Clayton County Sheriff’s Office stops complying with ICE detainers

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.

Clayton is the second Georgia county to adopt such a policy. In September, Fulton County commissioners passed a resolution urging Sheriff Ted Jackson to stop complying with the detainers until an agreement can be reached with the federal government for reimbursing the county for its costs to comply with them. Scores of other jurisdictions have approved similar measures, including Cook County, Ill.; the District of Columbia; and New York City.

In an email obtained by the ACLU, a Clayton Sheriff’s Office major cites a federal appeals court ruling from March that says state and local police are not legally required to comply with ICE detainers.

“The Clayton County Sheriff’s Office shall not detain or extend the detention of any individual at the request of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement solely upon the issuance of an ICE detainer,” Maj. Robert Sowell said in an email sent Tuesday, “unless ICE first presents (the sheriff’s office) with a judicially issued warrant authorizing such detention.”

Clayton Sheriff Victor Hill did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the ACLU of Georgia’s National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the federal government’s immigration enforcement programs “create mistrust, tear families apart, and damage the state’s economy.”

“Sheriff Victor Hill has taken an enormous step forward to repair that trust and make residents of Clayton County safer while abiding by the mandates of the Constitution,” she said in a prepared statement.

ICE released a statement Wednesday, saying some of the offenders the federal agency took into custody this week from Clayton had convictions for domestic violence, cruelty toward children, battery, drug trafficking, DUI and hit and run.

“The release of a serious criminal offender to the community, rather than to ICE custody, undermines ICE’s ability to protect public safety and impedes us from enforcing the nation’s immigration laws,” ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said. Picard added that scenario “threatens both public safety and the safety of ICE officers who will now have to arrest these offenders at their residences or other public locations rather than in the safe and secure setting at the county jail.”

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