Migrant Children Headed to Fort Sill

All Children Deserve the Protection of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Nicol Ragland
4 min readJul 8, 2019

The US will begin detaining undocumented migrant children at the Fort Sill Army base within the coming weeks. When they arrive, we believe they should have the same human rights protections as any Oklahoma child. What we propose is not a grand solution, but instead a call to action where Oklahoma can lead with fairness and respect for human rights. In so doing, our Oklahoma-led effort may reflect a standard of discipline providing clarity on the larger issues troubling our Nation.

Protesters stood ground in June and called the plan to detain children at Ft. Sill ‘a return to one of the nation’s great shames.’ In the 19th century the US Army held hundreds of Chiricahua Apache warriors at Ft. Sill after the Apache surrendered; Geronimo was one of them and buried at the base.

During WWII, Fort Sill held 700 Japanese-Americans who lived in tents in desert-like heat, surrounded by barbed wire and guards. They were among the more than 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry who were rounded up by the government during the war and placed in detention camps around the country. Today the base is used to provide international fighters with “professional military” training. https://sill-www.army.mil/isd/

Satsuki Ina | Survivor of the Fort Sill Japanese internment camp

When military bases are created, the law of the state at that time usually applies — and that includes the provisions of a State’s constitution. Cooper v. S. Cal. Edison Co., 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 11897, at **3–4 (9th Cir. May 10, 2006).

Fort Sill is a unique federal enclave — it is the only active Army installation of all the forts on the Southern Plains built during the Indian wars — it is the last remaining Indian fighting fort.


Because Ft. Sill predates Oklahoma, our state Constitution does not apply within the fort.

The American Bar Association recently acknowledged that “In our federal system, state constitutions and laws provide important protections for human rights, sometimes in lieu of, and sometimes beyond, federal constitutional rights.”

Robert F. Williams, State Protection of Human Rights, available at -https://www.americanbar.org/groups/crsj/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/2014_vol_40/vol_40_no_2_civil_rights/state_protection_of_human_rights/

The national crisis of immigration should not be be a partisan issue but, rather, a human rights issue. Witnessing this within our country and now in our home state is nothing short of unconscionable.

How do we as citizens recognize these concerns and also participate in a system of priorities to include humanitarian agencies while designing a practical response that can win widespread support?

In the age of national politics becoming self-righteous performance art there is now a consistent tribal rhetoric that has the capability of perpetuating apathy to a degree that we lose all sensitization to this current atrocity.

The crisis now is American ethics.

Sheri Dickerson | Black Lives Matter of Oklahoma

The difficulty of reaching a solution with these migration issues has built a media landscape perpetuating a polarizing debate. In an effort to bridge our differences and come together towards the betterment of our humanity, we propose a solution for Oklahoma.

There are bills before Congress addressing the migrant issue. We propose Congress make the provisions of the Oklahoma Constitution applicable inside Fort Sill.

As Robert Williams research for the American Bar Association indicates, if we were to work together and apply the Oklahoma constitution, this would allow children the right to legal counsel, Habeas Corpus, bail, right to secure justice throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system and protections against discrimination as well as potentially health care.

There’s a list of things we owe each other. We are living in a political atmosphere that makes trust difficult. In everyday interactions, building trust is an act of grace as well as constant effort within our human family.

Fort Sill should no longer be an internment camp for the Japanese nor a jail for Indians nor a holding pen for children without the protection of the same laws that protect you and us. We invite you to contact your Congressman and Senator, and ask that the migrant children be protected by the Oklahoma Constitution. Ft Sill is a place in need of repairing our history. Your action will facilitate Oklahoma to give voice to the voiceless and human rights to all children within our own territory.

Nicol Ragland | Documentary Photographer & Filmmaker

Jason Aamodt | Assistant Professor | Lawyer



Nicol Ragland

Photographer . Director | Narrative-enhancing photography and film with an emphasis on cause-driven storytelling. | http://nicolragland.com/