Senate Bill 6 has made headlines for its controversial provision taking driver’s licenses away from immigrants allowed to remain legally in the U.S. under a grant of deferred action and work authorization, which would make Georgia the only state to enact legislation eliminating a category of lawfully present immigrants from its drivers’ license statute. However, SB 6 goes far beyond targeting DREAMers, victims of domestic violence, and other immigrants granted deferred action.
For years, immigrant rights activists have fought to shut down a controversial immigration enforcement program operating in jails in Georgia and across the nation.
Started during the George W. Bush administration, the Secure Communities program works by comparing inmates’ fingerprints against immigration records in federal databases. Supporters say the program has substantially curbed illegal immigration. Critics say it ensnares low-level offenders with families and deep roots in the U.S.
Georgia #Not1More Looks to Prevent Future ICE Abuses
Members of the Georgia #Not1More coalition today announced the latest victory in their efforts to end unconstitutional detention per ICE detainer requests in Georgia.
DeKalb County Sheriff Jeffrey L. Mann has announced that, effective immediately, he will end submission to federal detainer requests, a centerpiece of the failed Secure Communities deportation quota program, without a warrant or other sufficie
“I requested and received a legal review of this practice,” said Sheriff Mann. “The law does not allow us to hold anyone without probable cause. If our judicial system determines that an individual should no longer be held in custody, it is not in my authority to countermand that decision. We all benefit from a nation of laws that regulate the ways people can be detained, and we should be grateful that is the case.”
Representatives of the Georgia #Not1More coalition welcomed the Sheriff’s announcement and will continue to carefully monitor the implementation of the DHS initiative replacing Secure Communities, Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), due to fundamental concerns with police-ICE collaboration exemplified in previous ICE experiments.
“Rejecting ICE’s detainer requests makes all Georgians safer and brings DeKalb County policy in line with the Constitution. We’re glad to see Sheriff Mann taking proactive measures to address the harm to both public safety and community trust in law enforcement that involvement in federal deportation efforts has caused. We will continue to work with the Sheriff to create a bright line between law enforcement and federal deportation efforts to protect our families and prevent ICE programs from violating anyone’s rights regardless of what new name the agency gives to its quota pursuits.” –Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR).
“SONG and the Georgia #Not1More coalition are heartened by this decision, and we hope that Sheriff Mann’s action on this reflects further commitment on behalf of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department to work with immigrant communities and our allies post-implementation. We have directly experienced the harm inflicted on our communities by ICE, and with the recent political maneuvers at the federal level, it is increasingly important for our communities to remain vigilant and aware of how this implementation will happen in Georgia.” – Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Southerners On New Ground (SONG).
“We Commend Sheriff Mann for putting an end to the unconstitutional practice of prolonging individuals’ detention per ICE detainer requets. This action is sure to increase community trust in the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department. Going forward, we will monitor the implementation of the new DHS program, PEP, and will document and take action on any violations resulting from continued local law enforcement entanglement with ICE.” – Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia.
Georgia #Not1More coalition 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, coalicion de lideres latinos-CLILA, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), Southeastern Immigrant Rights Network (SEIRN), Women Watch Afrika, Project South, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, Georgia Detention Watch, GA Moral Mondays, and Atlanta American Friends Service Committee.
The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office announced this week it will no longer comply with requests from the federal government to hold detainees beyond their scheduled release dates so they can face deportation.
The office’s new policy applies to detainers, requests for jails to hold people for an additional 48 hours — excluding weekends and holidays — after they would otherwise be released. This gives U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement time to take custody of them and attempt to deport them.
In September, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners moved to limit the county’s compliance with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold people in jail beyond the time they would otherwise be released so that the government can investigate their immigration status. These holds are known as ICE detainers.
The commissioners were right to question the practice.
In June 2011 while traveling on Lawrenceville Highway in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Bonnie Horton and her husband were stopped at a roadblock and surrounded by uniformed officers and police vehicles. Bonnie remembers seeing at least five cars pulled over on the side of the road and young children and babies in at least two of those cars.
