A 90-day agreement between local officials and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for the Tulsa Jail to hold more ICE detainees will not extend beyond the end of August, a Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman told The Frontier on Thursday.
Casey Roebuck said that in May the sheriff’s office was contacted by ICE and asked to hold “an additional 50-100 detainees.” The jail’s usual roster of ICE detainees sits at about 200, she said. It is now at 247, and was as high as the 280s last week.
“ICE had reached out to us and said they were in need of bed space for detainees for 90 days,” Roebuck told The Frontier. “We (later) asked ICE if they needed us to extend the 90 days and they said they did not.”
Roebuck said the newest ICE arrivals are “not from Tulsa,” though she said she was unsure if some of the recently-arrived detainees are from the border, where arrests and family separations have sparked outrage and protests, however the timing is right.
Since May, other ICE detainees have cycled out and others have cycled in. The jail is one of only two facilities in Oklahoma, along with the Okmulgee County Jail, that can hold federal ICE inmates.
The Trump administration in April began its “zero tolerance” policy aimed at lowering border crossings, using the separation of children from their parents as a deterrent. On June 20, President Trump signed an order ending the separation policy just days after repeatedly claiming it was an Obama-era law he could not change on his own.
Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders, had previously told reporters that the separations were due to the president “following the law,” and Attorney General Jeff Sessions offered support for the separations by quoting a Bible verse that in the past had been used to endorse slavery.
The contract to hold ICE detainees, the 287(g) agreement, is a lucrative one for the sheriff’s office. A Tulsa World story from 2017 showed TCSO makes $69 per day per ICE inmate, and made $3.5 million in the last fiscal year from the agreement.
The sheriff’s office has struggled financially over the years, and has introduced a number of measures to cut costs and increase revenue, including taking over the jail’s commissary and selling electronic cigarettes to inmates, and eliminating in-person visitation in favor of promoting video calls that cost 25 cents per minute.
Typically it’s a relatively small percentage of the jail’s ICE detainees who are from the Tulsa area, and the majority of those were arrested on misdemeanor complaints. The majority of inmates who are on ICE holds are federal inmates from other locations.
Sheriff Vic Regalado, the first Hispanic sheriff in Tulsa County history, has previously offered support for the 287(g) agreement, saying that it was only used to deport undocumented Tulsa who commit crimes, rather than as a tool to interrogate peaceful immigrants.
A group of a few dozen Tulsans peacefully protest the jail’s ICE contract each week outside the facility, and in other states protests are growing in scale. In Portland, Oregon, a group calling themselves OCCUPY ICE PDX has protested a local facility since last week, and on Thursday morning federal law enforcement agents began to remove the protesters.
Also on Thursday, a part of Democratic lawmakers from Arizona and Maryland offered support for a bill from a Wisconsin lawmaker that would abolish ICE, another movement gaining support in liberal circles. Earlier this week 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — who a year ago was working as a bartender in her New York neighborhood — defeated scored a massive upset in a primary win over longtime Democratic leader Joe Crowley.
Ocasio-Cortez bills herself as a “Democratic socialist,” and said that abolishing ICE was one of her goals as a politician.
This story incorrectly identified the number of detainees who arrived at the jail on a recent date. It has been corrected.