Council approves immigration-status checks
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Friday, May 25, 2007
They amend the Expo Square annexation date, too.
The City Council voted 6-3 Thursday night for a resolution to have police conduct immigration-status checks during arrests.
Council discussions lasted late into the night after 32 speakers for and against the immigration checks.
The resolution originally applied only to felony arrests, but after lobbying from U.S. Rep. John Sullivan's office, it was amended to include misdemeanor arrests.
In other action, the council moved the effective date for annexation of the fairgrounds to Jan. 1, 2009.
Councilors John Eagleton, Dennis Troyer, Cason Carter, Rick Westcott, Bill Martinson and Bill Christiansen voted in favor of the resolution, and Councilors Roscoe Turner, Jack Henderson and Maria Barnes opposed it.
Eagleton said he doesn't understand how anyone could be against a resolution that is about enforcing laws that are already on the books.
"We're not even targeting all illegal immigrants -- just the ones who are breaking other laws," he said.
Mayor Kathy Taylor had supported a resolution with a felony stipulation but not the misdemeanor aspect. She called the original resolution a transition point for the city to begin complying with House Bill 1804. The state immigration reform bill was signed by Gov. Brad Henry two weeks ago and goes into effect Nov. 1.
The council's resolution also says police must notify the proper federal agency within 24 hours if an arrestee is found to be an illegal immigrant.
Taylor added a provision that people who think they have been wrongly jailed because of an immigration- status check can file a complaint with the city's Human Rights Department.
Former Police Chief Drew Diamond called the resolution "redundant and unnecessary." He said the Sheriff's Office already checks the immigration status of people booked into the Tulsa Jail.
"From a policing standpoint, the last thing you want to do is to create fear and division," he said. "This will do nothing for public safety in the city."
Diamond also called HB 1804 "a flawed piece of legislation" that he believes will be found to be unconstitutional. He urged councilors to hold off on the resolution to see whether the state law withstands legal challenges.
The Rev. Victor Orta of the American Dream Coalition said he supports enforcing the country's borders but that the council shouldn't punish illegal immigrants who are already here.
"There is a fear in Tulsa right now that I have never felt before," he said. "There are more hate crimes. We need to stop and think about the consequences of this."
Area resident Roger Scott expressed his support for HB 1804 and a council resolution.
"We're doing in the state of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa what the federal government doesn't have the guts to do," he said.
Wendell Neal of the Tulsa Minutemen organization said the resolution doesn't go far enough.
"I don't think we should have to wait for someone to be arrested before we check their immigration status," he said. "I support this resolution, but it's just a start."
Christiansen said a strong city policy is needed to show the federal government that a local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office is needed.
"I never want Tulsa to be known as a sanctuary city," he said.
Tulsan Larry Wilson remarked that "this country is under siege by illegal aliens."
Turning to Hispanics in the audience, he asked how many of them are in the country illegally. All raised their hands in a show of solidarity.
Annexation delay: The council unanimously agreed to amend the effective date of the annexation of the county fairgrounds from this July to January 2009.
Councilors in April narrowly approved annexing the fairgrounds to enable the city to collect a 3 percent sales tax there. County leaders opposed the annexation, saying it would drive away business. The city and county later reached a compromise to delay the annexation.
Brian Barber 581-8322