All cars proceeding on that road were stopped at the roadblock. Most cars stopped for about a minute. As Bonnie and her husband approached the roadblock, they had their windows rolled down. She witnessed a man being taken out of one of the cars by officers, possibly being arrested. Alongside the same car stood a woman with a baby. Another car next to theirs had drivers and passengers inside who appeared to be Latino. She heard an officer asking them to provide proof of citizenship. However, Bonnie and her husband, who are Caucasian, were only asked to show proof of insurance and residence in Gwinnett County. They showed their driver’s licenses as evidence of residency, and were allowed to proceed without incident.
Forty-four years ago, your chances of hearing a foreign accent in Georgia were slim. At the time, less than 1 percent of the state's population had been born abroad. But in the decades since, Georgia, once shackled by segregation, has become one of the more diverse states in the union. In 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, nearly 10 percent of the state's population was born in another country.
Much of that growth has been centered in metro Atlanta. Last year, the Atlanta Regional Commission estimated that approximately 14 percent of the 20-county region's population was foreign-born. Among the 20 other most populous metros across the country, the metro Atlanta region ranked 14th. But when researchers measure its change in growth over the 2000s, the region lays claim to the second-fastest growing foreign-born population, lagging only Baltimore. In some counties, such as Clayton, foreign-born men, women, and children fueled the majority of the population growth during the booming 2000s.
More than two dozen detainees at a notorious immigration detention center in Georgia staged a hunger strike and protest last week over inedible food, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) called the protest at Stewart Detention Center a “riot” that required that detainees be “segregated for disciplinary purposes,” according to the AJC.
The ACLU and Georgia Detention Watch filed a complaint raising alarm about a hunger strike that detainees began on or around June 12, during which hundreds of detainees threw their food away. Detainees have complained that their food is often filled with maggots, or that the same water used to boil eggs is reused to brew coffee. Detainees who work in food preparation have also complained of a roach infestation in the facility’s kitchen. Detainees were frequently served rotten food.
The ACLU Foundation of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch express grave concern about news of a hunger strike at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia last week. Discontent has long been brewing over the poor quality of the food, desperately inadequate medical care, and unlivable conditions. A group of detained immigrants decided to organize together in protest. According to multiple reports, instead of addressing the complaints, guards placed hunger strikers and the entire unit on lock-down. The ACLU of Georgia and Georgia Detention Watch call for transparency from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and reiterate their previous calls for closure of this corporate-run facility.
McRae Correctional and D. Ray James Correctional facilities in McRae and Folkston, Georgia are two of the 13 little-known CAR (Criminal Alien Requirement) prisons for immigrants in the United States. For the new report Warehoused and Forgotten: Immigrants Trapped in Our Shadow Private Prison Industry, the ACLU and the ACLU of Texas have investigated CAR prisons in Texas run by Corrections Corporation of America and the GEO Group, the same private prison companies that operate McRae and D. Ray James. The report reveals inhumane conditions and egregious mistreatment of immigrants in prisons that enrich the for-profit prison industry at tremendous costs to taxpayers.
“The report findings are consistent with what we have documented in Georgia. CCA at McRae and the GEO Group at D. Ray James have a record of violations of constitutional and Bureau of Prisons standards governing the medical treatment of prisoners,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director of the ACLU Foundation of Georgia.
In August 2011, the ACLU of Georgia submitted comments to the Bureau of Prisons asking that the agency not renew its contract for operation of McRae. The ACLU of Georgia has also submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Bureau of Prisons regarding treatment of prisoners at D. Ray James. The comments and the FOIA request are available upon request.
The culmination of a four-year investigation, the ACLU report on facilities in Texas shows how the federal Bureau of Prisons incentivizes private prison companies to keep CAR prisons overcrowded and understaffed. The companies provide scant medical care that is often administered incorrectly, if delivered at all.
As Carl Takei, Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s National Prison Project, explained, “The shameful conditions inside CAR prisons come from the government’s decision to allow the suffering inside these for-profit prisons. For instance, 10% of the bed space in CAR prisons is reserved for extreme isolation—nearly double the rate in normal federal prisons. I spoke to prisoners who spent weeks in isolation cells after being sent there upon intake—simply arriving at prison was the reason why they were locked in a cell and fed through a slot for 23 hours a day.”
CAR prisons hold non-citizens who have been convicted of crimes in the U.S., mostly for immigration offenses (such as unlawfully reentering the country).
Read the report: www.aclu.org/CARabuse.