Weekly Wonk: DACA is essential to Oklahoma | Indian Child Welfare Act | Incoming legislative class

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

DACA is essential to Oklahoma: In October, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was not legally adopted, leaving the future of more than half a million young people up in the air. In our state, 5,800 young Oklahomans now face the greatest level of uncertainty since the DACA program was created a decade ago. [Gabriela Ramirez-Perez / OK Policy]

Legislative freshman class includes 24 new senators, representatives (Capitol Update): It’s always interesting after an election to take stock of the new members who are joining the legislature. This year produced a relatively small freshman class. In the 48-member Senate, there will be eight new senators, and in the 101-member House, there will be 16 new representatives. The genius of representative government is that we select people from within our communities who bring with them their experiences, biases, strengths, and weaknesses. When things are working right most every point of view gets represented. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Child Welfare Act vital to Native American heritage: The irony is not lost that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act – one of the most crucial pieces to preserving Indian heritage – during November’s Native American Heritage Month. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

We’re Hiring

OK Policy is now hiring for a Data Analyst to carry out critical data-driven research projects, using the Open Justice Oklahoma database to turn court, prison, and jail administrative records into data that supports efforts to create a more open and equitable justice system. Salary Range: $50,000 – $55,000 annually, commensurate with experience. Deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m., December 11.

[Job Description, PDF] | [Apply Today]

Weekly What’s That

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events experienced before age 18. They include all forms of child abuse, having a household member who is incarcerated, exposure to domestic violence, neglect, and having a parent with an untreated mental illness or substance use disorder.

ACEs can disrupt brain development causing social, emotional, and cognitive problems throughout an individual’s life, which increase the likelihood of risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions, difficulty functioning at school/work, and even early death.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“I always say Native American issues aren’t and never should be partisan issues. In this case, it’s an institutional issue. It’s an issue of sovereignty. It’s an issue of trust obligations.”

– Rep. Tom Cole (R), Chickasaw Nation citizen who represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District and co-chairs the Congressional Native American Caucus, speaking on the Cherokee Nation’s efforts to seat a nonvoting delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World Editorial: City of Tulsa must put public dollars into housing and homelessness problem

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s annual State of the City address provided a positive outlook for the city but put a laser focus on one faltering area — housing.

The city is not unlike other metro areas, showing a rising trend of people experiencing homelessness. In Tulsa, the jump has been 40% since last year, and shelter stays have grown by 2%.

The reasons are complicated and varied. Some people have significant mental health challenges, making permanent housing difficult. Others have gone through job losses, health crises or other traumas that create instability.

The housing issue isn’t just about those who are homeless. It affects residents looking to downsize into more affordable housing or facing eviction.

Tulsa has enjoyed a housing boom with higher-end offerings and increased values on home sales. While that’s a sign of a healthy economy, it also prices out lower- to moderate-income residents. To prevent homelessness, a city needs robust housing choices along with social and health resources for people who have extra needs.

Bynum announced a $500 million funding initiative over the next two years to expand housing options. Details of the Tulsa Housing Challenge will be worked out in the following weeks through a coalition of partners that is to include leaders from tribes, faith institutions, business and health care.

The plan will be a combination of direct investments in housing, incentives for private sector investors and other financial tools to create more permanent housing for residents.

In addition, Bynum said the city will implement a certification process for faith groups to offer shelter during emergencies and will create a low-barrier shelter. That type of shelter does not require a criminal background check, income verification, program participation, sobriety or identification.

Tulsans are generous and philanthropic, pitching in when people need help. But there are issues where taxpayers must invest for the greater community and long-term prosperity. Tulsa residents can no longer depend on charity to fix this growing problem.

Other cities have shown success when investing tax money into housing initiatives. A recent Tulsa Regional Chamber Intercity Visit to Denver found that the city started with a $3 million investment for affordable housing in 2013. The city then dedicated a quarter-cent sales tax for a housing program that is expected to bring in about $254 million next fiscal year.

That kind of commitment makes a difference.

Tulsa is at a precipice. We can keep the status quo and see the problem worsen, or we can prioritize public dollars and resources for lasting improvements in housing and homelessness. We choose progress and appreciate Bynum’s prioritizing the issue.

The mayor has put forth an ambitious and necessary project with the goal of making Tulsa a model for housing. It is the right thing to do.

[Read the full editorial from the Tulsa World here]

Numbers of the Day

  • $343.6 million – Oklahoma’s estimated annual loss of GDP if DACA program is ended [Center for American Progress]
  • $15.3 million – Estimated state and local taxes paid by Oklahoma DACA recipients and DACA-eligible individuals in 2018. [American Immigration Council]
  • 16% – The percentage of women incarcerated in Oklahoma for child abuse/failure to protect charges, making it the top offense for which the state locks up women. [FWD.us]
  • 39 – There are 39 Tribal nations in Oklahoma; 38 are federally recognized and one is state-recognized. [Oklahoma Department of Libraries]
  • 3 – Oklahoma is one of three states where the state Child Tax Credit is non-refundable. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • After 10 years, Dreamers are still in ‘survival mode.’ We shouldn’t be: Oklahoma is home to over 6,000 DACA recipients, many of whom come from mixed status households.  As we continue to defend DACA, the lack of access to initial applications leaves thousands of young people out of the opportunities and relief it could provide. These attacks aren’t just on a program; they’re attacks on millions of people who deserve and need permanent solutions, people who need to feel at home, who miss home and whose home is already here. [Cynthia Garcia Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • ‘Home is here’: DACA walkout features love for Oklahoma (2019): Like the earlier immigrants to Oklahoma — and the generation who survived the Great Depression, won World War II and committed to a better life for Baby Boomers like me — dreamers seek to do more than just survive. Their goal is to thrive, and they are dedicated to bringing our community up with them. [NonDoc]
  • Failing to Protect Oklahoma’s Child Abuse and Neglect Statute Unfairly Punishes Mothers and Endangers Children: While children’s safety must be protected, Oklahoma’s highly punitive and overly broad child abuse and neglect statute often does the opposite. By criminalizing survivors of domestic violence and mothers living in poverty—sometimes with little to no evidence of actual wrongdoing—the statute deters reporting, separates families, isolates them from much-needed help, and places children at even greater risk of abuse and neglect. [FWD.us] | [PDF]
  • Reclaiming Native Truth: A Project to Dispel America’s Myths and Misconceptions: For the first time ever, we know what different groups of Americans — across socioeconomic, racial, geographic, gender and generational cohorts — think (and don’t know) about Native Americans and Native issues. We have learned how biases keep contemporary Native Americans invisible and/or affixed to the past and are holding back Native Americans from achieving political, economic and social equality, as well as accurate and respectful representation. [First Nations Development Institute] | [PDF]
  • State Child Tax Credits and Child Poverty: A 50-State Analysis: In 2021, as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the United States established its first near-universal child benefit in the form of an expanded, monthly Child Tax Credit. The expansion cut child poverty dramatically, with corresponding drops in material hardship among families with children. Its success was due, in large part, to the design enhancements that increased its value, provided the full increased benefit to children in poverty for the first time and delivered the benefit in monthly payments for all recipients. [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]


Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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