman John Sullivan: "I'm not going to stop until we have an immigrations enforcement office here in Tulsa." The issue has grabbed the attention of Sullivan, who concerned about what he believes is a national problem that's hitting home.

He invited local law enforcement officials to a meeting Tuesday with Immigration and Customs Enforcement - or ICE, to discuss the issues they face, like having to release people they know are probably in the country illegally.

ICE official Kenneth Cates: "We certainly have had instances and probably will have instances in the future where we are simply unable to respond, and we do tell those officers that we're not able to respond to that." Kenneth Cates says it's a matter of priority.

The ICE office falls under the Homeland Security Department, which is concerned with larger issues like trafficking in illegal drugs, money and people, something Sullivan says he believes is happening every day in Tulsa, on I-44, one of the nation's busiest interstates. "We did have only four agents for our entire state of 3.5 million people. Now we had a 300 percent increase. We have 12 agents now; we still need many, many more."

Just one of the improvements Sullivan says has come out of his push for an ICE office in Tulsa, in addition to the one in Oklahoma City. Until then, much of the responsibility of securing the homeland falls on the shoulders of local law enforcement. Tulsa County Undersheriff Brian Edwards: "The front lines, you know I'm thoroughly convinced that it will be the street officer somewhere doing something that will either affect an arrest or prevent an act."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has set up the Law Enforcement Support Center, where the local law enforcement community can go for information on people with questionable immigration status. The center received more than 650,000 requests for information last month.

In Oklahoma, the latest census shows the illegal alien population increased nearly 200 percent in the last fifteen years, to more than 46,000.