Fulton commissioners urge sheriff to stop cooperating with ICE

Fulton County commissioners on Wednesday passed a resolution urging Sheriff Ted Jackson to stop cooperating with federal immigration authorities under a variety of conditions.

Fulton is the first Georgia county to pass such a resolution amid a nationwide debate over the issue, according to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Georgia, which hailed the commissioners’ action. Scores of other jurisdictions have approved similar measures, including Cook County, Ill.; the District of Columbia; and New York City.

Approved by a vote of 6-0 with Commissioner Liz Hausmann abstaining, Fulton’s resolution urges Jackson to prevent U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from using county facilities for “investigative interviews or other purposes.”

“County personnel shall not expend their time responding to ICE inquiries or communicating with ICE regarding individual incarceration status or release dates while on duty,” the resolution continues, “unless ICE agents have a criminal warrant, or unless county officials have a legitimate law enforcement purpose that is not related to the enforcement of immigration law.”

The resolution also focuses on requests — called detainers — ICE routinely issues to local jails and state prisons. The detainers allow jails and prisons to hold people for an additional 48 hours — excluding weekends and holidays — after they would otherwise be released. This gives ICE time to take custody of them and attempt to deport them.

Quoting the ACLU, the resolution says such detainers could “undermine the trust between local law enforcement and the immigrant community.” It also says Jackson should stop complying with the detainers until Fulton reaches a written agreement with the federal government for reimbursing the county for all its costs to comply with them.

The Fulton Sheriff’s Office estimated that less than 1 percent of the county’s 40,113 inmates in 2013 — or less than 401 — were the subject of ICE detainers. The jail notifies federal immigration officials when it is about to release such inmates, said a spokeswoman for Jackson, but does not hold them any longer once they are scheduled for release.

ICE had no immediate comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Fulton Commission Chairman John Eaves said he voted for Wednesday’s resolution after listening to the immigrant community’s concerns.

“I have several concerns about this policy of detainer requests,” Eaves said in a prepared statement. “Among them is the fundamental fairness of the requests, the damage they may inflict upon the relationship between our law enforcement officers and our immigrant community, as well as the unreimbursed cost of the detainers being passed on to Fulton County taxpayers.”

An ACLU official praised the commissioners’ action Wednesday, calling it a significant development.

“We are happy that Fulton County has recognized that immigration holds are an unfunded mandate,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, a national security/immigrants’ rights project director for the ACLU. “We hope that other counties in Georgia will soon follow suit.”

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