A bill its author says provides legal cover for law enforcement agencies enforcing federal immigration detainers passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday over Democrats’ lengthy protests.
House Bill 3195, by Rep. John Pfeiffer, directs law enforcement officers to comply with the detainers but includes no penalty for failing to do so. Pfeiffer said the measure was prompted by concerns of Oklahoma and Cleveland county officials that they could be liable for civil action because state law does not specifically address the issue.
Pfeiffer said 75 of the state’s 77 counties currently comply with the detainers, and Oklahoma and Cleveland counties did until a little over a year ago.
HB 3195’s speedy route through the House in the first weeks of the session was apparently a preemptive strike against more severe legislation that would have fined sheriffs and others who failed to comply.
Detainers are requests from federal agencies to hold persons identified as eligible for deportation. Persons not taken into custody by the appropriate federal agency within 48 hours are released.
Detainers are sometimes issued erroneously, leading to lawsuits against the arresting agencies — which is why some Oklahoma law enforcement officials have been leery of cooperating with federal agents. Under HB 3195, liability under such circumstances would be subject to the government tort claims limit of $100,000.
Some Democrats said Monday the bill plays on citizens’ fear of immigrants and could lead to children being separated from their parents. Pfeiffer said he is just trying to clarify a point of existing law.
The measure passed, 78-21, with two Democrats joining all 76 Republicans present, and now goes to the Senate.