In The Know: Treatment of immigrants divides Tulsa police and sheriff’s office

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.

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Today you should know that the New York Times examined tensions between the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and Tulsa city police over how to treat undocumented immigrants. While the County Sheriff has led a crackdown on immigrants, city police say it is hurting their ability to fight dangerous crime by scaring immigrants from reporting when they are victimized. The New York Times also tells the story of an undocumented immigrant in Tulsa who had to give up his successful business due to Oklahoma’s 2007 anti-immigration law. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it plans to use Fort Sill in Lawton to house up to 1,200 children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

A multiple-article feature in the Oklahoman discusses the problem of “food deserts” in Oklahoma, places where residents don’t have nearby access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. The Tulsa World gave a round-up of the three Republicans and four Democrats running for state superintendent. The OK Gazette shared a profile of new Oklahoma City Schools superintendent Robert Neu, who previously served as superintendent of a district south of Seattle. A new Pew Report finds that Oklahoma releases the 4th highest percentage of inmates directly to the streets without any supervision or services.

The Red Dirt Rangers wrote an op-ed for the Oklahoman on their struggles to access health care after a helicopter crash and why Oklahoma should accept federal dollars to expand coverage. A new music video by the Red Dirt Rangers and 50 other Oklahoma musicians seeks to raise awareness about Oklahoma leaders’ refusal to expand coverage. The Tulsa World spoke to residents of Yale, Oklahoma, a small town that’s experienced some of the largest earthquakes in the state. The Muskogee Phoenix examined how much still needs to be done to complete the American Indian Cultural Center, which is in limbo after costing about $91 million so far. The Oklahoman editorial board praised an OK Policy blog post showing how lawmakers used accounting tricks to conceal what’s really happening in the FY 2015 state budget.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma inmates who were released directly to the streets with no parole supervision or services in 2012, more than twice the national average. In today’s Policy Note, Demos discusses some ideas that experts on both the left and right agree could help reduce long-term unemployment.

In The News

Crime, migrants, and politics intersect on Tulsa streets

They pulled forward, blocking the S.U.V. from behind. The door of the Suburban opened, and the officers ran out, guns drawn. The suspect decided not to run. A backup officer held up two small bags of white powder; one tested positive for methamphetamine, the officers said a few minutes later, adding that it probably came from Mexico. To the Tulsa County sheriff’s office, which mostly patrols the roads and highways while managing the local jail, that scene helps explain why focusing local law enforcement on illegal immigration makes sense. The city police, however, see things differently. Most of the drug dealers and murderers arrested in and around Tulsa, they say, are not immigrants, nor are they Hispanic. And much of the crime in the Hispanic community, they add, involves non-Hispanic gangs preying on immigrants who are less likely to report being victimized.

Read more from the New York Times.

An American life, lived in the shadows

Ignacio, a father of four, bounces along in his pickup truck, driving at exactly the speed limit through an aging suburb. The clock says 6:44 a.m. Religious pendants hang off the mirror. His teenage son sits beside him, chatty if half-awake, as they approach an apartment building for a day of roofing in dire heat. A police cruiser suddenly appears to the right. Ignacio stays quiet, hands on the wheel, but in his mind he repeats the prayer that covers his 12 years living here illegally: “No me pare, no me pare” — “Don’t stop me, don’t stop me.” “We used to have such a comfortable life, money to pay for our house, the car, to go wherever we wanted,” Ignacio says, referring to a time before Oklahoma’s 2007 law against illegal immigrants forced him to close his successful hair salon. “Now we are biting our nails, trying to make enough money every month.”

Read more from the New York Times.

Feds scramble to find shelter for immigrant kids from Central America

After declaring an “urgent humanitarian situation” last week, the federal government is scrambling to find housing for thousands of unaccompanied migrant children apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border by sending them to temporary shelters in various states across the country. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said it plans to use a facility in Oklahoma to house up to 1,200 minors, Gov. Mary Fallin said Friday. About 1,000 more were sent to a Border Patrol station in Nogales, Ariz., over the weekend. Fallin, a Republican, said Homeland Security officials told her office they would use Fort Sill, in Lawton, to house the minors, who are mostly from Central America and said to be fleeing violence and poverty in their countries of origin.

Read more from Buzzfeed.

Parts of Oklahoma get ‘food desert’ label

So far, the calculator in Karen Dover’s left hand reads $42.24. The family has about $20 left to spend on this month’s groceries for her 38-year-old son, Justin Fennell. Fennell is disabled, unable to work after a car accident crushed his neck and almost killed him. On this Monday afternoon, he and his mom are shopping at Pruett’s Food, the only large grocery store in Valliant, population 754. It’s not easy to eat on a budget, especially when a majority is paid for by food stamps. Dover cares for her 15-year-old grandson with an income of about $500 a month and also helps Fennell with bills when she can.

Read more from NewsOK.

