Early in October of 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) released information regarding a proposed agreement between Fulton County and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agreement, which has not been signed, was obtained by SPLC in a public information request. As stated in the agreement, the purpose of the memorandum of understanding is to establish the responsibilities of each organization as part of an information sharing partnership. The part of the agreement that is most controversial is that the Fulton County sheriff’s office would allow an ICE liaison officer to work at the jail for a five year period.
This agreement proposal comes a year after officials in Fulton County passed a resolution that called for local law enforcement to limit cooperation with ICE. Many believe that this shift in policy is due to the growing national backlash to so-called sanctuary cities following the death of Kate Steinle in California. In fact, it has been reported that more than half of the jurisdictions that previously limited cooperation with ICE have moved away from such policies and are now helping with the deportation efforts of immigration enforcement agencies.
What are the Terms of the Agreement?
This type of agreement is part of ICE’s Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). The new PEP program took the place of the Secure Communities program last November amid concerns over the latter’s constitutionality. Under the Secure Communities Program, federal officials issued immigration detainers, which are requests by ICE to keep individuals, who would otherwise be eligible for release, in custody for up to 48 hours.
A recent federal court ruling made clear that the immigration detainers are voluntary requests and, depending on the circumstances, could be a violation of an individual’s constitutional rights. Under the PEP program, detainers are supposed to be used to request that local law enforcement notify ICE prior to an individual’s release in lieu of holding an individual in custody. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which stopped complying with immigration detainers in 2014, has said that they still do not honor ICE detainers.
The Sheriff’s Office responsibilities, as outlined in the agreement, would be to provide the ICE officer a workspace and to provide copies of necessary documentation such as police reports, judgments, convictions orders, etc. when available. ICE agents would be responsible for “investigating and tracking of foreign nationals that are arrested for felonies, significant misdemeanor, or any other offences that could have a negative impact on public safety, but do not meet the current ICE guidelines.”
What are the Implications of this Agreement?
Those who oppose the agreement, argue that the program will undermine the trust between local law enforcement and the community. Another criticism is that the program will undermine public safety as individuals may be less likely to report crimes out of fear of deportation. There have also been concerns raised about possible civil rights violations and that this program may result in discriminatory policing practices.
Know Your Rights
Serving Savannah and Macon, Georgia, the skilled immigration attorneys at 1Georgia Injury Lawyers PLLC can help you. To learn more about your rights, call our attorneys today.