Immigrant informational forum held in East Tulsa

Por William R. Wynn | TULSA, OK

An informational forum was held Monday night to advise local immigrant residents about their legal rights and how to protect themselves in the “zero tolerance” era of the Trump administration.

Local Hispanics filled the pews at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, 2720 South 129th East Avenue, hoping to get answers to their questions and learn fact from rumor.

A varied group of panelists were on hand to address issues relating to their areas of expertise, including court administrator Kelly Brader, Chief Public Defender Jim Saunders, and Municipal Judge David Shapiro.

Sara Martinez, chair of the Greater Tulsa Area Hispanic Affairs Commission, and Christina da Silva, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s deputy chief of staff, moderated the event, which was held in Spanish with interpretation to and from English where needed.

Christina da Silva, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum’s deputy chief of staff

Judge Shapiro, answering a question from the audience about international drivers licenses, explained what these licenses are and under what circumstances they are valid.

“An international drivers license is not a real drivers license,” Shapiro said. “It is a translation of your home country’s license.”

Shapiro said international licenses are accepted as drivers licenses in the United States only when accompanied by a valid passport and visa in the license holder’s name.

Tulsa Police Department (TPD) Officer Nereyda Villa and Sgt. Richard Meulenberg also participated in the forum. Meulenberg explained what happens when someone is arrested on a municipal charge by the TPD, as opposed to being arrested on a state charge by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

“If you’re arrested in Tulsa you’re going to go to one of two places,” Meulenberg said, “either our municipal jail or the Tulsa County Jail. In either case, what happens is you get your fingerprints taken and you’re entered into AFIS [a national database].”

Richard Meulenberg, TPD Sgt.

Meulenberg went on to say that in the county jail, because of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s 287(g) agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an immigration hold will be place on all those detained who are found to be undocumented, but in the Tulsa municipal jail only those with active warrants are at risk of being held.

“The Tulsa Police Department has no affiliation or agreement with ICE,” Meulenberg said, showing the crowd what TPD uniforms look like so local officers can be distinguished from federal agents.

The event was organized by the Greater Tulsa Area Hispanic Affairs Commission, with information provided by several local immigrant advocacy groups. (La Semana)