Promises kept

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Clarkston passes non-detainer policy, limiting cooperation with immigration officials

 

 Clarkston city council passed an official policy limiting the city’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainment on May 2 following two separate meetings.

 The policy will not require Clarkston Police Department to comply with detainment requests without an official judicial warrant from federal authorities, an act termed as “symbolic in nature” by city officials.

 Detainment requests are typically sent to municipal law enforcement agencies to streamline immigration enforcement. They are not, however, required to be honored under any existing state or federal law, according to Clarkston city attorney Stephen Quinn.

 “ICE detainers are not warrants,” Quinn said. “If you’re seizing someone without a warrant, you are violating their constitutional rights and they can sue you.”

 In addition to showing residents city-stamped support, Quinn said the policy will also protect the city from potential immigration-related lawsuits. Currently, Fayette, Fulton and DeKalb counties have non-detainer policies, according to Project South attorney Azadeh Shahshahani, who verified Quinn’s claim on litigation.

 While Clarkston does not and will not receive a detainer request from ICE due to the city’s lack of jail cells, as confirmed by Clarkston Police Chief Christina Hudson, city council passed the policy to show support for residents who have been effected by ICE raids.

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 “Clarkston has a history of standing up for its principles,” said Mayor Ted Terry. “[The policy] is more symbolic than practical, but there are larger forces at work here, not just in Clarkston but across Georgia and the nation. Symbolic or not, Clarkston should be a leader. We want to keep our principles intact. This is our moment to be courageous.”

 Council members met with ICE representatives on the morning of May 2. ICE representatives had refused to attend a town hall meeting with residents on April 27. Hundreds attended the town hall meeting to air grievances and share personal stories of detainment following claims from Omar Chekey that Somali-American immigrants are being targeted by ICE officials in Clarkston.

 According to councilman Dean Moore, on May 2, ICE officials told city officials they would be placed on a “naughty list” should they proceed with a non-detainer policy.

 ICE officials hinted the city would risk federal funding, causing Moore as well as councilmen Ahmed Hassan and Awet Eyasu to hesitate passing the ordinance. They instead suggested passing the ordinance in June or July after further research and legal advice.

 “My feelings are that we could use a lot more information about a lot of issues,” Moore said. “Since we don’t have ICE calling us up, I’m not sure this is the best strategy for our city…It’s a non-issue. It lays another layer of confusion onto the issue. To pass legislation on a non-issue is not a good way to govern. We should [support our community] in a different way than poking Donald Trump in the eye and risking federal funding.”

 According to city manager Keith Barker, Clarkston is currently receiving funding from the Federal Highway Administration for a $4 million streetscapes project to revitalize its downtown core.

 Councilman Mario Williams said he did not believe federal threats were credible and believed cutting off federal funding unconstitutional. Councilman Jamie Carroll agreed.

 “I personally think [Trump’s executive orders] are unconstitutional and the whole thing is crazy,” Moore said. “But is an aspirational policy worth passing to jeopardize future funding and put Clarkston behind the 8-ball? Clarkston will have to pay to go out and [defend] this.”

 “I don’t see it as a credible threat,” Carroll concluded.

 Shashahani said federal authorities threatened to only withhold funding from localities that refuse to communicate with ICE. Thus far, she said, no cities have passed such an ordinance.

 Glory Kilanko, director with Women Watch Afrika, said Clarkston councilman should “keep the promises made” during the April 27, where councilmen Hassan, Eyasu and Moore guaranteed a policy would be passed.

 “I can’t imagine Clarkston’s constituency belief if you don’t pass the ordinance,” Kilanko said. “You gave your word. A word is like an egg—you cannot drop it and pick it back up again. You’re listening to people not in your constituency. I’m glad this is an election year.”

 Council unanimously passed the ordinance on May 2 and received a standing ovation from meeting attendees.

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