By Allie Shinn, Director of External Affairs

Last week, in one of his first actions as President, Donald Trump issued a sweeping Executive Order targeting America’s immigrant communities. Not only is this order morally indefensible, it is illogical, makes American communities less safe, and is very likely unconstitutional.

Along with a directive to militarize our border and build a wall along the Rio Grande, this Executive Order includes a provision that seeks to coerce local law enforcement to participate in mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.

At the ACLU, we stand firmly against any and all attempts to conscript local law enforcement into immigration enforcement or a dragnet deportation force. Not only are the merits of deportation questionable, but asking local law enforcement to abandon their actual duties in favor of Donald Trump’s fool’s errand is reckless, irresponsible, and counterproductive.

Our cities and towns can never be safe when residents are afraid to reach out to the police for help or to cooperate with crime investigations. Such a move would destroy trust between law enforcement and immigrant communities, and divert resources from the important crime prevention work with which we charge our police.

Thankfully, the Police Departments of Oklahoma’s two largest cities understand these facts. On January 26, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum and Tulsa PD Chief Jordan announced their opposition to their officers participating in a proactive immigration enforcement. Both Mayor Bynum and Chief Jordan made strong statements affirming their commitment to protecting Tulsa’s hispanic and immigrant communities.  

Addressing the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty made similar comments on OCPD’s role. "We don't feel like we have the authority, we don't have the manpower, we don't have the training, and it builds distrust within the community.”

Chief Citty and Chief Jordan are correct. Shifting local law enforcement focus away from crime prevention and toward immigration enforcement would dramatically reduce safety for all of the residents under their jurisdiction. Additionally, such a move would erode trust between law enforcement and large swaths of the communities they serve. We applaud their decision to prioritize the safety of their cities over immigration enforcement.

Thanks are due also to Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid and Councilman Pete White for their brave comments in support of Oklahoma City’s immigrant community and for their thoughtful approach to promoting reasonable policies that move our cities forward. Too often, elected officials remain silent when their voices are needed most. Today, residents of Oklahoma City and Tulsa can be proud of the leadership from their public servants.

We look forward to continued conversations with officials in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa on their existing immigration policies, further opportunities to limit cooperation with federal immigration enforcement, and proactive steps our law enforcement can take to build trust with immigrant communities.

There is room for improvement. At the ACLU we disagree with several existing immigration policies that the Oklahoma legislature has forced upon municipalities across the state, including Tulsa and Oklahoma City. After a decade in on the books, it is time for the legislature repeal the draconian immigration laws enacted in 2007 with the passage of HB 1804. If the two largest police forces in Oklahoma recognize that mixing policing with immigration enforcement makes everyone less safe, that alone should be enough to compel the legislature to abandon its broken and dangerous experiment with immigration enforcement.  

Until then, at least we have the important example set by Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We urge municipalities and counties across Oklahoma to follow their lead by unequivocally announcing their intentions to resist attempts to coopt local law enforcement agencies. In doing so they take an important step toward affirming their commitment to protecting, serving, and welcoming all those who live in their jurisdiction.