Atlanta executive order closes city jail to ICE detainees pending assurance that family separation has ended

By Maggie Lee

Atlanta’s jail will close its doors to detainees held by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement — at least for a while — under an executive order signed Wednesday by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Bottoms didn’t want Atlanta to risk “being complicit” in President Donald Trump’s policy of separating children from families at the U.S. border, according to a press release from the mayor’s office.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted a photo of her signing the executive order that closes Atlanta's jail to ICE detainees.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted a photo of her signing the executive order that closes Atlanta’s jail to ICE detainees.

As it happened, her announcement was published the very same afternoon Trump backed off from the family separation policy via a White House executive order.

“I, like many others, have been horrified watching the impact of President Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy on children and families,” reads Bottoms’ statement. She said her personal angst has been compounded knowing that Atlanta has a deal to hold ICE detainees in the city jail.

The text of the executive order leaves some wiggle room for the city jail to re-open to ICE detainees.

The text says that the city jail shall accept no further ICE detainees “until the city of Atlanta receives assurance that the policy of the Trump administration of separating immigrant children from their parents at the United States / Mexico border and other ports of entry has been rescinded and all such separations have ceased.”

Bottoms’ written statement added that she’s concerned for detainees who may be sent someplace remote.

“I am concerned that the city’s refusal to accept detainees will result in individuals being sent to private, substandard, for-profit facilities in the state, as these facilities do not offer publicly-funded access to legal representation that may help detainees successfully challenge their immigration status,” she wrote, “but the inhumane action of family separation demands that Atlanta act now.”

The city does offer some funding for legal aid for Atlantans who are accused of breaking federal immigration law. The funds came to $150,000 for the budget year that’s ending this month.

Charles Kuck, an Atlanta Immigration attorney and advocate for immigrants and immigration reform, said the closure is a good thing and he applauds the mayor for it.

“I think it sends a positive message that Atlanta is a very progressive city on these issues,” Kuck said. “I think this is part of a longer-game view about the level of cooperation the city of Atlanta has given and will give in the future to the Trump agenda, the Trump enforcement process.”

In a September, 2017 file photo, protesters gather at the Atlanta city jail to rally for a right to stay for people brought to the U.S. from other countries as children. Many activists have long been unhappy with Atlanta's deal to house ICE detainees. Credit: Maggie Lee

In a September, 2017 file photo, protesters gather at the Atlanta city jail to rally for a right to stay for people brought to the U.S. from other countries as children. Many activists have long been unhappy with Atlanta’s deal to house ICE detainees. Credit: Maggie Lee

He also said that detainees generally spend little time in Atlanta’s jail — on the order of two or three days. People who are detained a long time are usually sent to facilities in Irwin, Stewart or Hall counties.

The city has been under pressure for years from some quarters close its jail to ICE.

That includes Azadeh Shahshahani, legal and advocacy director for Project South, a nonprofit that does many things, including legal and advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and migrants who don’t have legal residency documents.

Shahshahani called the closure a significant and promising development.

“For years, we had been calling upon the city of Atlanta to match its rhetoric of being welcoming towards immigrants with action,” she wrote via email. “It is good to see that the city has finally realized that it cannot claim to be a welcoming space at the same as it is making profits off of the detention of immigrants.”

Bottoms said she’s calling on Trump and the U.S. Congress to “enact humane and comprehensive measures that address our broken immigration system.”

The mayor’s office did not immediately make anyone available to talk about aspects of the ICE contract, such as how much it’s worth to the city.

Bottoms’ executive order puts her in the crowded ranks of elected officials who have taken official action in protest of family separation. Several governors, for example, are removing National Guard troops from the U.S. southern border.

Outside of public office too, there’s been outcry against the family separation policy.  Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson was the recipient of a letter from a few dozen prominent Atlantans who called on him to condemn the separation of children from their parents.

“Punishing parents by separating them from their children does not change the realities that drove the parents to seek refuge in the United States but instead traumatizes the children at the hands of our nation,” the letter reads in part.

The letter was written before a WSB-TV report that Isakson said that separating families is no solution. Isakson’s office has reportedly received a couple thousand calls on the issue, the vast majority opposing separation.

Dr. Jodie Guest, one of the letter signers and a professor at the Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, said they’re thankful for Isakson’s response.

Georgia’s other U.S. Senator, Republican David Perdue, called family separation the “current shiny object of the day,” according to news reports of a press conference at which the subject was supposed to be the federal debt.

Meanwhile, one Atlanta congressman says this isn’t over.

Atlanta Democratic Congressman John Lewis said in a press release this afternoon that Trump’s “executive order fails to address or end this moral crisis. It merely replaces the unacceptable evil of family separation with the unacceptable evil of child detention.”

