Decatur: ICE policy does not violate Georgia ‘sanctuary’ law

1:39 p.m Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 Atlanta News
Feb. 7: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers making an arrest  in Los Angeles.

Decatur is violating a state law prohibiting “sanctuary policies” through its newly written policy limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle charged in a recent letter.

City officials are adamantly denying the Republican gubernatorial candidate’s allegation. 

In a letter Friday to State Auditor Greg Griffin, Cagle pointed out state law bars cities from adopting policies prohibiting their employees from “communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting immigration status information.” 

Cagle was apparently responding to City Manager Peggy Merriss’s recent decision to adopt a one-page policy prohibiting 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 the Fourth Amendment, which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. 

RELATED: Decatur approves policy limiting cooperation with ICE

Merriss said her decision 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. Her decision followed similar actions by Atlanta’s City Council last month and Clarkston’s City Council in May. 

Decatur City Attorney Bryan Downs wrote Griffin Monday, saying his city’s policy is consistent with the Fourth Amendment. 

“This policy does not address – much less prohibit or restrict – communications or cooperation with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting immigration status information,” he wrote. “Therefore, the policy does not constitution a ‘sanctuary policy.’”