The following article was submitted by Liz Carter, who works with the Lou Solis for Sheriff campaign. We have fact-checked the information and found it to be correct. Articles expressing other viewpoints are welcome.
By Liz Carter
287(g) is a widely misunderstood and misrepresented Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the federal government (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and local law enforcement agencies. Opponents claim that it results in families being torn apart and that it costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth- at least in the form that 287(g) operates in Gwinnett County.
If 287(g) is terminated, criminals who are arrested, and in this country illegally, will be housed in the county jail at a cost to taxpayers of approximately $64 per day. Since 2010, when 287(g) was first put into effect, the average daily population of the Gwinnett County jail has dropped from 2,654 to 2,097. That represents an annual savings of approximately $35,000 per day which translates to over $12,800,000 per year. That figure far exceeds whatever expense the county accrues in administration costs. The drop in daily jail population (even as county population continues to grow) has also eliminated the need to expand the jail.
It is true that in the past, 287(g) enforcement did not focus on serious criminals. However, in 2009 the Obama Administration redefined the agreement to clearly outline the enforcement procedures for identifying “dangerous criminal aliens” and carrying out the “removal of criminal aliens”. The revised MOA states that the purpose of 287(g) is to “enhance the safety and security of communities by focusing resources on identifying and processing for removal, criminal aliens who pose a threat to public safety or danger to the community.”
The procedures defined by the revised MOA specify a three-level priority list for criminal aliens. Detention efforts are focused primarily on “Level 1 aliens, defined as criminals that have been convicted of or arrested for major drug offenses and/or violent offenses such as murder, manslaughter rape, robbery, and kidnapping”.
As with any form of law enforcement, abuse and misapplication of 287(g) provisions have occurred. That has not been the case in Gwinnett County. ICE agents have operated within the county jail, have not conducted neighborhood sweeps and have been focused on serious criminals.
Yet, here we are in 2020, 11 years after 287(g) was revised, and there are still tons of misinformation being spread and fear mongering taking place. In fact, opponents of 287(g) either don’t recognize or willfully ignore the changes that took place in the program in 2009. Instead, they continue to claim any immigrant here without documentation is targeted, and if arrested for any reason, including driving without a license, will be deported. These claims can’t be further from the truth. First, driving without a license is against the law in Georgia and will get you arrested, regardless of your citizenship. Second, driving without a license does not fall within the Level 1 category of offenses.
For the past 11 years, the 287(g) program has kept Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents in the jail, focused on screening detainees identified as illegal aliens, to see if they have outstanding Level 1 warrants or were arrested for a Level 1 offense.
In the 2018 sheriffs’ elections in North Carolina, multiple incumbent Sheriff’s who participated in the 287(g) program were defeated. Their successors ran on the promise to end their cooperation with ICE. What took place next was a disaster for the immigrant communities. Once out of the jails, ICE was forced to focus their efforts to capture criminal aliens in the community, instead of in the jail. Operational “sweeps” resulted in the detention of over 200 immigrants and was admittedly haphazard in nature, resulting in ICE detaining at least 60 immigrants who were NOT targets in ICE immigration enforcement. The 60 caught up in the sweep were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The ICE Field Office director stated that, “If these 287(g) programs would be in place, I wouldn’t have to put so many officers on the street (…) and you would have less people – like workers going to work that would be arrested.”
Back to 2020 here in Gwinnett County. The Director of ICE in Atlanta has stated that if 287(g) is terminated in Gwinnett County, he will engage his agents in county wide “sweeps” in work places, apartment complexes, and targeted communities. That will, without question, rip families apart. That is NOT what the majority of Gwinnett Citizens want, and that is NOT what Sheriff candidate Chief Deputy Lou Solis desires.
However, his opponent has stated openly, at the Gwinnett County Alumnae Chapter, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority forum, “If ICE wants to come out here and do its job, by all means let them come do their job. I don’t have any control over what a supervisor wants to do in Gwinnett County or anywhere else.”
What Mr. Taylor isn’t telling voters is that the county sheriff does have a say. If the sheriff maintains 287(g), it keeps ICE in the jail, and they will NOT do neighborhood or workplace sweeps. Working with ICE is the only way to actually avoid the sweeps that break up families and result in hard-working people being deported. Taylor’s statement is not only callous, it shows a lack of knowledge and willingness to work with other law enforcement offices to protect all members of our community, except those who commit serious crimes.
For Gwinnett County, the choice is clear. The county needs to keep working with ICE to remove “CRIMINAL aliens” and avoid sweeps in communities that put immigrants at risk of being separated from families simply because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Yes, I believe in the rule of law. And I also believe we have to do better in addressing the issues of immigration, especially for those who are already in our country working and being productive residents. Sweeping communities is not the answer, but deporting serious criminals IS.
Please join me in supporting Chief Deputy Lou Solis and protecting our community.