4 minute read

Oklahoma County’s three commissioners are divided in their opinions about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents being stationed full-time in the Oklahoma County Jail.

Commissioner Carrie Blumert has come out clearly against the agents being present and Commissioners Brian Maughan and Kevin Calvey have taken a strong stand for the agents’ presence.

Response to protest

The commissioners’ comments to news outlets and on social media have come in response to about twenty citizens who spoke at the meeting of the recently-formed Jail Trust Monday.

One of the trustees, Ben Brown, put an item on the agenda questioning the presence of the ICE officers at the jail.

Organized by activist leaders, most of the speakers during a comments time called for the sheriff to stop allowing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to be stationed in the jail to find undocumented immigrants who have been brought to the jail.

This was the second action in a little over a week. Free Press reported a vigil held outside the jail Friday night, July 12 where speakers called for the Oklahoma County Sheriff to stop cooperating with ICE.

After the regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners Wednesday, Free Press asked all three commissioners about the issue.

Oklahoma County Commissioners
Oklahoma County Commissioners (L-R) Brian Maughan, Kevin Calvey, and Carrie Blumert study documents during a meeting of the Board of County Commissioners. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Blumert

“State statute says that city and county detention centers must make a reasonable effort to identify residency status,” said Commissioner Carrie Blumert. “And in my opinion, stationing two officers full time in the jail is beyond that.”

She said that allowing ICE to check an arrestee’s status and put a hold on them “who was not convicted of a crime, yet” was not acceptable to her.

Calvey

Commissioner Kevin Calvey is convinced that it’s a matter of enforcing laws.

“I have empathy for people fleeing violence in their countries,” said Calvey. “But, we’re going to obey the law, and there are good reasons to do so. Actually, I’m squarely on the side of supporting ICE.”

Calvey was critical of those who spoke out against the ICE agents calling some of them “extremists.”

“Some of the people up there were just interested in being fault finders,” said Calvey. “They were just looking to pick a fight and get their name in the news.”

Maughan

Brian Maughan maintained the stance he took in a prepared social media statement centered on enforcing laws, but emphasized efficiency of allowing enforcement to happen that would happen anyway.

“It’s not about us making raids and rounding up people in a paddy wagon or things like that,” Maughan said. “It’s about when they’ve been apprehended for other violations.”

“It’s making whatever justice was going to happen anyway a swifter process, which is what we’re all trying to champion here,” said Maughan.

Profile shift

For years Oklahoma County’s commissioners have had a low profile as they ran the three districts of the county making sure that county buildings like the Courthouse were maintained and roads repaired.

The jail was a part of that responsibility, too, although the sheriff at the time of incidents was usually the one who answered to the public about conditions of the jail.

But, now the commissioners’ profile is much higher because of a peak in public concern about poor conditions and deaths at the Jail.

Now commissioners have empowered the trust to take control of the jail at a currently undetermined time in the future.

The newly-formed Jail Trust is in a exploratory phase, preparing for the possibility of taking over control of the jail from County Sheriff P.D. Taylor.

Influence sought

And so now, activists and even the commissioners are making their own bids to influence the future actions of the trust if they actually take over.

Sara Bana, with the coalition Community Action for Immigration Justice organized the commenting line-up. She told Free Press that she considered Monday’s action to be “a great day for democracy.”

“We will continue utilizing every avenue available within our democracy to stop the machinery of ICE operating in our backyard,” Bana said.

Cynthia Garcia
Activist Cynthia Garcia (yellow shirt) with Dream Action – Oklahoma, listens to others voicing their concern over ICE agents at the jail after her own comments to the trust. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Updated: 10:31 a.m., July 25, 2019


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