New Sanctuary Network | Tulsa

Supporting Persons Without Documents and Fighting Wholesale Deportation


The new Administration in Washington has made it difficult to predict who will be targeted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). During the Obama Administration, the program of deportation was focused on criminals. That is still the case, but enforcement energy is now shifting to persons without documents who have committed no significant crimes and represent no threat to public safety. There is pervasive fear in the immigrant community based on home and workplace seizures, the inconsistent approach to so called "Dreamers" (immigrants brought as children to the U.S. and covered by the Obama-era deferred action initiative), and the general assumption that the Administration will no longer respect so-called Sanctuary sites.  


The situation in Tulsa is our special concern. We are not a self-designated Sanctuary City, but our Mayor and Chief of Police are both on record pledging that time and resources will not be given over to ICE enforcement efforts. There is, however, an agreement in place called 287(g) that allows ICE to operate under the Sheriff's auspices in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center. The New Sanctuary Network opposes this agreement as a negative reflection on the character of our city. In the course of a given day, it involves local law enforcement agents in the identification of candidates for deportation. Some two hundred cells are given over to house local persons without documents from Tulsa, Oklahoma at large, and surrounding states. This memorandum of understanding yields the jail a $69 per night reimbursement from the federal government. We oppose this agreement.


In practical terms, the arrangement in place means that every person arrested and jailed for any reason in Tulsa is subject to ICE processing and a potential "hold." In the classic scenario, a Tulsa Police Officer who is not part of the ICE enforcement machine arrests someone for a minor infraction. In keeping with departmental policy, he does not check the immigration status of the person arrested. But when that person reaches the jail, his status immediately becomes a prime concern. No documents means that he will be held by ICE and subject to deportation, irrespective of the crime which triggered the arrest.