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CAPITOL BRIEFS: Oklahoma House passes bill requiring jails comply with ICE detainers

House passes bill requiring jails comply with ICE detainers

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill Monday requiring county jails to comply with detainer requests from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. ICE detainers are requests for jails to hold inmates for up to an additional two days after their scheduled release if it is believed that person may have violated immigration law. But whether law enforcement officers are legally able to honor the requests is in question across the country.During debate, some House Democrats pointed to lower reporting of crimes by communities who might fear being removed and increased targeting of individuals of color, as well as noting the bill had no penalties for law enforcement agencies that did not comply. “You want to curb illegal immigration in the United States? Good news, we have a whole department in the federal government for that,” said Rep. Merleyn Bell, D-Norman. “That is their job. It is not our job.”Rep. John Pfeiffer, R-Orlando, authored the bill and said his intention was to clear up confusion on how ICE detainers should be handled in the state. “This is a simple bill that fixes a simple problem,” Pfeiffer said. The bill passed on a nearly party-line vote of 78-21. It will now be sent to the Senate.

House Democrats unveil legislative agenda

Oklahoma House Democrats rolled out a legislative agenda Monday they say is focused on improving the lives of the state’s working families.

They are supporting straight Medicaid expansion, as opposed to the SoonerCare 2.0 plan rolled out by Gov. Kevin Stitt, and are again pushing for the state to restore the earned income tax credit.

They also want to make Oklahoma No. 1 in the region for per-pupil spending and build on the state’s criminal justice reforms.

“For too long, in this building, we’ve focused and invested on those people who can afford lobbyists — wealthy Oklahomans and corporations,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin. “It’s time that we focus on working families — our neighbors.”

Oklahoma has waited far too long for an “Oklahoma solution” to improve health outcomes, said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. In the meantime, Oklahoma has seen many headlines noting the state’s poor health rankings, he said.

Straight Medicaid expansion is the best way to improve the state’s health, he said.

“We simply cannot afford to use our state’s most vulnerable population as test subjects for the newest Washington, D.C., effort to gut health care protections,” Bennett said.

State Question 802 would ask voters to expand Medicaid to cover all low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

Stitt’s expansion proposal would not implement straight Medicaid expansion. Stitt proposes taking a block grant from the federal government to expand Medicaid to cover most low-income adults, but also seeks to impose work requirements and modest premiums on the expansion population. GOP leaders of Oklahoma's House and Senate offered early support for Stitt's proposal, but are still going over the details.

In 2016, the Legislature, facing a state budget crisis, eliminated the “refundable” portion of the state’s earned income tax credit — a tax credit that helps the working poor.

Legislative Democrats have tried for years to restore the tax credit, but the idea has not gained traction at the GOP-led Legislature.

"At the end of the day, Oklahomans just want to be able to know that they can pay their bills, put food on the table, spend time with their families and know that they can progress forward up the ladder," said Rep. Mickey Dollens, D-Oklahoma City.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat said the tax credit, which he said would cost the state about $30 million annually, will be part of budget talks once those really get going in March and April.

“I’m sure that will be a topic of conversation,” he said.

House and Senate Republicans have not unveiled legislative agendas for this session. Treat said Republicans in both chambers plan to outline some joint priorities alongside Stitt.

There are 23 Democrats and 77 Republicans in Oklahoma's House.

For more information on House Democrats’ agenda, visit

Staff reports