Growing Illegal Problem In Oklahoma

The Bartlesville Examiner Entiprise

Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa, is brimming with frustration over growing communities of illegal immigrants settling in Oklahoma while authorities up to the White House and President Bush seem slow to react.

Illegal aliens are endangering Oklahomans by driving without licenses or auto insurance and straining local social services, Sullivan said.

At the same time, he said, local law enforcement officers do not have the manpower and federal support to address the problem.

“Any town hall meeting I go to, this is probably the first, second and third question asked,” said Sullivan, whose district includes Bartlesville. “I get that all the time.”

Sullivan ranks among immigration hardliners in Congress, pressing for stronger borders and for giving federal authorities more power to detain undocumented immigrants.

In Oklahoma, he has pushed, so far unsuccessfully, to force the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to open an office in Tulsa.

But the issue of immigration reform pits lawmakers like Sullivan against those seeking to preserve immigrant labor for businesses.

In conversations with Bush and his top adviser Karl Rove, Sullivan said he got the sense the administration is soft on illegal immigration. [no shit!]

“I’ve talked to Bush about it,” he said. “For some reason, he’s not strong on immigration policy. It makes no sense to me.

“I believe it goes back to when he was governor (of Texas) and friends with (Mexican President) Vicente Fox,” Sullivan said. “They had some strong relationship or something like that. Maybe it’s big business - construction companies that put pressure on him because they need the (immigrant) workers.”

Sullivan pointed to instances when officers have had to release illegal immigrants caught smuggling drugs and people, among other infractions.

“Local law enforcement is very upset about this,” Sullivan said. “They’re willing to do the things they need to do, but they need to have support.”

There are roughly 20,000 illegal immigrants living in the Tulsa area and only one field office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Oklahoma City, he said.

“All we can do when we encounter them is just to charge them here locally with the violations we have and then we have to let them go,” said Lt. Mike Richardson of the Bartlesville Police Department.

“We do have a lot of contact with (illegal immigrants) and that’s a portion of the population that is growing and so the problem is going to get larger,” Richardson said.

Sullivan said he is frustrated with the government’s lack of response. He pointed to a case when he said federal immigration officials authorized the release of 18 illegal aliens pulled over along Interstate 44 in Catoosa in 2004.

In a meeting with immigration officials, Sullivan said he was told the agency’s reaction was “unacceptable.”

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