“The fear is real,” said Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty to the Oklahoma City Council Tuesday.
His point was that some Oklahoma City residents have true fears that local police will start doing front line work of immigration enforcement.
Some council members had questions about OKCPD policies and procedures regarding immigration investigations and the apprehension of illegal immigrants.
His answer to the council was that the OKCPD “will not be proactive in carrying out investigations” of the status of Oklahoma City residents.
“We want the people of this city to call us when they have been victims of a crime,” Citty told the Council. “If they fear we will arrest them for being here illegally, they won’t call.”
Citty said that when his officers go out on a call, their role is not to investigate anyone’s immigration status, but to protect those who called and investigate crimes.
Oklahoma City residents have been expressing deep concern about whether their police department would be directly involved in rounding up illegal immigrants.
And in a recent public forum at U.S. Grant High School on the south side of the city, police fielded questions from residents for nearly two hours about their concerns.
He said that Oklahoma City was not a “sanctuary city” in that OKCPD will cooperate if given a federal warrant. And if asked to do so, OKCPD will ensure the safety of ICE agents when they serve a warrant in city limits.
Some cities have taken up the designation of “sanctuary city” in the U.S. and Canada by declaring, either by ordinance or practice, that they would not make immigration arrests or assist in catching illegal immigrants.
Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma praised the OKCPD, but wanted Citty and the council to go further.
Kiesel told Free Press after the meeting that he appreciated what Chief Citty told the council.
But he went on to say that the Oklahoma Legislature has passed laws that require OKCPD to report on the immigration status of “all people who have committed felonies.”
“Well, that’s a huge number, a huge category of criminal offenses that an individual can be charged with in Oklahoma,” said Kiesel.
He urged Citty and members of the council to pressure the legislature to relax such laws.
“It creates distrust between police departments and communities they serve, and makes distrust go both ways,” said Kiesel. “And it makes all of us less safe.”
Councilman Ed Shadid had the most questions for the chief because he had heard several of his constituents expressing a concern that OKCPD would just round up all members of a household and check their immigration status.
After the session he told Free Press that he was satisfied with the answers Citty gave and believes that residents are not in danger of the city’s police engaging in immigration round-ups.