Published August 19, 2002
WASHINGTON – The cell doors have been swinging open for illegal immigrants in Oklahoma.
Authorities say the Immigration and Naturalization Service just doesn't have the manpower to deal with the large number of illegals.
The news has one Oklahoma congressman fed up.
"Because we're at war right now and it starts at our borders. We have to know who's coming into this country," Republican Rep. John Sullivan told Fox News.
Earlier this month, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers just outside Tulsa picked up seven Hispanic men who had open liquor containers and marijuana.
The men admitted that they were in the country illegally, but when the INS was called, officials declined to come and get them.
The subjects were charged with misdemeanors. Five were released on bond and disappeared.
In another case just last month, Tulsa county deputies picked up 18 suspected Mexican illegals. According to the deputies, the INS said to "let them go."
"We find them and we try to deal with it and we don't get the support of the federal government. It's time we start looking at what's happening," said Sheriff Stanley Glanza of Tulsa County.
"This is happening more and more. The INS has to step up and do their job," Sullivan said.
But the INS said it has just two officers covering the entire state of Oklahoma. Since they don't have the manpower to transport and process illegals picked up by locals, they have to let them go.
Last week, Sullivan called a summit of local law enforcement, district attorneys, sheriff's departments and the INS officials.
Law enforcement secured a promise to fill four vacant INS positions in Oklahoma.
"We're waiting for additional agents to come on board and some additional detention officers to help do the transporting," said Anne Estrada, INS district director.
The sheriff has agreed that they could lighten the load for the INS by having deputies transport illegals.
Officials say just about any reform is welcome now.
"Who's to say that a Mexican national may not be recruited by some other foreign organization to carry out terrorist acts?" asked Rogers County District Attorney Gene Haynes.
But with a total of six INS officials trying to keep illegal immigrants off the streets of the entire state, most agree that it's no guarantee that the doors to the jail cells will remain shut.
Fox News' Mike Tobin contributed to this report.