ACTION, a coalition of congregations and nonproﬁts representing nearly 5,000 Tulsans, asks the Board of County Commissioners to reject a proposal to renew the arrangement when it comes to a vote on Tuesday, May 26. ACTION calls on county commissioners to end 287(g) Tulsa County’s 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as it is costly and undermines the health and safety of county residents.
Under 287(g), Sheriﬀ’s Department personnel approved by ICE perform functions of immigration oﬃcers in handling detainees at the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, primarily by checking immigration status and issuing immigration detainers that extend the duration of jail time for charged individuals identiﬁed as undocumented. The federal government does not reimburse the Sheriﬀ’s Department for this work, nor for the expense of detaining individuals prior to and up to 48 hours after transfer of custody to ICE for deportation.
The Sheriﬀ’s Department need not rely on 287(g) to apprehend and detain individuals charged with serious crimes; state law provides all the power necessary, regardless whether the accused is documented. Inmates held under the 287(g) contract usually are ineligible for bond and are detained for the entirety of their pretrial and sentencing phases, sometimes for months, at local taxpayer expense.
The impact on public health is potentially much more costly, as holding more inmates for longer periods of time — as occurs under 287(g) — is ill-advised and counter-productive if the Sheriﬀ’s Department is to achieve its stated goal of reducing inmate populations to help contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many of 287(g)’s pre-pandemic problems remain, as ACTION has conﬁrmed in dozens of conversations with directly impacted Tulsans. Our community is less safe because, with the knowledge that local law enforcement is performing federal immigration functions, members of immigrant communities are less likely to report crime. Many individuals processed under 287(g) over the years have been held locally and then deported after being charged with minor oﬀenses. So, the fear is palpable, and one of the most harmful consequences is domestic violence unchecked as victims lose power to secure intervention.
The county has another contract with ICE under which it is reimbursed for imprisoning inmates charged with immigration violations. Sheriﬀ Regalado recently reported that the jail was holding only 22 inmates under this contract, when at times in recent years the count has exceeded 200. We encourage him to follow through with his expressed inclination to end that agreement. We note, though, that the housing agreement, no longer the moneymaker it once was, has been held up as a ﬁnancial oﬀset to the unreimbursed expenses of fulﬁlling 287(g) obligations. There are more than 23,000 municipalities in the United States, yet fewer than 80 are participating in the ICE programs. Some have dropped out after realizing ﬁnancial loss.
Considering the adverse consequences in public health, public ﬁnance, and public safety, Tulsa County’s 287(g) program should not continue, and ACTION calls on the Board of County Commissioners to end it.