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Local protest outside the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Immigration researchers set record straight on 287g ICE partnership; activists lament misinformation from sheriff, supporters
By Deon Osborne
Advocates for undocumented immigrants returned to a County Commissioner meeting on Monday morning, finding themselves forced to dispel inaccuracies and misinformation from statements made by Sheriff Vic Regalado, of Tulsa County, and other supporters of the 287g partnership with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
For months, activists and researchers behind the End287g campaign have been sending emails, calls and showing up to County Commissioner meetings to ask them not to renew the partnership between Tulsa’s County Sheriff and ICE that allows for local authorities to hand over undocumented immigrants to the federal agency for deportation.
While the Sheriff signed the renewal himself days ago, a move some call illegal, the County Commissioners have ultimate authority over ending the contract at any time, according to advocates.
The passionate pleas for humanity were overshadowed by a crowd of 287g supporters who fashioned red, white and blue clothing as they argued against allowing undocumented immigrants to remain in Tulsa.
Rosa Hernandez stands boldly amid the sea of cameras and onlookers outside the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Rosa Hernandez is an End287g activist and DACA recipient who has been on the frontlines of this local battle over whether undocumented immigrants should be deported for the slightest infraction.
“I don’t think they’re actually listening to the facts,” Hernandez said of local officials. She thinks fearmongering is winning out over logic.
Only about 80 counties out of more than 3,000 in the U.S. have 287g partnerships with ICE. In recent months, several counties in North Carolina ended their contracts, citing a desire to treat all communities equally and improve quality of life.
“They need to do the research, they need to be looking at the contract, they need to be listening to the people instead of going off on this political kind of thing, you know?” Hernandez said.
The contract only applies to the “criminal element” of Tulsa County’s undocumented immigrant population, according to Sheriff Regalado.
Yet, researchers, teachers, and social workers testified how infractions such as running a yellow light or calling in a domestic assault can land people in jail, awaiting ICE to pick them up for deportation proceedings.
Molly Bryant, a social worker who specializes in outreach and intervention for domestic violence victims, reminded those gathered at the meeting that she has personally seen a dramatic decrease in victims calling in to report their abusers out of fear of being deported themselves.
“Oklahoma state law actually already ensures that any law enforcement, whether they have 287g or not, if they encounter someone who is undocumented with a felony charge, they have to notify ICE anyway,” Bryant said.
House Bill 1804, passed in 2007, made it a felony to harbor, transport or keep an undocumented person in Oklahoma.
“So, 287g doesn’t do much more than what I see in my work, which is that I have less domestic violence reports,” Bryant said.
While right-wing supporters of the contract decried an immigrant invasion that would cripple America, the notion that undocumented immigrants commit more crimes is false, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center.
Analysis of the report found that while the country’s crime rate has declined nationally between 2007 and 2016, areas that received an influx of undocumented immigrants saw similar crime reductions and some areas even had larger drops in crime than the national average.
Ironically, right-wing supporters of the contract seemed to sound like the snowflakes they consider liberals to be as they expressed fears of immigrant child soldiers being trained in the forests to attack Tulsa County citizens.
Dani Odister-Rosales is a Ph.D. student and former, undocumented immigrant who studies how ideological differences across cities affect the quality of life and self-identity for undocumented immigrants.
She said she didn’t plan to speak until she heard from all the misinformation coming from folks in coordinated patriotic clothing.
“I just was looking at the sea of red, white and blue—which I knew wasn’t really standing for the values that we want red, white and blue to stand for,” Odister-Rosales said.
Bringing up slavery and Japanese internment camps during World War II, she explained how supporting a law simply because it’s a law can keep one on the wrong side of history.
“It’s really frustrating to not hear people say that these laws have to be malleable,” Odister-Rosales added. “We can look at these laws critically and examine them.”
Rosa Hernandez and other advocates want people who support immigration reform on the local level to go beyond a Facebook post.
“People need to be calling their county commissioners, send letters and getting involved,” Hernandez said. “Because as we saw today, there is a lot of fear out there. There is a lot of misinformation.”
Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has written for OU’s student newspaper the OU Daily as well as OKC-based Red Dirt Report. Deon received the Governor’s Commendation in 2017 for his videography highlighting a statewide distracted driving prevention program and runs a freelance video marketing service at indepthwithdeonfilms.com. He now lives in Tulsa, where he works as a policy intern at the Oklahoma Policy Institute.