OKLAHOMA CITY - The battle over undocumented immigrants in the United States is at the Oklahoma County Jail.
"I beg of you, I plead with you, get those ICE officers out of your county jail now," said ICE protester, Sara Bana.
Impassioned pleas were at the Oklahoma County Jail Trustee meeting about two Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents working at the Oklahoma County Jail.
When an inmate is booked into the jail and doesn't have proper immigration documentation, ICE officers are notified.
They then investigate and may place a hold on that person.
County officials tell News 4 they're required by federal law to notify ICE about these types of inmates, and the agents are at the jail to speed up the process.
Opponents say the jail doesn't have an official contract to house the agents. Protesters also want to make sure the county doesn't work with ICE in the future.
Reverend T. Sheri Dickerson helped organize the protesters at the meeting.
"I am an American citizen, so it is the least that I can do, standing with a lot of the marginalized communities and again trying to appeal to Oklahoma Jail Trust to remove the ICE agents that are working within the Oklahoma County Jail," said Dickerson.
Opponents say letting the ICE agents work in the jail isn't a good situation for Oklahomans.
"It is not a necessity, it is a waste of funds and it is a disruption of humanity. It is very important so that we can allocate those funds for better purposes," said Dickerson.
As for the Jail Trustee Board, Commissioner Carrie Blumert posted a statement on social media saying:
"Today our jail trust meeting was two hours long. (That's longer than usual.)
That's because 20 members of the public signed up to speak on the presence of ICE in the Oklahoma County Detention Center.
Thank you to everyone who came. This is how our government is supposed to work. We must rely on the input of citizens to make important decisions like these.
I want to especially thank the two DACA recipients who shared their stories. These students have committed no crime. But every day they risk being taken from their homes, their family, and their lives.
It is so important that we remember that every decision we make impacts the lives of real human beings. Our friends, neighbors, and family members. They aren't just numbers on a page. It is easier for us to do that when we can see faces and hear personal stories.
Every county meeting is open to the public and I encourage you to show up when you can. If you can't show up you can stream them online on our website."
District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan released the following statement:
"I am deeply concerned with calls made yesterday at the Jail Trust meeting to suspend the cooperative arrangement between the Sheriff’s Office and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
ICE performs essential functions in both of its enforcement areas, immigration and customs. Among other duties, it seeks to identify and prevent the entry of potential terrorists or criminals and to block importation of drugs. ICE agents at the jail have assisted in identifying and successfully prosecuting individuals for serious crimes committed in Oklahoma County, including major felonies that endangered the lives and property of Oklahomans. It is simply irresponsible to suggest that local law enforcement give up that relationship.
The ICE agents working with the Sheriff’s Office are not there to nab jaywalkers for immigration violations. They are a valuable adjunct to local law enforcement in assuring the public safety. Where they initiate deportation action, it is linked to crimes committed here by illegal immigrants. Do these protestors really think it makes sense to allow burglars, robbers and others who pose a danger to our community to remain here with impunity?
I am also concerned with the ongoing effort by some on the extreme political left to demonize ICE and with their calls for its abolition, which would result in an irresponsible and costly open borders policy. ICE agents are charged with enforcing federal laws. Like those of us in local government who have taken an oath to apply all laws equally, they have little discretion in this matter. Those who object to current immigration laws should petition Congress to change them, not lobby for the suspension of enforcement. Nor should they attack the character and motivations of federal law enforcement officers who are working under great pressure and difficult circumstances.
Every nation has rules and laws governing immigration; without such laws it is no longer a nation. America has always welcomed legal immigrants and shown compassion for those who entered outside legal channels. Suggestions that we are operating “concentration camps” and attacks on officials who are forced to cope with a massive flood of illegal immigrants are simply childish and irresponsible. It is equally irresponsible to suggest that Oklahoma County should ignore federal law. I would urge the Jail Trust to reject this call to end cooperation between local and federal law enforcement agencies."