Attempt to ban ICE from Okla. county jail fails again

They came one vote short of passing a ban on ICE officers and a ban on honoring ICE "holds" on inmates


By Nolan Clay
The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Federal immigration officers are still allowed at the Oklahoma County jail, for now.

The trust overseeing operations at the detention center again came one vote short Monday of passing a ban on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and a ban on honoring ICE "holds" on inmates.

Five votes were necessary for the prohibitions to go into effect, but only four trustees voted for them. Two others opposed the bans, two abstained from voting and one was not present.

Supporters of the bans shouted out in protest after the vote. Some cursed as sheriff deputies moved toward the front of the meeting room.

"Right now you are disrupting our meeting," the trust chair, Tricia Everest, told them. "You can have your opinion. Please let us continue with the meeting at this time."

Trustees had planned to hear from the jail administrator next, but instead went into executive session as the shouting continued.

The Oklahoma County Jail Trust first voted 4-2 on Sept. 21 to ban ICE officers. After the meeting, trustees learned that five votes were necessary for the restriction to pass.

Since then, county commissioners have voted 2-1 to require the jail to fully cooperate with immigration officers. And one commissioner, Kevin Calvey, has asked an Oklahoma County judge to rule that the trust is bound to follow that new ICE policy.

District Attorney David Prater, though, has told the judge that commissioners have "never had direct operational control of the jail as a matter of law" and that leasing the jail to a trust "would not create any such authority."

Trustees heard Monday from speakers both for and against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. One ICE critic called the agency the 21st Century Gestapo.

ICE backers called on trustees to stand up to the critics and be in charge. "Don't let these misfits bully you," one said.

Voting to ban ICE Monday were Everest, Francie Ekwerekwu, Sue Ann Arnall and Danny Honeycutt.

Voting against were Calvey and Todd Lamb. Abstaining were Jim Couch and M.T. Berry. Not present because of illness was Ben Brown.

Couch, a former city manager in Oklahoma City, and Berry, a former assistant city manager, had voted in favor of prohibiting ICE officers in September. Both indicated they now wanted to wait until the matter is cleared up by the courts.

ICE holds or "detainer" requests have been challenged in federal court and some judges have found them unconstitutional. Calvey said jailers all over the country, including most Oklahoma sheriffs, comply with ICE detainers and keep inmates up to 48 hours after their regularly scheduled release.

"It is not settled law," Calvey said.

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(c)2020 The Oklahoman

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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