Monday, August 4, 2014
On June 13, the first bus of illegal immigrant minors, aged 12-17, arrived at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. The state of Oklahoma was given no formal notice, and no chance to object.
After weeks of bad publicity, public outrage and political pressure, the Obama Administration announced this week that the facility will close by Friday, August 8.
That’s good news for the people of Oklahoma and the men and women of Fort Sill, who will once again have the full use of their military base for the purpose it was designed for: housing and training soldiers.
What the facility’s closure does not mean is an end to the ongoing border crisis, or an end to a broken immigration system that encourages men, women and children to break our laws.
The Fort Sill facility may be closed, but there is no guarantee it will not reopen in the future. In fact, the federal government extended their lease into January of next year, preserving the option to once again house illegal immigrants there.
Perhaps even more important is what happens to the children who leave Fort Sill, and the message that we are sending to the rest of the world.
Children housed at Fort Sill and facilities like it have been placed in communities across Oklahoma and across the country with “sponsors.” These sponsors may or may not be family members, and they may or may not be illegal immigrants themselves. Federal officials tell us the sponsors have instructions to bring these children to a future court date for possible deportation. The wait for a court hearing is over a year in Oklahoma. Only about half of these children show up when their court date arrives.
What happens to the rest? They simply disappear. They are absorbed into our public school systems, which are already at capacity and struggling to find the funding and resources required to give our Oklahoma children the education they need and deserve.
Eventually, these children become undocumented adults. Many work; some do not. Some end up in our hospitals or using other state resources where Oklahomans foot the bill.
These children are not bad people. They have been sent by their parents or other adults to make a long and dangerous journey to the United States because they have been lead to believe that our country will provide for them.
It is a dream stoked by President Obama, who continues to push amnesty and open borders whenever and wherever he can, by any means at his disposal.
I too want to help these children, and I certainly think they should be treated humanely and with dignity for the short time they stay in the U.S. I want them to live better lives. But, as governor, I have been entrusted with another responsibility: to help children right here in Oklahoma.
One in four Oklahoma children struggle with hunger. One in four will drop out of high school before graduating.
There are poor children in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Guymon and McAlester. They need our attention and our help. There are children who will grow up being abused, being lead into drugs, who struggle with poverty, or who will be recruited by violent gangs right here in our home state.
It is wrong for the president to ask Oklahomans to divert their attention and limited resources away from our own children, just as it is wrong for him to ask our military to play host to a large daycare facility for undocumented minors. Oklahomans are not equipped to solve problems in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala; just as we are not equipped to end conflicts or suffering in the Ukraine or Libya.
Oklahomans must get back to the business of helping our own children: providing them with a world class education; protecting them from abuse; ensuring they are healthy and happy and have a bright future ahead of them.