Monday, January 06, 2020

Fair: Is Oklahoma now a sanctuary state?

by Steve Fair

A sanctuary is a jurisdiction that has an ordinance, law or executive order that interferes with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) ability to enforce United States illegal immigration laws.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research organization founded in 1985. It is the nation's only think tank devoted exclusively to research and policy analysis of the economic, social, demographic, fiscal, and other impacts of immigration on the United States.  CIS maintains a comprehensive list of sanctuary states, cities and counties.  In spite of Oklahoma not being a sanctuary according to the U.S. Department of State, over 3,000 refugees have resettled in Oklahoma since 2010. As of April 2019, CIS shows no Oklahoma city, or county as a sanctuary for immigrates, but after last week, perhaps CIS needs to update their map.

Last week, Governor Kevin Stitt sent a three sentence letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stating Oklahoma would continue to allow refugees to come to the Sooner state.  This comes after President Trump signed an executive order which allows cities and states to bar refugees.  Governor Stitt said 48 faith leaders in Oklahoma reached out and requested the State to continue to accept refugees. "As part of their relocation, these refugees undergo a thorough legal vetting process and are often reunited with family already living in the States. I appreciate Oklahoma churches who have assisted these individuals, and stand ready to continue to do so, to ensure the success of refugees in our communities,” Stitt said.  In their letter to Stitt, the faith leaders said: “Refugees play an important role in Oklahoma's economy. Refugees are employment authorized from the day they arrive and are eager to embrace the dignity of work, a right that was generally denied them in the countries from which they came." Three thoughts:

First, Stitt’s position on immigration has changed.  In 2018, Stitt said at a Muskogee County GOP event: “First off, I support President Trump. We've got to have strong borders in our state. We've got to know who's coming into our country.   I do not believe in sanctuary cities. We have to be a state of laws. And as governor I will enforce laws. I will enforce the immigration laws. We will not have sanctuary cities. We'll have to tell our law enforcement that they're going to have to enforce the laws." By Stitt allowing the refugees (who are illegals) to continue to come to Oklahoma, it has become a de- facto sanctuary state.  That is not what he campaigned on in 2018.

Second, not all people of faith agree with Stitt’s position.  Perhaps those faith leaders who have the largest congregations and influence key donors want Oklahoma to be open to allowing illegals to come to the state, but many faith leaders across the state want immigration laws to be enforced.   While they have compassion for the refugee’s political and economic situation, they understand that illegal means illegal and until the refugee has adhered to the law, they should be barred from resettling in Oklahoma.

Third, enforcing the law is not easy.  The law is the law is the law.  While having personal compassion for the refugee’s situation is admirable, allowing refugees (illegal immigrants) to enter the state is not enforcing the law.  The governor should have taken Trump’s out and barred the refugees from resettling in Oklahoma until they had fulfilled all legal requirements for immigrating to the U.S.

Steve Fair is Chairman of the 4th district of the Oklahoma Republican Party.  He can be reached by phone at 580.252.6284 or by email at His blog is


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