Criticism of Gwinnett Deportation ‘Surge’ Grows

Andria Simmons, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 12, 2009

A nonprofit coalition called Georgia Detention Watch on Monday joined a growing chorus of disapproval over a program to deport illegal immigrants in the Gwinnett County jail.

Other organizations such as Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment and the Concerned Black Clergy have also voiced opposition to federal immigration officials’ 26-day “surge,” which began Monday at the county detention center.

The surge is expected to help the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) figure out how many inmates would be handed over from Gwinnett, should the county be allowed to participate in a program that trains local jailers to begin deportation paperwork.

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A press release issued by Georgia Detention Watch said it “condemns in the strongest terms this effort of expulsion of immigrants, many of whom are hard-working members of our communities.” Georgia Detention Watch bills itself as a coalition that includes activists, community organizers, persons of faith and lawyers.

“We believe local enforcement of federal immigration laws leads to racial profiling as well as erosion of trust between immigrant communities and the police, making our communities less safe,” the press release said.

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Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway said the program doesn’t violate human rights or constitute racial profiling. He pointed out that it targets people who have been arrested for a crime.

Those who are here illegally are not immigrants, as this group claims,” Conway said. “An immigrant is someone who has entered the United States legally and has nothing to fear.”

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