Thursday, September 4, 2014

Commissioners to Sheriff: Not One More

ATLANTA, GA (PR) - On Wednesday, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution calling on the County Sheriff to end the county’s voluntary compliance to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requests to keep people in jail for extra time, otherwise known as ICE detainers, an important element of the failed deportation dragnet, Secure Communities Act (S-Comm).

A recent report by several immigrants’ rights advocacy organizations — including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and the NYU Law School Immigrant Rights Clinic, indicates that estimated 48,135 American-born children had a parent arrested by ICE in Georgia and at least 17,497 individuals had a spouse arrested by ICE from 2007 to 2013. (Prejudice, Policing and Public Safety. The Impact of Immigration Hyper-Enforcement in the State of Georgia).

“I was thrilled to see that the our Fulton County Commissioners saw right thru the intent of policies such as ICE detainers and the forced collaboration between ICE and Local Police - to force our communities further underground with the assumption that any misstep could land them in jail, and what’s more: painful family separations brought on by deportations. Atlanta, GA has always been a mecca for the advancement of Civil Rights, and we are proud that this powerful southern tradition has been extended to our immigrant communities” -Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Southerners On New Ground

Around the nation, immigrant, human and civil rights organizations, local officials, and representatives of law enforcement have criticized secure communities program for sowing fear of the police in immigrant communities and encouraging racial discrimination. In April, a federal court out of Oregon ruled that such local application absent probable cause was, in fact, a violation of the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“I want to thank the rest of my colleagues for joining us in supporting this resolution, and the community for coming down to speak on this and educating us about it… and also making sure that Fulton County and Atlanta Metropolitan area really is a place that is too busy to hate, and to not discriminate. I too support this, I support your efforts and think we have to continue to treat all citizens with dignity and respect, and to me this resolution is about that.” – Fulton County Commissioner Joan Garner 

Over 160 localities across the country have enacted policies to end local application of ICE holds. Today, immigrants are demanding that President Obama end the controversial Secure Communities deportation quota program as part of the current DHS review underway. “We are proud of our commissioners for taking this important step on behalf of Fulton’s immigrant community and for everyone’s public safety” said Adelina Nicholls from the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, “because when communities are afraid of calling 911, that makes everyone less safe.”

The GaNot1More coalition has delivered legal notification to Georgia Sheriffs (159) of their potential liability if they continue to comply to the federal agency's holds that place people into extended incarceration without cause, and at the burden of local government. The coalition seeks meetings with the Sheriffs to discuss policy changes to this practice, given that compliance creates legal liability, it violates the rights of community members and it’s been found that submission is voluntary.

“This is a significant development. We are happy that Fulton County has recognized that detainers are an unfunded mandate. In light of the unconstitutionality of prolonging people’s detention on the sole basis of ICE detainers, we hope that other counties will follow suit” - Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia

Under initiatives such as the Secure Communities deportation quota program, information collected by local law enforcement is shared with federal immigration authorities who respond with voluntary requests to hold individuals for extra time under the suspicion that they may be undocumented. The program has resulted in nearly half of Latinos being less likely to call police out of fear of investigation of their immigration status and the resulting detainer requests have been subject of over 60 local ordinances addressing their damage to public safety and now two court cases declaring them unconstitutional outright.

GA Not1More is a Coalition made up of: Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights – GLAHR, Southerners On New Ground – SONG-, US Human Rights Network, ACLU of Georgia, Southern Poverty Law Center -SPLC, -, Jobs with Justice, Georgia WAND, Racial Action Justice Center, Coalition of Leaders –Dalton, National Day Laborer Organizing Network-NDLON-, Southeastern Immigrant Rights Network- SEIRN-, Women Watch Afrika, Project South, Metro Atlanta Socialists, Georgia Detention Watch, GA Moral Mondays and Atlanta American Friends Service Committee

Response From and To ICE

(PR) - On Thursday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responded obstinately to news that Fulton County, GA will no longer submit to unconstitutional ICE detainers. ICE spokesperson Vincent Picard referenced public safety and a laundry list of possible offenses immigrants have been charged with to defend the controversial Secure Communities deportation quota program (S-Comm).

The resolution by County Commissioners, passed unanimously on Wednesday evening and pending action by the County Sheriff, is the latest in a wave of over 160 localities rejecting the warrantless ICE detention requests, a key element of the S-Comm program that uses local police to extend a massive deportation dragnet.

In reaction to the news of Fulton County’s resolution and ICE’s remarks, legal and civil rights advocates made the following remarks:

Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR):

“Despite new evidence to the contrary, ICE continues to repeat the same line to defend the failed S-Comm program, stoking fears of dangerous criminals in our midst. Fear is the last resort of a failed federal program that has only served to sow fear and criminalize our communities.

“Just yesterday, the NY Times announced a new study finding that S-Comm has had zero effect on the crime rate. Thus far, ICE has ignored Latinos, minorities and immigrants, will it also ignore the hard facts? The S-Comm quota program does not make us safer; it is an unconstitutional dragnet that puts our community in danger, and it needs to end.”

“Fulton County residents should be proud of their leadership’s common-sense stand for public safety and due process, which unfortunately stands in stark contrast to ICE’s policies today.”

Salvador G. Sarmiento, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON):

“ICE’s comments are bizzare to say the least. If ICE feels that respecting the U.S. Constitution puts its agents at risk, this is yet another reason the failed S-Comm quota program needs to be terminated completely.

“ICE’s comments exemplify all that is wrong with the S-Comm dragnet. ICE has always privileged its fear of a fictitious boogieman with the very real constitutional and public safety concerns of the community, concerns which are actually backed up by hard facts.”

Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia:

“ICE’s remarks fall flat when they directly contradict mounting evidence that S-Comm has no effect on the crime rate, and actually alienates community members from local police. One Georgia-specific study published just last month revealed concerning patterns of racial discrimination, indiscriminate targeting of immigrants, and the chilling effect these have had on immigrant interaction with local police.

“S-Comm’s real relevance to public safety concerns is that it undermines the relationship between the local police and the immigrant population, a relationship that is fundamental for effective law enforcement, which benefits all residents in a community. In other words, S-Comm’s only impact on public safety is net negative.”


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