A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma believes he can save his state an estimated $60 million dollars in one fell swoop by identifying tens of thousands of non-English speaking students, and handing them over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency “to see if they truly are citizens.”
The shocking proposal was introduced by State Representative Mike Ritze (R-80) during an interview with local news channel KWTV. He claimed there were an estimated 82,000 non-English speaking students in the state, and that Oklahoma should “identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens.”
“Do we really have to educate non-citizens?” Ritze added, seemingly unaware that, in 1982, the Supreme Court ruled states must do exactly that. Ritze also seemed unaware that the state’s Department of Education estimates there are only 50,000 English Language Learners in Oklahoma—and that many of them, the Associated Press notes, are likely citizens. Probably that’s because he’s just an extreme racist and not really focusing on the nuances of public policy?
Unsurprisingly, Ritze’s fellow lawmakers were quick to put some distance between themselves and their colleague’s proto-fascism.
“On this subject of deporting students, that is not a position that we support,” Republican Platform Caucus co-chair Chuck Strohm told the AP. He added that Ritze’s comments “caught many of us by surprise, because that’s not the direction that we talked about.”
State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister was less diplomatic in her response to the news of Rep. Ritze’s proposal, calling it “utterly shameful” to the AP. She later tweeted “we are better than that.”
In a statement, the Oklahoma ACLU said Ritze’s comment “might be laughable if it weren’t made at the expense of real human beings, common decency, and the United States Constitution.”
According to the AP, Reitz’ proposals are part of a broader debate among state lawmakers as Oklahoma faces an estimated $878 million budget gap for the coming year.