From the fairness of U.S. immigration laws to whether “a Tet Offensive” is being organized in backwoods immigrant camps, Tulsa County Commissioners heard more than two dozen arguments Monday morning for and against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287g programs.

The public comment session during the commission’s regular weekly meeting was originally set at the request of those opposed to the county’s continued involvement in 287g.

Some conservative groups rallied their forces over the weekend, however, so that Monday’s overflow crowd was divided on the issue.

In practice, the decision to extend the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s participation in the program was decided and the contract signed weeks ago. Opponents, though, said they were misled on that point and wanted commissioners to reverse Sheriff Vic Regalado’s decision.

There doesn’t seem to be much chance of that happening.

The 287g programs, named for the section of federal law authorizing them, essentially deputizes specially trained local law officers for duties normally performed by ICE agents.

Regalado and some speaking Monday in favor of Tulsa County’s continued involvement say the program is intended only to identify undocumented residents who have committed serious crimes.

“I want to be absolutely clear,” Regalado said at the end of the public comments. “This is about the criminal element.”

Opponents, though, say the program is counterproductive because it causes immigrants — legal and illegal — to be less likely to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement.

They say the program has also been used to deport individuals for minor traffic violations, and costs local taxpayers money better spent elsewhere.

Monday’s comments tended to wander into broader issues than just 287g.

Supporters often sounded more concerned about illegal immigration in general than serious offenders, or seemed not to draw much if any distinction between the two. Randall Barnett, a former legislative candidate, warned of a brewing “Tet Offensive” — a series of surprise attacks by the Viet Cong on South Vietnamese cities during the Vietnam War.

“It’s easy to discover a systematic plan of conquest” in Latin American migration, Barnett said.

“Communication potentials are expanding with every single Central American, African and Arab arriving here,” he continued. “Once they arrive here, how many are directed to education centers run by the far left or camps in the woods for a Tet Offensive? It is coming. I’ve been talking to plenty of military vets who are watching this go on. ... Don’t California my USA, don’t California my Oklahoma.”

Barnett was given a standing ovation by the pro-287g contingent.

Opponents, on the other hand, attacked the fairness of the nation’s immigration laws in general as well as the effectiveness of the 287g program.

“I’ve seen a lot of rhetoric here today about laws and how we shouldn’t be trampling these laws,” said Daniela Rosales, who said she benefited from deferred action for childhood arrivals, or DACA.

“Were we trampling the laws when we emancipated (slaves)?” Rosales asked “Were we trampling laws when we gave women the right to vote? We amend these things because we understand them to be unjust. These laws that we have right now are unjust. You will find yourselves on the wrong side of history.”

Regalado said most of the people speaking seemed to miss something important.

“There have been points made on both sides,” he said. “What scares me is that only a very few have mentioned the lack of conversation. Peaceful conversation. So I’d ask you to remember that. Everybody is entitled to their opinions.

“(But) let’s have a dialogue. There needs to be a dialogue to be had but it concerns immigration on the national level.”

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Randy Krehbiel


Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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