judges tour

The Tulsa County jail also serves as an immigration detention center. Tulsa World file

Tulsa County made a mistake when it agreed to continue federal immigration contracts without first allowing public comment.

Since 2007, Tulsa County Commissioners have voted in public meetings before the sheriff entered into contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The contracts allow deputies to identify and hold undocumented immigrants being booked in the jail.

The 287(g) program empowers local officers to enforce federal law and has been controversial since enacted as a section of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Local opposition has ramped up in recent years, and supporters have lately added their voices to the mix.

Each side wants elected officials to hear their concerns, answer questions and engage in the debate about what is best for Tulsa County, which is good, the sign of a healthy republic.

That’s why we are disappointed county officials agreed to a 12-month extension of the contracts behind closed doors before the debate could begin.

Sheriff Vic Regalado said ICE officials are not renegotiating contracts for next year and asked for the continuance under the current terms. Assistant District Attorney Doug Wilson advised that the sheriff can extend contracts without commissioner approval.

Regalado says he contacted commissioners about his plan to move forward and received no pushback, so he signed the paperwork.

Opponents have been rightly upset at feeling duped about the process. It was a change from past actions and lacks transparency.

The contracts were not to expire until June 30, giving time for opponents and supporters to have their say in a public forum.

The actions of county officials were legal, but they weren’t the right way to do the people’s business.

A new contract is expected to be negotiated for 2020-2021.

We hope the county has learned its lesson and will give the public a chance to speak out on the issue in a timely fashion next time.

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