Lewis said the order continues an assault not just on immigrant families but on the U.S.’ legacy of affirmatively protecting human rights.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

3 replies
  1. Darkeyah Reuven says:

    June 22, 2018

    To: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
    CC: Atlanta City Council
    CC: Congressman John Lewis
    CC: USA President Donald John Trump

    My name is Darkeyah Reuven. I am a four year resident of the West End Community. I would like to inform you that I find your support of illegal immigrants very misguided. Illegal mass immigration across the USA southern border has had a significant negative impact on African American communities across the United States.

    1. Mass illegal immigrants depress employment wages for Black Men
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-0335.2009.00803.x
    https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1756&context=key_workplace

    2. Increases in Latino Immigrants greatly increases the gang activity and gang violence in Atlanta and around the USA.
    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS751US751&ei=C6otW6j_CM_ktQX7rpGwDw&q=latino+gangs+atlanta&oq=latino+gangs+at&gs_l=psy-ab.1.0.0i22i30k1l10.30840.31111.0.33198.2.2.0.0.0.0.216.349.0j1j1.2.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.2.348…0i13k1j0i22i10i30k1.0.vExRB9Nkggk

    3. Once illegal Latino population reach a critical mass they often time form gangs that racially target African Americans with “ku klux klan” style violence to ethnic cleanse of neighborhoods of Blacks.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=latino+gangs+target+blacks+la&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS751US751&oq=latino+gangs+target+blacks+la&aqs=chrome..69i57.15448j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

    4. Lastly, Illegals depress wages and are less likely demand workplace rights. Resulting in the depression workplace safety and workers rights.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/24/opinion/la-oe-meyerson-undocumented-abuses-20110624
    .
    These conditions add up to put African Americans, especially Black Men at major disadvantages in the low skilled job market. Also, Endanging African Americans with violence from Latino Gangs.

    I voted for you Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. It is the African American Atlanta vote that has put you in a position of leadership. You must put your “feelings” in their proper place. You thus have a fiduciary responsibility to seriously consider the impact that Illegal and Mass immigration is having on African Americans in Atlanta and around this nation and support the deportation of “Illegals”.

    Finally, I will say on the issue of Illegal Immigration, I am less likely to again vote for you, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and more likely to vote for President Donald John Trump.
    Why, because it is in the interest of “Black Men” to do so.

    Thank you and best regards,

    Darkeyah G. Reuven, Ph. D.Report

    Reply
  2. Darkeyah Reuven says:

    Note: Re-Posted after being deleted and Blocked, 6/22/2018, on West End Neighbors Facebook page

    Title: Black Men In Support of Illegal Immigrant Deportation

    June 22, 2018
    To: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
    CC: Atlanta City Council
    CC: Congressman John Lewis
    CC: USA President Donald John Trump

    My name is Darkeyah Reuven. I am a four year resident of the West End Community. I would like to inform you that I find your support of illegal immigrants very misguided. Illegal mass immigration across the USA southern border has had a significant negative impact on African American communities across the United States.
    1. Mass illegal immigrants depress employment wages for Black Men
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/…/…/j.1468-0335.2009.00803.x
    https://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi…
    2. Increases in Latino Immigrants greatly increases the gang activity and gang violence in Atlanta and around the USA.
    https://www.google.com/search…
    3. Once illegal Latino population reach a critical mass they often time form gangs that racially target African Americans with “ku klux klan” style violence to ethnic cleanse of neighborhoods of Blacks.
    https://www.google.com/search…
    4. Lastly, Illegals depress wages and are less likely demand workplace rights. Resulting in the depression workplace safety and workers rights.
    http://articles.latimes.com/…/la-oe-meyerson-undocumented-a…
    .
    These conditions add up to put African Americans, especially Black Men at major disadvantages in the low skilled job market. Also, Endanging African Americans with violence from Latino Gangs.
    I voted for you Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. It is the African American Atlanta vote that has put you in a position of leadership. You must put your “feelings” in their proper place. You thus have a fiduciary responsibility to seriously consider the impact that Illegal and Mass immigration is having on African Americans in Atlanta and around this nation and support the deportation of “Illegals”.
    Finally, I will say on the issue of Illegal Immigration, I am less likely to again vote for you, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and more likely to vote for President Donald John Trump.
    Why, because it is in the interest of “Black Men” to do so.

    Thank you and best regards,

    Darkeyah G. Reuven, Ph. D.
    Personal email: [email protected]
    Google Scholar- http://scholar.google.com/citations?user=jZNuYmEAAAAJ&hl=en
    Website: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view…

    Image may contain: one or more people and outdoorReport

    Reply
  3. Warren Goodwin says:

    This is a welcome (and long overdue) step by Mayor Bottoms. Kidnapping kids and jailing refugee families is so obviously immoral I honestly can’t wrap my head around how anyone (including Senator Perdue) could support it.Report

    Reply

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