Jeremy Redmon, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, November 6, 2020
Two newly elected Democratic sheriffs confirmed this week they will make good on their campaign promises and stop the Cobb and Gwinnett county jails from participating in a controversial immigration enforcement program.
That would leave the 287(g) program — named after the section of the federal law that authorizes it — operating in several other Georgia counties, none of which are in the Atlanta metro area, as well as in the state prison system, according to federal records.
Authorized by Congress in 1996, the program deputizes state and local officials to help enforce federal immigration laws in local jails and state prison systems, giving them the authority to investigate, detain and transport people facing deportation.
Supporters call it a “force multiplier” that helps deter illegal immigration. Critics argue it splits up families and makes immigrants fearful of reporting crimes.
This week, Cobb County Police Maj. Craig Owens unseated longtime Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren, a staunch proponent of the program. Owens said his goal is to end Cobb’s participation in 287(g) within the first 100 days of taking office and shift resources away from it to other priorities.
Keybo Taylor, a retired Gwinnett police major who defeated Republican Luis Solis to become the county’s next sheriff, called the 287(g) program discriminatory.
“It has some of the same elements that we have dealt with as Blacks and African Americans back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we were profiled based upon the color of our skin,” he said.
Sandra Servin Mendez of Marietta helped turn out Hispanic voters for Owens. Brought here from Mexico as a child without legal status, she is now a legal permanent resident who graduated from Osborne High School.
“Everybody feels like they can breathe. It is a huge win for us,” said Servin Mendez, a paralegal who helps immigrants. “It feels like a new hope for a better tomorrow.”