Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – Responding to the presence of around 1,000 unaccompanied immigrant children at Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma, determined state legislators are pressing for enforcement of state policies, including a law against provision of assistance to undocumented aliens.
State Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, and Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, are leading demands on federal officials to undo policies that they say have triggered the massive surge of non-citizens into the United States. They have also called on Oklahoma officials to uphold laws in the face of federal enforcement lethargy.
They have received sympathetic responses from both incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and her Democratic opponent this November, state Rep. Joe Dorman of Rush Springs.
In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Sen. Shortey said, “Obviously this is an issue where our national government is abdicating its responsibility. Not returning the illegal immigrants immediately as required under the law sent a message that the U.S. government would not enforce the law. At every level this provoked reaction.
“The [drug trafficking] cartels took advantage of people, and they poured north.
“There is danger in ignoring the illegal nature of all this. There are health risks in this population, as Dr. Mike Ritze has already learned.
“The biggest problem here is the lawlessness of the current situation. For Oklahoma, we already have House Bill 1804, which passed with huge margins in the Legislature and was signed into law by a Democratic governor. It is already against the law to engage in harboring, and transporting illegal immigrants unless it is for the purpose of deportation proceedings. Government inaction is encouraging people to violate the law.”
Ritze, one of two medical doctors serving in the Legislature, wrote letters last week to Gov. Fallin and other state officials.
In his letter to Dorman, his House colleague, Ritze wrote, “I am concerned about the historical correlation of the potential spread of communicable disease in certain populations.”
Ritze encouraged Dorman to contact District Attorneys and law enforcement officials to assure the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007 is upheld. That law “makes it unlawful for any person to transport, conceal, harbor, or shelter any alien in any place within the State of Oklahoma.”
Friday, Governor Fallin issued a statement in which she reminded the Obama administration that the military facility housing “illegal immigrant minors” – which opened on June 13 – is limited to a 120 day lease. The federal Government Services Administration said the arrangement was “temporary,” and Fallin wants it to stay that way.
In her press release, Fallin said, “From the very beginning, I have opposed the housing of illegal immigrants at Fort Sill. As I have told the administration, this facility is a testament to their failure to secure the borders and enforce our laws. It is a burden to taxpayers, who are being asked to shoulder transportation, medical and education expenses. It is also a potential health hazard.
“The Obama Administration has offered promises that this is a temporary facility supporting a 120 day operation. I am calling on President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell to keep their promise and offer assurances to the people of Oklahoma that this facility will be closed after October 10.”
Shortey, who said a group of legislators plans to meet with the chief executive in the coming week, told CapitolBeatOK he was “tremendously encouraged” by Fallin’s initial responses.
He said, “She is asking the feds to enforce laws and not to ignore law-breaking.”
The southside city lawmaker believes, “We have to send a clear message to the feds. Our leaders need to show the backbone of the state of Oklahoma.”
Dorman, in a letter to Dr. Ritze, said he shared many concerns expressed in the physician's letters.
“I have a sister who is a nurse at Fort Sill, along with several thousand constituents from my area affected by this detention facility. I am concerned not only about their welfare, but the welfare of all persons on the post after hearing about wellness issues in the news,” Dorman wrote in his letter, a copy of which was provided to CapitolBeatOK.
“I appreciate the health perspective you bring to the discussion about the safety of all those involved.”
Dorman also said, “all state and federal laws must be followed by those involved.”
Dorman, who represents an area near Fort Sill at Lawton, said he has scheduled a meeting with the commanding general of the post.