Decatur approves policy limiting cooperation with ICE

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Decatur approves policy limiting cooperation with ICE

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JOHN SPINK / AJC/JOHN SPINK / AJC
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers take Jose Serrano into custody Friday morning, Aug. 18, 2016 in Austell. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Decatur has adopted a policy limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration. 

Approved Friday by City Manager Peggy Merriss, the one-page policy prohibits Decatur police from arresting, detaining or transporting anyone solely on the basis of detainers issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

ICE detainers are requests for jails to hold people for an additional 48 hours — excluding weekends and holidays — so the federal agency may pick them up and attempt to deport them. Critics point to federal court rulings that say jailing people based on ICE detainers can violate their constitutional rights. 

Merriss said her decision Friday codified an unwritten policy Decatur police had been following for more than 10 years. It’s unclear what effect it will have since Decatur doesn’t have its own jail. Asked if the new rules are symbolic, Merriss said “symbolism is for others to decide.” 

“The city was approached by a resident representing a group of city of Decatur residents in early 2017 with a request to implement a policy,” she said in an email. “Through on-going discussions we decided to review our practice and unwritten policy and determined that we would codify into written form what already existed.” 

Her decision follows similar actions by Atlanta’s City Council last month and Clarkston’s City Council in May. 

Asked about Decatur’s policy, an ICE spokesman referred to a statement Acting ICE Director Tom Homan issued last month about “sanctuary jurisdictions,” or communities that don’t fully cooperate with his agency. 

“Sanctuary jurisdictions that do not honor detainers or allow us access to jails and prisons are shielding criminal aliens from immigration enforcement and creating a magnet for illegal immigration,” Homan said. “As a result, ICE is forced to dedicate more resources to conduct at-large arrests in these communities.”

An Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter and photojournalist went on a ride along with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Austell to give an intimate look at how they are doing their jobs amid the Trump administration's aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.
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