Roundup of state superintendent candidates

Four Democrats and three Republicans are vying to be Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, but that field will be whittled down after voters make their choices in the June 24 primaries. Incumbent Janet Barresi and Republican challenger Joy Hofmeister of Tulsa have garnered the most attention, and the two have raised the most money for their campaigns. Barresi calls herself a “conservative reformer.” Since beginning her term in 2011, Barresi has ushered in a number of educational reforms approved by the state Legislature, including the A-F school grading system, a teacher evaluation program and a third-grade reading retention law. Many of the programs have been controversial among educators, administrators and parents, but Barresi said she is not giving in.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

New superintendent of Oklahoma City schools seeks to smooth the system’s rough trek

Robert Neu’s journey to Oklahoma City began years ago by looking into broken eyes. It was the broken eyes of students whose almost-lifeless stare told the story of troubles at home that became troubles at school. Neu, who started his career as a high school business teacher, loved the classroom but decided to transition his career to a level where he could help enact policy and reform that could offer some hope and relief to those kids who seem to fall through the cracks of America’s education system, especially in urban districts like Oklahoma City.

Read more from the OK Gazette.

Pew prison report offers food for thought for Oklahoma lawmakers

A report from The Pew Charitable Trusts ought to motivate Oklahoma lawmakers to at least consider new ways to deal with the thousands of men and women who populate the state’s prisons. That’s probably wishful thinking, but perhaps some solon will surprise us. The report issued last week found that nationwide in 2012, 22 percent of state inmates served their full prison terms and were released into the community without any supervision. That percentage would be an improvement in Oklahoma, where about half of inmates fall into this category. Adam Gelb with Pew’s public safety performance project notes that “public safety is best served when offenders have a period of supervision when they leave prison. Yet the trend is toward releasing more and more inmates without any supervision or services whatsoever.”

Read more from NewsOK.

Red Dirt Rangers: A song for Oklahoma’s uninsured

A million thoughts raced through our minds as our helicopter went down over the Cimarron River. What we would do if we survived wasn’t one of them. But in the months and years following the hellish 2004 crash that killed our pilot and fellow passenger — and very nearly the both of us — the whole meaning of the word survival would change for us. As full-time musicians, we couldn’t afford health insurance. Of course, paramedics on the scene administered care. Our insurance coverage (or lack thereof) was incidental to their mission of saving our lives. But as we began to heal and prepared to hit the road again, we faced a grim reality that’s all too common for many Oklahomans: We were uninsurable.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: “Take a Stand” song and video

Life goes on in small Oklahoma community feeling the quakes

Scientists say each earthquake of a 3.0 magnitude or greater that strikes Oklahoma raises the likelihood that the state will see another quake like the record 2011 temblor, which registered a 5.6 on the Richter scale and shook much of the state. Frighteningly, Oklahoma is on pace to have more quakes measuring at least 3.0 this year than in the last 35 years combined. Is the surge due to high-pressure injection of wastewater into disposal wells? Are the earthquakes just a naturally occurring phenomenon? Linda Cleveland Frick, who lives in a little town that’s been shaking in recent years, has her own theory.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

After $91M, 20 years, Indian museum just a facade

In addition to closed-toed shoes, visitors to the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum these days must bring one other thing — an imagination. A flowing grand staircase, cafe, gift shop, complex Smithsonian-sponsored exhibits, timelines, glass entryways, elevators and restrooms — all are details on drawings. Enthusiastic supporters of the center promise these touches will be “magnificent” — eventually — once Oklahoma legislators find the final $80 million to complete the project. A plan to finish the center with a public-private funds match fizzled two weeks ago, when lawmakers closed their session for the year without putting up the state’s $40 million share.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

On budget, Oklahoma lawmakers’ rhetoric, reality conflict

The Republicans who hold a supermajority in the Legislature often claim they want to reduce the size of government. When they announced the latest state budget, legislative leaders declared it reduced spending by $102.1 million. Here’s the problem: That “cut” is mostly an accounting fiction. In a recent blog post, David Blatt, a state budget expert who runs the Oklahoma Policy Institute, notes that the budget-savings claim touted by legislators “doesn’t quite hold up …” The appropriation measures approved by lawmakers in the recently concluded session included funding for the coming budget year (fiscal year 2015) and “supplemental” funding for agencies in the current budget year (fiscal 2014), which ends June 30. In all, lawmakers voted to spend $110.1 million on 2014 supplemental appropriations.

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: Games legislators play from the OK Policy Blog

Quote of the Day

“I also had people bleeding out from drive-by shootings they weren’t involved in — they were just standing there in an apartment building parking lot. Out of fear, they weren’t calling the police.”

-Tulsa police officer Jesse Guardiola, who said crimes against immigrants in Tulsa are not being reported due to fears that they will be deported (Source:

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma inmates who were released directly to the streets with no parole supervision or services in 2012, more than twice the national average (21.5%).

Source: Pew Charitable Trusts

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Here’s a conservative with some good ideas for getting people back to work

The left and right will never agree on many economic questions — like how government can best stimulate growth — but when you get down in the weeds there are places for a real conversation. At least with a smart guy like Michael Strain, who’s a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of a chapter on reducing unemployment in the new conservative manifesto, Room to Grow. Strain totally gets that today’s large-scale, long-term unemployment is a catastrophe — both in terms of how much human capital is sitting on the sidelines of the economy and the human tragedy of what those people are going through.

Read more from Demos.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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