City leaders in Clarkston have taken a stand on federal immigration practices. They voted Tuesday night not to detain anyone at the request of federal immigration authorities, unless they see a court-issued warrant.
Clarkston is a small but diverse city with a massive immigrant population. Officials took a step last night that is legal and, its mayor says, largely symbolic but necessary after recent events.
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Clarkston residents came to Tuesday night's city council meeting passionate for a message -- a message that activists nationwide have been preaching for months.
"We wanted to reaffirm our place as a welcoming and compassionate community," said Clarkston's mayor, Ted Terry.
The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement division issues administrative warrants instructing local law enforcement agencies to hold persons they believe are in the country illegally until their agents can take them into custody.
ICE detainer requests are not judicial warrants and the city believes they can not be forced to adhere to the requests.
City officials say they believe the enforcement of the ICE detainer requests are potentially in violation of the Fourth Amendment rights of the persons being detained, and as such, they feel they should not honor such requests.
The message from Terry and Clarkston's city council came through a resolution to adopt a non-detainer policy that says the city will not 'arrest, detain, or transport anyone solely on the basis of an ICE 'detainer request.' It will require a warrant.
"We had local members living in fear, reaching out to our elected officials, saying, 'Is this true? Is our Clarkston police helping ICE find these people?" Terry said.
"There's a great deal of misinformation about what this agency does," said ICE's southern regional spokesperson Bryan Cox.
“ICE continues to work cooperatively with our local law enforcement partners throughout the country to uphold public safety. We share the same overarching goal as our local partners – keeping our communities safe. ICE is focused first and foremost on criminals and other individuals who threaten public safety and national security. We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to achieve that goal,” Cox said.
Cox agrees what Clarkston did is legal, but he pushes back against the notion that ICE is simply rounding up undocumented immigrants -- including ten Somali Clarkston residents last month.
"Out of the ten individuals arrested, seven had criminal convictions above their immigration violations," Cox said.
"The people I've been made aware of don't have that lengthy criminal history," Terry said.
"All of those individuals had had their day in court," Cox said.
"The concern I have is that if we have this broad blanket on anyone that might have an undocumented status, and we're not focused on the violent criminals," Terry said.
This all comes under the umbrella of President Trump's executive order that has been called a "travel ban" from Muslim countries. Those protests – and the recent arrests – led to Tuesday night's message in Clarkston.
"We passed this more for symbolic effect," Terry said. "We wanted to leave no doubt in residents' minds that they don't have to fear Clarkston Police."
Clarkston is not alone in considering this measure. The city of Atlanta is also looking into it. A city spokesperson tells 11Alive News, "the review process is active at this time."
The city of Clarkston has in the past considered an expansion of voting rights to non-US-citizens, and guaranteed a $15 minimum wage to city workers. It also has passed the most liberal marijuana city ordinance in the state of Georgia.
More than half of the city's residents are foreign-born, and over the past 20 years, the city has welcomed thousands of refugees from Syria and other war-ravaged nations.