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Georgia and “Sanctuary Cities:” Facts Are A Good Place To Start

By July 9, 2015No Comments
It did not take long for the anti-immigration movement to latch onto the tragedy in San Francisco.   A Georgia legislator, announced he would go all in on “enhancing” his misguided campaign on immigration “enforcement” in the next legislative session. Senator Josh McKoona young,solo lawyer in Columbus,trying make a name for himself in Georgia politics (remember Chip Rogers), is the newest Georgia politician to associate with the shrinking numbers who support harmful anti-immigrant policies.  McKoon held a press conference surrounded by three of his supporters and announced that he was going to expand SB 6 (his bill to needlessly and unconstitutionally take driver’s licenses away from DACA students) to include the following gems:

Keep the original language to deny drivers licenses to DACA recipients (likely unconstitutional);

Clarify the definition of a “sanctuary” governments and policies;

Establish sanctions against agencies and local governments that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement;

Create a public, online registry of undocumented immigrants with criminal records/ICE holds (he mentioned getting this data from federal records, but did not say how or who would pay for it);

Not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any sort of state professional licensing (they already cannot); and

Establish incentives (mentioned monetary) for agencies/governments to comply with immigration enforcement.

Now, let’s be clear, this is motivated by the tragic death of the innocent woman randomly killed in San Francisco by a man who had been supposedly deported six times, who had within the last few months been arrested by the San Francisco Police on a “drug charge” (we don’t know what that was), who was then released without telling ICE he was being released.  San Francisco has been called a “sanctuary city ” by some because it does not recognize random ICE detainers. Here in Georgia, there are a several counties that also do not recognize ICE detainers, including Clayton, Fulton and DeKalb Counties. But, what does that really mean, and what is a “sanctuary city”?
Under a Georgia law passed at the height of the anti-immigration frenzy in Georgia, a “sanctuary policy”

means any regulation, rule, policy, or practice adopted by a local governing body which prohibits or restricts local officials or employees from communicating or cooperating with federal officials or law enforcement officers with regard to reporting immigration status information while such local official or employee is acting within the scope of his or her official duties.

Georgia already has a detailed anti-sanctuary policy.  In light of the existing law, McKoon seems to be merely using a tragedy to further the political agenda of those who support anti-immigrant policies.
Further, McKoon does not bother to mention where the money to enforce his new policies and databases will come from, nor does he recognize what is already state law for licensing.  In Georgia no undocumented person can get any license of any kind, because, again, the Georgia code requires that the licensing authorities verify with the DHS SAVE database the immigration status of each licensee.  O.C.G.A. 50-26-1.  Perhaps McKoon is merely trying to support the ill-conceived Immigration Enforcement Review Board established under HB 87 (which has cost taxpayers money since its inception, with little to show for it).
Finally, the whole idea that a “sanctuary” policy is to blame for the death of this woman is not entirely accurate.  Numerous federal district courts and at least one circuit court have ruled that the ICE “detainer” is unconstitutional to enforce, because it does not rely on any probable cause grounds.  It is so unenforceable that DHS itself has realized it cannot continue Secure Communities, the program it was extensively used under.  A new program is now in place that requires ICE to issue actual arrest warrants for individuals and serve those on the jails where persons are detained.  With an arrest warrant (where there is probable cause) a jail WILL hold a person in custody for ICE and notify them when the person is ready to be release. This includes those facilities in Georgia who constitutionally cannot recognize the old ICE detainer.
The ICE detainer was used to deport hundreds of thousands of  landscapers and dishwashers, usually for a driving infraction, and most with families and children in the United States.  It was a lazy approach to immigration enforcement; the low-hanging fruit.  ICE must now actually do some work to verify the immmigration status of the person in the custody of the local jail (and to be clear, ALL arrestees are still run through the federal immigration database and ICE is still notified of all arrestees it might want to deport).  ICE must verify that this person is in fact deportable from the United States and issue an arrest warrant for them and serve it on the jail.  If ICE had done its job in San Francisco, the alleged murderer would have been in their custody.
Finally, much is made of the fact that the person in question was deported six times and returned to the United States each time.  Hopefully, we will realize that this means that no matter how much money you want to throw at the border, a determined individual is going to come back.  A more effective enforcement strategy, coupled with a functioning legal immigration system is what is needed, and yet, that is what is being argued against by McKoon.
With any luck, and a little common sense, McKoon’s SB 6 will be relegated to the ash heap of history, and we can ask our Georgia legislators to work with our Congressman and Senators to pass an actual immigration bill that effectively secures our borders, and promotes and sustains legal immigration to the United States.  Posturing, like that done here by McKoon, undermines the good of the nation for the sake of political gain.


Charles Kuck

Managing Partner