Weekly Wonk: Voter-approved reforms haven’t been given chance to work | Who is looking out for us? | Policy notes and numbers

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This Week from OK Policy

Policy Matters: Voter-passed justice reforms haven’t been given chance to work: When voters approved State Questions 780 and 781 in 2016, these two measures were intended as a reform package. SQ 780 would reduce overcrowding in our state’s prison system by reclassifying certain low-level, non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, while SQ 781 would sweep the savings realized from decreased incarceration into county-level behavioral treatment and rehabilitation. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a federal program that protects certain undocumented immigrants from deportation and allows them to work legally in the United States. Created by an Obama administration Executive Order in 2012, it allows people who were brought to the United States without authorization before their 16th birthday to apply for temporary protected status for two years, renewable for two year terms. Applicants must meet several criteria, as defined by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services:

  1. Be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced that it planned to end DACA. A federal court ruled that action illegal and kept the program in place. In June 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the Trump Administration decision to end DACA. On July 16, 2021, a U.S. district court in Texas issued a decision and injunction holding that DACA is unlawful and freezing applications from first-time applicants, but allowing the program to continue for current recipients. The Texas court’s decision was upheld by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2022. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a final rule in 2022 that, with limited changes, continues the DACA policy that was announced in 2012.

In September 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas found DACA was unlawful and expanding the July 2021 injunction. However, the court maintained a partial stay of the order for “all DACA recipients who received their initial DACA status prior to July 16, 2021.” Current grants of DACA and related Employment Authorization Documents remain valid until they expire, unless individually terminated. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will continue to accept and process DACA renewal requests and accompanying applications for employment authorization. The agency will continue to accept initial DACA requests, but, per the order, not process them. For the latest on DACA litigation, visit the USCIS website.

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

Quote of the Week

“It’s going to be something that could affect everyone. It’s not just immigrants. I’m a U.S. citizen. I have children. My boys could get affected. My grandchildren. I have nephews and nieces. They could also be targeted. It’s not a fair thing because how can you distinguish one from the other?”

-Oklahoma City resident Irma Palacios, talking about a proposed anti-immigrant bill that would establish state-level criminal charges for undocumented immigrants in Oklahoma. [KFOR]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial, Norman Transcript: Who’s looking out for us?

They’re supposed to look out for us – the ratepayers.

But, it hasn’t always worked out that way.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is a regulatory agency for oil and gas, public utilities and transportation industries.

Anyone who knows anything about Oklahoma is well aware that oil and gas has been king since the boom days of the early 20th Century.

It took major earthquake damage for a lot of Oklahomans to see things in a different light.

Lately, we’ve had Commissioner Bob Anthony questioning his own agency. He’s called its audits a “charade” and attempted to take PSO to task.

“The legislative objective of the Securitization Act’s ‘audit’ requirement is unquestionably a demand for accountability, transparency, compliance with state law, and detailed reporting thereof. But once again, in an act of ongoing obstruction of both justice and transparency, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission has failed to do its legal duty to contract for statutorily-required audits to determine what scale and manner of negligence or wrongdoing resulted in a billion-dollar cost overrun,” Anthony wrote. “As a result, ratepayers are still waiting for long-overdue relief.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond on Wednesday filed suit against a pair of Texas-based natural gas companies for what he is alleging were fraudulent supply manipulations to spike prices during the 2021 Winter Storm Uri.

The deep freeze affected most of the state, and the heavy cost associated was passed to the customers – which included public utilities and municipalities. We’re going to be paying it off for a while.

“I am thankful the AG says he will pursue additional litigation against other … bad actors (who) reaped billions of dollars in ill-gotten gains” from the February 2021 Winter Storm,” Anthony wrote Thursday. “Hopefully the beneficiaries of his next actions will include the residential retail customers of the state’s largest monopoly public utilities – customers victimized not only by ‘market manipulation’ during the storm but by an unnecessary ratepayer-backed bond financing scheme fraught with hiring irregularities, cost discrepancies, apparent overpayments, and a billion-dollar cost overrun.”


It’s odd, but it almost feels alien to have people in positions of power advocating for ratepayers.

We’re rooting for them.

[Editorial / Norman Transcript]

Numbers of the Day

  • 60% – Percentage of Americans who say that increasing the number of immigration judges and staff so that asylum applications can be decided more quickly. This was was the policy solution that the most responders, regardless of political affiliation, said would improve the situation at the U.S. border with Mexico. [Pew Research Center

  • 30% – Percentage of households in the Tulsa metropolitan area that can’t afford the average cost of a safe and decent quality two-bedroom rental, which is about $987 per month. [Housing Solutions]  

  • $5.5 billion – Immigrant households in Oklahoma have a total spending power of $5.5 billion. [American Immigration Council]

  • 2x – Oklahomans who are among the lowest 20% of earners pay 12.2% of their household income towards state and local taxes, almost twice the percentage that the top 1% of Oklahoma earners pay (6.3%). [Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy]

What We’re Reading

  • Beyond A Border Solution: How to Build a Humanitarian Protection System That Won’t Break: Presidential administrations of both parties have failed to meet immigration challenges. Instead of an orderly, humane, and consistent approach to humanitarian protection and border management, we have been left with a dysfunctional system that serves the needs of no one: not the government, border communities, or asylum seekers themselves. Restoring our humanitarian protection systems and breaking the cycle of crises and crackdowns is not only possible, but within reach. However, to do so, we need a major shift in thinking and policymaking. Politicians must abandon a fantasy of short-term solutionism and acknowledge that only sustained investment over a period of time can realistically address these 21st century challenges. Therefore, short-term action must focus on establishing a viable path towards a better system. In the long term, with significant investment, we can create a flexible, orderly, and safe asylum process. [American Immigration Council
  • Solutions to Homelessness Within Reach Regardless of Supreme Court Ruling in Upcoming Case: Homelessness has risen to historic levels, and the Supreme Court is about to weigh in on whether communities can fine or jail people for sleeping outside when they have nowhere safe to go. But evidence shows that we can solve homelessness if we address its primary driver: the gap between incomes and rents. Expanding rental assistance is a highly effective way to close that gap. Policymakers must also sustainably fund the supportive services people need to find and keep housing. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • Foreign-Born Women Have Driven the Recent Increase in Prime-Age Women in the Labor Force: The labor force participation rate of prime-age (25 to 54) women declined dramatically during the pandemic-led recession but has since recovered to an all-time high. We examine how different groups have contributed to this rebound and find that foreign-born women, particularly those with a bachelor’s degree, account for most of the increase in the number of prime-age women in the labor force. Immigration, in turn, fueled the increase in the number of foreign-born women in the labor force. [Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City]
  • A Day Without Taxes … or, Be Careful What You Wish For (Archive): I originally wrote this article to make a point about the essential role taxes play in our everyday lives. Local, state, and federal revenue help provide robust public services to build stronger communities, support the future generations of Oklahomans, invest in our economy, and make our state a place where people want to live. The original piece was intended neither as a prediction nor as a challenge to lawmakers. Since then, however, the real Oklahoma has moved closer to the one I feared in my dream. Here’s an update shared on what is traditionally the due date for taxes. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.