Sheriff pulls out of controversial immigration program

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — The new sheriff for a diverse Atlanta-area county has canceled the county’s participation in a controversial program that allows for warrantless detention of arrestees at the request of federal immigration authorities.

Shortly after being sworn in Friday, Sheriff Keybo Taylor announced that Gwinnett County had left the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s 287(g) program, in which local law enforcement are deputized for duties that are typically performed by ICE agents.

The announcement marks a significant change of approach for law enforcement in the county, which has one of the state’s largest populations of people who are living in the country illegally.

“Gwinnett County, you spoke and I listened,” Taylor announced during a news conference Friday morning.

Taylor, who defeated Republican Luis Solis in November, is Gwinnett’s first Black sheriff and the first Democrat elected to the position since 1984, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Taylor had promised during his campaign that he would pull Gwinnett out of the 287(g) program, arguing that it is discriminatory and discourages minorities from inviting law enforcement into their community to fight crime because they fear being deported. Critics have also said the program has resulted in the deportation of many people for minor offenses such as traffic violations.

ICE officials have argued that the program helps the federal agency fight crime.

“What we will not be doing is notifying ICE of anybody’s immigration status in the jail or any of our facilities,” Taylor said, according to WXIA-TV. “It doesn’t mean we won’t have corporation with ICE or any other law enforcement organization out there. It just means we won’t participate in the program outlined in the 287(g) agreement between the federal government and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.”

The sheriff’s offices in four other Georgia counties – Floyd, Hall, Polk and Whitfield – and the Georgia Department of Corrections also have 287(g) agreements with ICE, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cobb County’s new sheriff has vowed to end his county’s participation within his first 100 days in office.

Taylor also announced a team of deputies that is majority-minority and unveiled new anti-human trafficking and gang initiatives. Located northeast of Atlanta, Gwinnett County is one of Georgia’s most diverse counties.

“My vision is an inclusive vision,” Taylor said. “I want to make sure that we connect back into communities, where they have not had that type of law enforcement representation.”