Our state is divided into 159 counties all within the jurisdiction of different sheriffs and police departments. A Sheriff is an elected or appointed official who has the authority to arrest, process, and detain criminals, look into complaints, and conduct criminal investigations. Sheriffs play a vital role in the community because they oversee the county’s law enforcement department, decide how to persecute people that have violated the law, and enforce rules and regulations. Currently, a controversial program that many Sheriffs across the country are implementing is 287 (g).
Section 287 (g) is a program where, “state and local police officers collaborate with the federal government to enforce federal immigration laws” (AIC). Under this program, “local law enforcement officers can perform some of the duties of immigrations officials” (Dunn). Officers have the ability to interview individuals to ascertain their immigration status, check DHS databases for information on individuals, issue immigration detainers to hold individuals until ICE takes custody, make recommendations for voluntary departure in place of formal removal proceedings, and transfer non-citizens into ICE custody among other functions. For example, if an individual is stopped for committing a minor traffic violation and are found driving without a license they could face serious consequences. The officer could potentially take the person into custody and transfer them to ICE if the person shows no proof of lawful migratory status. “Section 287(g) became law as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. In addition, “under 287(g), ICE forms an agreement with a state or local agency – most often a county sheriff that runs a local jail – and this agreement delegates specific immigration enforcement authority to designated officers within the local agency.” (IRLC) Thus, making county Sheriffs prominent figures within our communities since they dictate if programs like 287 (g) are implemented.
Since 2006 North Carolina’s enactment of 287 (g) has resulted in more than 15,000 people being placed into deportation proceedings. In the fall of 2018 six counties in North Carolina enforced this program, but shortly after the election of two new Sheriffs two counties decided to terminate their contract with the controversial program. The shift in votes can be credited to rapidly changing demographics and an increase in voter awareness. Both Wake and Mecklenburg County residents elected new Sheriffs who campaigned on the promise to cut ties with 287 (g) insisting that, “the perception that local officers are with ICE makes immigrants less likely to report crimes or testify about illegal activity” (Dunn). In Mecklenburg County, new Sheriff Gary McFadden stated program 287 (g), “did not create any trust in the community” (Dunn). Since cutting ties with this program things have drastically changed in both counties jails. For instance, immigration officers are no longer present in the jails and ice detainers are not honored.
In Georgia there are currently five counties that enforce 287 (g) with Gwinnett and Cobb County being the largest counties with latino residents. On July 10, 2009 Gwinnett County was approved to begin partnership with federal immigration officials under 287 (g). “Over the past decade, Conway’s deputies working in the Gwinnett County jail have questioned more than 52,000 arrestees about their immigration status” (Estep). Gwinnett county is the “states second most populous county a quarter of whose 927,000 residents are foreign-born” (Estep). Sheriff Conway recently renewed the program this past May which will be in effect until June 30, 2020. With the next general election being right around the corner candidates for the Sheriff position are emerging. Currently Curtis Clemons and Keybo Taylor are running against Conway for his position. Both Clemons and Taylor plan on ending the sheriff’s office’s participation in 287 (g) if elected. It is evident 287 (g) is going to be a central issue in this race.
In 2007, Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren was the first sheriff to implement program 287(g) in Georgia and seventh in the nation. This is not surprising considering Sheriff Warren’s website claims he was named by Fox News one of the top ten anti-illegal immigration sheriffs in 2012. “In 2008, Cobb County turned over 3,180 detainees to ICE for deportation. Of those, 2,180, about 69 percent, were arrested for traffic violations” (Shahshahani). Recent statistics show that in the fiscal year ending last September of 2018 three hundred fifty-four people were deported from Cobb County (Lutz). Sheriff Warren recently decided to renew its agreement to uphold this controversial program. The next general election which includes the election of the Cobb Sheriff is November 3rd, 2020.
Similar to North Carolina, Cobb and Gwinnett county have shown to shift in votes. With the last presidential election both Cobb and Gwinnett county saw a shift with voters choosing Clinton over Trump. A clear indicator that demographics are rapidly changing in these populous counties. This could be a good indicator of how upcoming sheriff elections may be impacted. Overall, it is evident that local offices play an important part in protecting the immigrant community against aggressive deportation efforts by our executive branch. Sheriff offices are vital in our community because they decide what programs the Sheriff office implements. We saw the big influence changing demographics and voter awareness had in North Carolina which led to the dissolution of the program in those two counties. Taking this into consideration it is evident that Georgia is on track to mirror North Carolina and elect new sheriffs who are opposed to this program.
“287(g) Program.” GCSO – 287(g), www.gwinnettcountysheriff.com/pages/287g.
Dunn, Andrew. “The Facts about 287(g) in North Carolina.” Longleaf Politics, 7 Mar. 2019, longleafpolitics.com/287g-north-carolina/.
“National Map of 287(g) Agreements.” ILRC, www.ilrc.org/national-map-287g-agreements.
“The 287(g) Program: An Overview.” American Immigration Council, 12 Aug. 2017, www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/287g-program-immigration.
Canal, Nick de la. “FAQ City: What Is The 287g Program? And Other Questions Answered.” WFAE, www.wfae.org/post/faq-city-what-287g-program-and-other-questions-answered#stream/0.
Estep, Tyler. “Gwinnett Sheriff Vows to Renew Divisive Immigration Program.” Ajc, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1 May 2019, www.ajc.com/news/local/gwinnett-sheriff-vows-renew-divisive-immigration-program/jdVB5gMGJmybAZe307jm8J/.
Shahshahani, Azadeh N. “Time For Cobb County To Walk Away From 287(g).” American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, 8 Oct. 2012, www.aclu.org/blog/time-cobb-county-walk-away-287g.
Lutz, Meris. “Cobb Renews Controversial Immigration Program.” Ajc, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6 June 2019, www.ajc.com/news/local-govt–politics/cobb-renews-287-immigration-program-with-little-pushback/rW23GV9ci8P27EVRXWJNvL/.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director of GALEO at email@example.com.