The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office participates in the 287(g) program, which could be expanded in Georgia. Vino Wong/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Immigration enforcement program could be expanded in Georgia

Georgia’s Corrections Department and authorities in Bartow and Floyd counties have applied to team up with federal deportation officers through an immigration enforcement program promoted by President Donald Trump, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned. 

At issue is the federal 287(g) program – named after the section of the 1996 federal law that authorizes it – which deputizes state and local officials to help enforce federal immigration laws. The program gives them the authority to investigate, apprehend, detain and transport people facing deportation. 

In an executive order he issued in January, Trump called for an expansion of the program. And in July, Immigration Customs Enforcement announced 18 new 287(g) agreements across Texas, bringing the nationwide total to 60. Four other counties in Georgia – Cobb, Gwinnett, Hall and Whitfield – already participate. 

Supporters of the program say it is a “force multiplier” that helps expedite the deportation of people with criminal convictions and deters others from coming to their communities. Critics say it promotes racial profiling, erodes the trust immigrants have in police and distracts officers from more important crime-fighting duties. In 2012, the Obama administration announced it was terminating the "task force" part of the program in which police helped with street-level immigration enforcement in Georgia and other states. 

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Corrections said ICE approached officials at her agency about the program, saying it would help “streamline their processes.” 

“In April 2017, our agency met with ICE and discussed the specifics of the program and we were advised that if we were interested in implementing the program, that we would need to submit a letter to participate,” Georgia Corrections Department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said in an email. “On September 26th, our agency submitted a request to participate.” 

Bartow Sheriff Clark Millsap confirmed his office has asked to join the program. 

“We have been interested in the 287g program as another tool for use in law enforcement,” he said in an email. “I see it as a way of being more proactive as the sheriff of Bartow County.” 

Officials at the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office had no immediate comment. The Rome News-Tribune reported that Floyd Sheriff Tim Burkhalter previously applied in 2007. 

RELATED: Immigration enforcement program could be expanded in Georgia, Carolinas

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox declined to comment, citing an agency policy concerning pending 287(g) applications. Final decisions on applications are made at ICE headquarters in Washington, he said. 

“Should any new 287(g) program be approved, the agency would publicly confirm at that time,” he said. 

Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for Project South, which advocates for immigrants, said she was disturbed by the possibility that the program could be expanded. In Georgia, she said, it has resulted in “decreased safety and security because communities of color and immigrants do not trust the police enough in 287(g) counties to report crimes.”

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

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