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No immigrant releases yet in Gainesville
Federal policy to turn loose nondangerous detainees comes under fire
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A new policy essentially allowing several illegal immigrants to be released from federal custody has not yet resulted in any releases from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement's leased facility in Gainesville.

The new policy announced just over a week ago is intended to allow immigration officials to focus on dangerous criminals, while allowing many illegal immigrants to be released and apply for work permits that would allow them to remain in the country.

The North Georgia Detention Center, the former Hall County jail at 622 Main St. in Gainesville, holds several hundred detainees from across the Southeast. It it operated by the Corrections Corporation of America through an agreement with Hall County and ICE.

Several illegal immigrants facing deportation already have been released from ICE facilities across the country, including the Stewart Detention Center in South Georgia.

"Because the working group is in the midst of designing the process for reviewing cases, no individual cases have been administratively closed or otherwise affected by the policy announced last week," said Department of Homeland Security Press Secretary Matt Chandler, referring to the Gainesville facility.

Chandler said while that review takes place, officials will continue to enforce immigration law as they did before President Barack Obama announced the new policy.

However, Chandler said the policy will allow officials to better focus their efforts on illegal immigrants charged with dangerous offenses.

"The review ... will allow DHS and (the Department of Justice) to better focus its enforcement resources on the removal of criminal aliens, other aliens who pose a threat to public safety or national security, repeat immigration law violators, recent illegal border crossers and immigration fugitives," Chandler said.

The move is not supported by many, though. Critics of the new policy cite concerns that the policy could take away jobs from legal residents at a time when unemployment is a national concern.

D.A. King, president of the Marietta-based Dustin Inman Society, is one critics who advocated against the policy.

"The cherry on top of this dismal hot fudge sundae is that not only is the president taking people out of deportation proceedings, but he is, I understand, going to award illegal aliens work authorizations while we have 10 percent unemployment in Georgia and 22 or 25 million Americans either underemployed or unemployed in the U.S., so apparently this is Obama's job's program," King said.

King said the move came as no surprise to him.

"I am quite honestly not surprised that Obama has followed the wishes of the anti-enforcement mob," he said. "It is complete far-left lunacy."

While the announcement did not surprise King, he says Obama went against the wishes of many in Congress, as well as many Americans who voted for him.

"Right now there are pipe fitters, there's carpenters in places like Detroit who voted for Obama who are now scratching their head trying to remember why," King said.

While the move was opposed by many, proponents of the new policy said it benefits government officials who now can focus on criminals of greater risk.

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said he supports the policy to deport dangerous criminals first.

"He promised a different way of handling immigration and prioritizing the scarce resources for immigration to ensure that those that commit serious crimes against our communities are deported first," Gonzalez said.

"We think that the Obama administration should be focusing its resources on deporting people that commit serious crimes rather than focusing on chicken pluckers or college students or nannies."

However, Gonzalez said groups in support of the policy will need to ensure it does indeed fulfill its intentions of focusing on dangerous criminals.
"We are cautiously optimistic about its implementation," he said, "But we will be looking at how this will be implemented and making sure it does move the process forward to where ICE does focus its resources on the most serious criminals."

Gonzalez said the new policy is a step in the right direction, but law enforcement should not even detain an immigrant for something as simple as a traffic stop or fishing without a license. He said in areas where 287G is in effect, law enforcement is unnecessarily detaining and deporting immigrants for minor offenses.

"We think that has led to increased racial profiling," Gonzalez said in reference to 287G.

King said he is organizing a phone campaign to call senators in response to the new policy. He cited concerns that no senators have responded to the announcement of the policy.

"It is my feeling that we need oversight hearings to get to the bottom of this and to at least, if nothing else, expose what Obama has done," he said.

While Gonzalez hopes the move will lead to a decrease in the number of detained illegal immigrants on minor charges, King said he thinks voters will not respond well to it come election time.

"This is a signal to the level of desperation for re-election in the White House and I think it's a move too far," King said. "I think when people finally learn what he's done that it's going to end up costing him votes."

Kevin Holbrook, public information officer for the Gainesville Police Department, was unable comment on any cases involving illegal immigrants in Gainesville.

Col. Jeff Strickland, chief deputy for the Hall County Sheriff's Office, said any cases involving illegal immigrants are immediately turned over to ICE and it makes any decisions regarding deportation, bond or release.

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