Hours after the Trump administration revoked temporary work authorization and deportation protection from nearly 800,000 people brought to the country as children, one city council in Georgia sprung into action to pass a symbolic resolution to become a “welcoming city” to these immigrants.
The Atlanta City Council, located in Fulton County, passed a resolution Tuesday night to severely restrict collaboration between its police department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. In the resolution, the city council said the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office won’t detain individuals for ICE unless the federal immigration agency presents a judicially-issued warrant. The ICE agency frequently issues an immigration detainer to request local law enforcement departments to detain individuals for upwards of 48 hours to allow time for ICE to go to the local facility to pick up immigrants for potential deportation proceedings.
Other components in the resolution include: preventing police officials from arresting, detaining, extending the detention of, transferring custody of, or transporting anyone with an immigration detainer; not allowing the police to detain subjects for time “beyond when the criminal matter allows release”; calling on Atlanta police not to treat a detainer as an indication that the person in custody is undocumented; and saying ICE has to notify an inmate’s attorney.
Azadeh Shahshahani, an American human rights attorney based in Atlanta and the legal and advocacy director of the advocacy group Project South, told ThinkProgress Wednesday that advocates like herself have worked for years to persuade the City of Atlanta to pass the resolution. Calling it “good policy,” Shahshahani said cities that disentangle involvement with the federal immigration agency that oversees removal operations and deportations could make communities safer, a claim backed by police associations, advocacy groups, and researchers.
“Local police entanglement in immigration enforcement makes our communities less safe,” Shahshahani said. “Immigrants have no reason to trust the police and let them know if they have been a victim of or witness to a crime if they know that a call to the police could mean that they end up in deportation proceedings.”
Atlanta is now the fifth locality within Georgia to uphold a non-detainer policy, according to Project South. The resolution’s passage comes just one week after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed the Trust Act to limit interactions between local law enforcement across the state and the ICE agency. Georgia is home to 393,000 undocumented immigrants, where 33 percent of all immigrants living in Atlanta are unauthorized.
The Trump administration has condemned similar legislation, claiming that limiting collaboration undermines the ability of federal agents to pursue criminal immigrants within local prisons. But advocates say that deputizing local police to enforce federal immigration laws has instead led to racial profiling and police abuse, in various places like Maricopa County, Arizona, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles, California.