© 2024 KGOU
Colorful collared lizard a.k.a mountain boomer basking on a sandstone boulder
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Senate Bill Would Bar Non-Citizens, Undocumented Residents From Becoming Legal Guardians

Milissa Tipton-Dunkins is an immigration attorney in Oklahoma City.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Milissa Tipton-Dunkins is an immigration attorney in Oklahoma City.

When it comes to who becomes the guardian of a minor or an incapacitated person, Oklahoma’s court system has the final say. But a bill by state Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, would prevent non-citizens from becoming a guardian.

Senate Bill 902 also puts the same restrictions on people who aren’t legal residents of the United States. Anderson told The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt one of his constituents, who’s a judge, was worried after being approached by several people seeking guardianship in his courtroom:

“If you were to go be appointed as a guardian, they would do a background check on you and make sure you were eligible to serve as a guardian,” said Anderson. “When an individual shows up that’s not a legal resident, if they don’t have any way to do a background check on these individuals, they don’t know who they are.” The court, he said, wants to make sure the person receiving that authority is the best person for the job. Anderson said he believes his bill would ultimately prevent a family member, such as a grandmother, from being able to take guardianship over a child if she is not a legal resident or citizen.

Immigration attorney Milissa Tipton-Dunkins told Denwalt she’s worried that if a young child needs a guardian - a grandmother, an uncle or even a family friend wouldn’t be able to step in if the adult isn’t here legally.

“They should continue that,” said Tipton-Dunkins. “If they did not, it could break up families. There are a lot of undocumented individuals caring for grandchildren or nieces or nephews that have come here.” Just because someone isn’t here legally doesn’t mean the state can’t verify whether that person is a threat to the child’s well-being, she said. Authorities can run a background check and perform home visits and make sure that children stay with someone they know – even if it’s a neighbor. “At least it would be with somebody they’re familiar with as opposed to a stranger,” she said. “And if they go into the system, that’s a financial cost on the state as well.”

One lawyer who handles immigration issues says he agrees with Anderson’s bill.

[Amir] Farzaneh said people who aren’t here legally or who are here on time-sensitive visas might not be the best choices to handle someone else’s affairs. “They’re supposed to be here in the U.S. and leave at some point in time,” Farzaneh said. “They may have to leave the next day, and the child or incapacitated person is going to be without a guardian.”

The proposed law is now making its way through the state House, Denwalt says it would probably have to be considered by a joint House and Senate conference committee before it ends up on the governor's desk.

KGOU relies on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners to further its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. To contribute to our efforts, make your donation online, or contact our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.