Monday, October 5, 2015

Immigration Agents in Fulton County Jails

ATLANTA, GA (PR) – The Georgia Not1More Deportation Coalition, a statewide coalition of immigrant rights advocates and organizers, today released the details of a proposed agreement between Fulton County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to place immigration agents in Fulton County jails. The proposal is an expansion of ICE’s “Priority Enforcement Program,” also known as PEP.

The details of the proposed agreement, discovered as a result of an Open Records Act request filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), reveals plans to provide ICE agents with virtually unlimited access to Fulton County’s jails. Fulton County officials have yet to decide to enter into the agreement.

The proposal is an expansion of ICE’s “Priority Enforcement Program,” also known as PEP. The plan would allow ICE agents to join the staff of Fulton County jail, investigate and track all foreign nationals arrested for any offense, and interview all foreign-born inmates identified by ICE as a priority. Immigration advocates, however, criticized the terms of the proposed agreement.

“Allowing federal immigration agents to track virtually anyone arrested by Fulton County police goes far beyond the federal government’s own stated limitations for immigration enforcement,” said Eunice Cho, staff attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “This agreement would undermine trust in local law enforcement by entangling local police with immigration enforcement.”

The proposal also raises serious concerns of racial profiling.

“Allowing ICE agents into Fulton County jails will increase racial profiling, have a discriminatory impact on Latino communities, and lead to further separation of children from their parents by deportation,” said Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “We urge Fulton County to reject this proposed agreement, and renew its commitment to all members of its communities.”

Overall, advocates described the proposal as a significant step back for Fulton County.

“Last year, our Fulton County Board of Commissioners passed a proactive resolution against ICE detainer requests, citing the need for increased trust between local law enforcement and immigrant community members. This proposed agreement will undermine the intent of our local governance to build an inclusive city, completely erode trust, and simply lead to more fear of local law enforcement in our immigrant communities,” said Paulina Helm-Hernandez, co-executive director of Southerners on New Ground (SONG).

"This is a cynical attempt by ICE to fulfill the immigration detention quota of 34,000 beds by ripping apart immigrants from their families and communities," said Azadeh N. Shahshahani, President of the National Lawyers Guild. "Fulton County should not go along with it."

Members of the Georgia Not1More Coalition will voice their opposition to the proposed agreement at the Fulton County Commissioner’s Meeting on October 7, 2015 at 10:00 AM located at the Fulton County Government Center Assembly Hall, 141 Pryor St. SW, Atlanta, GA, and at a press conference immediately beforehand at 9:30am.

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