No Wonder Hispanics Are Demonized in OK

To hear Oklahoma’s representatives tell it, illegal immigration is one of the roots of all evil. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe have both come out swinging on the issue, offering up the standard conservative dogma about “amnesty to illegals” and lining up proudly behind HB 1804, the state’s controversial anti-immigrant measure, enacted in 2007. Coburn even goes so far as to say that Obama’s immigration reform plans are part of a political ploy to attract Hispanic votes. The OK legislature is poised to further marginalize immigrants with another planned immigration measure, based on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, that would go even further, allowing for state seizure of property. It seems that no matter who represents OK, either at the state or federal level, they’re always ready and able to bash brown people.

Which is why this story is so interesting. It seems that in addition to all the alleged crime, drugs, rape and pillaging perpetrated by immigrants in the state, they are also a huge cash cow for state budgets. According to the article, transportation and detention brought $6 million to the Tulsa County sheriff’s department alone during an 18 month period.

Keep in mind that this is money that comes directly from the federal government. Nearly 45% of ICE’s $5.7 billion budget goes to local law enforcement for detention and transportation as well as paying for facilities. That’s around $2. 5 billion that flows from DC to the states every year. I’m not suggesting that states should bear the responsibility for a federal issue, which immigration certainly is (in fact, it’s the reason Arizona’s law was largely nullified by a judge a few weeks ago).  But remember those numbers when your local teabagger starts yammering about federal spending.

In any event, it’s clear that the passion over immigration is not solely based on ideology. Garvin County Sheriff Steve Brooks evidently knows which side his bread is buttered on:

“This contract stimulates our budget and gives jobs to the community,” Brooks said. “We don’t use county funds to do federal business, but the money brings something here.”


“We’re not going to get rich doing this, but we’re not going to go broke,” he said. “It makes things better for the citizens of Garvin County.”

Brooks said he’s often confronted by those who don’t believe the program is humane. The irony of the job also isn’t lost on him: if all the illegal immigrants were gone or no longer illegal, his budget and his roster would shrink again.

“I guess we’d have to figure something else out,” Brooks said. “Right now, we’re upholding the law.”

Upholding the law while staving off painful budget decisions on the backs of immigrants, that is. I don’t necessarily fault local law enforcement. When the budget comes down, I’m sure they’re grateful for every job they can save, even if it means destroying others (and let’s face it, immigrants do a lot of work in OK). My only wish is that when our elected officials grandstand on immigration reform, they should come right out and tell people the truth about their motives. They may be ideologically opposed to illegal immigration but their states are benefiting financially from the demagoguery.

All I’m asking for is a little honesty.

(cross-posted on


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