Fulton Wants Sheriff To Stop Cooperating With Immigration Officials

The Fulton County Commission wants the sheriff’s office to stop cooperating with federal immigration policies under a resolution passed by the board Wednesday.  As heard on the radio

The resolution urges Sheriff Ted Jackson to bar U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, officials from using county facilities “for investigative interview or other purposes.”

It goes on to say, “County personnel shall not expend their time responding to ICE inquiries or communicating with ICE regarding individuals’ incarceration status or release dates while on duty, 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, which passed 6-0 with one abstention, also addresses immigration detention requests, or “detainers.” These are requests from ICE to jails and prisons that they hold inmates up to 48 hours after their scheduled release so the agency can assume custody.

Commission Chairman John Eaves says the county needs to hit the pause button on some ICE policies until the federal government agrees to repay the county for all compliance costs.

“In terms of reimbursement, in terms of how long these folks will be adjudicated or processed, we felt that there was a lot of ambiguity and the taxpayers of Fulton County might be caught holding the bag so to speak,” Eaves said.

The chairman added concerns from the immigrant community about racial profiling also factored into adopting the measure.

Similar policies have passed in New York City, Miami-Dade County and Cook County, Illinois. However Fulton’s is just a resolution, like a suggestion for the sheriff’s office.

Commissioner Liz Hausmann, who was the sole abstention, said the sheriff wasn’t consulted.

“I know he puts a high priority on public safety, so for him to have not been consulted, I found to be extremely disrespectful and disappointing,” she said.

Hausmann said immigration is a federal, not county issue, and that Fulton has bigger problems, like the budget. In a later statement, she chalked the measure up to a “politically motivated, feel good legislation in an election year.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said in the last three years ICE has made detainer requests for less than 1 percent of its inmates.  That comes to about 400 inmates with detainer requests in the last year out a total 40,113.

She said the county notifies ICE when a case is resolved, but doesn’t hold inmates past their scheduled release.

In a statement, ICE spokesman Vincent Picard said, “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.”

He want on to say such releases also create “an officer safety issue when ICE officers have to attempt to apprehend the most serious offenders outside a controlled penal setting.”

In fiscal year 2013, Fulton received $18,645 in reimbursements under the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, or STAPP.  In 2014, the amount shrank to $8,878.

ICE has said similar policies in other states could be in violation of federal law.