Hall County’s 287(g) program is halting growth in our cities and county. Immigration Customs Enforcement isn’t simply there to keep our citizens and residents safe, but to keep Latino people in fear. The Latino community doesn’t believe ICE is out to deport the worst criminals.
Nobody would object if ICE was successful in detaining real rapists, drug traffickers and thieves. But data from ICE reveal over half of deportations aren’t for those offenses but for traffic violations with no prior records. When you destroy families who simply want to have better lives over misdemeanor crimes, you don’t live up to the code of protecting and serving. You earn the reputation of dividing and oppressing.
People who are deported aren’t the only ones punished; families are, too. Think of the cycle of distrust of law enforcement when a child who was born here has to grow up without a father over something for which a citizen would get a slap on the wrist. Brothers, sisters or friends of that individual will feel that way, too.
History teaches us no group of people who have been oppressed ever walked out of that experience with their best foot forward. The Hispanic population in Gainesville and Georgia is growing. Because of a state law signed in 2009, there can be no sanctuary cities in Georgia. Why is it the biggest and most thriving cities in America — New York, Los Angeles, Chicago — have declared themselves sanctuary cities? But Georgia refuses despite being “welcoming to all.” This tells me there is something more to the ICE initiative.
It’s well known Georgia is a deep red state. But people of all races and religions flock to Georgia and Hall County. Why do we choose to halt that growth by keeping those coming here in fear? Giving a deputy the power to detain and target an individual without a warrant can lead to many malpractices and confusion.
Sheriff Gerald Couch said in a recent Times story the legality of detaining someone without bond was giving officials “heartburn” over its legality. But 287(g) has been in place in Hall County since 2007. That’s 10 years since this has been going on, and now they want to issue warrants for better clarity. 287(g) will continue until 2019 and then will be eligible for modifications, an extension or just not renewed, which Couch can do at any time.
Hall’s growth projections and reliance on Latino residents for labor in the coming years will be a step forward. It would be counterproductive and a step backward to extend 287(g) for another 13 years or more. I believe without 287(g), Gainesville will further thrive and grow. The terms “illegal” and “alien” dehumanize human beings, terms ICE and those with prejudice use to label an entire group of people who are more than what society deems them as.
If Gainesville and Hall County want to put a best foot forward to the growth we foresee, removal of 287(g) and its oppression is a sign we are ready to embrace our future diversity and integration.