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Editor's letter 12/4/19

In 2015, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched a sting operation to lure foreign students to a fake college in Michigan. Enrolling at the bogus university put the unwitting immigrants in violation of their F-1 visas, which require full-time enrollment in a federally accredited educational institution. About 250 people were arrested.

This scheme was initiated during the Obama administration—which deported more people than any other administration in American history—but was accelerated by the Trump administration, which paid recruiters to pitch the fraudulent school to students in danger of deportation.

Last year, Mayor G.T. Bynum announced a plan to support new immigrants in Tulsa. “With the exception of the Native Americans, everybody [who] lives here in the Tulsa community, either themselves or their ancestors, came to the United States and were immigrants,” he told The Tulsa World. “What I am asking [Tulsans] to think about is, how would you have wanted your ancestors to be treated in whatever city they landed in?”

This is a great sentiment, and the New Tulsans Initiative is a fine program. But what of our neighbors without papers? Do they feel welcome in a city where the local Sheriff’s Department partners with the same mass deportation strike force that ran a fake school bait-and-switch? Are they truly at home in a place where they could be ripped from their families, jailed and deported for the crime of seeking a better life?

The gulf between rhetoric and reality in civic life is hard to overstate—for some, it’s a matter of life and death. That’s the case for our undocumented friends, and other overpoliced communities of color in North Tulsa and beyond. I appreciate our resident columnist Barry Friedman, who presses Mayor Bynum on Tulsa’s policing problem during the fifth installment of their yearly interview. 

We keep our eye on the gulf with a jaw-dropping photo essay by Joseph Rushmore, who has been documenting the lives of young people experiencing homelessness along the Arkansas River. Then Russell Cobb takes us to the Perryman Ranch, where suburbia’s encroachment on what was the richest cattle land in the Creek Nation has put one of Tulsa’s most significant sites in jeopardy.

But it’s not all bad news in these pages. Matt Carney and photographer September Dawn Bottoms test out the new rapid transit line on Peoria Ave.; Mary Noble introduces you to some fresh faces in Tulsa’s booming hip-hop scene; a Navajo sound artist turns Indian Country’s history of forced migration into a community-building musical experience; local women share strategies for building solidarity in the workplace; and our selection of adoptable pets from the Tulsa SPCA get their pictures taken with Santa.  

Until next time, some advice from Kurt Vonnegut: “Damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

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