U.S. Rep. John Sullivan fights for Tulsa Jail funding
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Saturday, June 09, 2012
6/09/12 at 7:14 AM
An immigration enforcement program that has helped bring millions of dollars to the Tulsa Jail and been championed by First District Congressman John Sullivan has become another point of contention between House Republicans and the Obama administration.
Last month the House Appropriations Committee restored $17 million in the Department of Homeland Security funding bill to the 287(g) program, money the administration wanted transferred to another immigration enforcement initiative called Secure Communities.
Thursday night, the House passed that appropriations bill with an amendment by Sullivan essentially prohibiting Homeland Security from terminating any existing 287(g) agreements. The bill calls for 287(g) to remain funded at the same level, about $71 million out of a total Department of Homeland Security appropriation of $46 billion.
Sullivan said 287(g) and Secure Communities are both "valuable tools for local law enforcement, but 287(g) is absolutely essential because it provides the authority to detain dangerous criminal illegal aliens. Doing away with 287(g) is nothing but a backdoor attempt by President Obama to water down interior immigration enforcement."
Under 287(g) agreements, authorized local law enforcement agencies act as extensions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. They may detain suspected immigration violators, conduct investigations into residency status and generate charges to begin deportation proceedings.
The Tulsa County Sheriff's Department is the only state law enforcement agency with a 287(g) agreement.
Supporters say the 287(g) program is an effective tool for finding and deporting illegal immigrants, especially those with criminal backgrounds.
Detractors say it is a poorly monitored "cash cow" that encourages participating law enforcement agencies to concentrate on rounding up illegal immigrants on relatively minor offenses instead of pursuing more serious crimes.
"The 287(g) program is one of the most successful programs we have to keep our communities safe from dangerous criminal illegal immigrants," Sullivan said. "Since I partnered with Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz to bring the 287(g) program to Tulsa in 2007, TCSO has identified, processed and opened immigration proceedings on over 14,000 aliens, many of whom had dangerous criminal backgrounds including human trafficking, gang activity and money laundering."
Glanz credits the 287(g) program with helping to crack a prostitution ring that preyed on illegal immigrants.
The sheriff's department also operates the only jail in the state fully authorized to house undocumented immigrants. It is contracted with the federal government to provide up to 190 beds for that purpose and is paid $54.13 per day, per bed actually occupied.
In 2010, the department said it had received $6.8 million from ICE to house confirmed or suspected illegal immigrants.
Marvin Lizama, a Tulsa lawyer and immigrant advocate, said the 287(g) program is "a cash cow for local law enforcement. It's a way of getting federal money to them."
The program has been the subject of several critical government reports citing lax oversight. Supporters say those problems have been fixed.
"That may be a problem in other jurisdictions but not ours," Glanz said.
Lizama, though, said law enforcement agencies oppose the Obama administration's effort to de-emphasize 287(g) in favor of Secure Communities because the latter spreads money over more jurisdictions and does not pay for detention.
"The difference is about money," he said.
Original Print Headline: Sullivan fights for funds for Tulsa Jail
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Congressman John Sullivan speaks during a town hall meeting at Connors Cove in the Hardesty Library in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World