MARIETTA — Tuesday’s meeting of the Cobb Board of Commissioners was at least the third commission meeting in a row to feature at least one public speaker addressing the county’s involvement with the federal 287(g) program. But Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren earlier this month announced his department’s continuation of its involvement with the program, which allows department personnel to be deputized to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
The sheriff’s department can check the immigration status of those in custody they suspect are in the country illegally. Warren previously said that in 2007, he had been the first sheriff in Georgia and the seventh in the nation to enter into a 287(g) agreement with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Commissioners during the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting heard from four community members who urged the county not to renew its involvement with the 287(g) program.
“This program has deteriorated the trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community,” said Geovani Serrano, a Marietta resident who lives on Franklin Gateway. “The 287(g) program allows police officers to racially profile us. Not only that, but it has also broken many families apart. We do believe in public safety — however, we want to have public safety that we can be secure with.”
But according to county spokesperson Ross Cavitt, county commissioners have no involvement in whether Warren or his department remains involved in the federal program.
“(T)his is an agreement between the Sheriff and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Cavitt said in a county statement. “The Sheriff’s Office is a constitutionally mandated office in Georgia, and the Sheriff has a great deal of latitude when it comes to his budget and operations. Any decision about participating in the 287(g) program would be the Sheriff’s alone.”
Even though the Board of Commissioners voted in past years to acknowledge an agreement between the Sheriff’s Office and ICE, they have not taken any action on recent renewals, Cavitt said.
“It is not expected the Board will have any involvement with future decisions concerning continuing with the 287(g) program,” Cavitt added.
Glenn Daniel, a spokesman for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, said in a statement to the MDJ that the 287(g) program “promotes public safety and serves as a deterrent to criminal illegal aliens who avoid our county because they know if they are arrested ICE will be notified.” He added that it “only applies to subjects arrested and brought to the Cobb County Adult Detention Facility.”
“Neither the sheriff’s office nor any local law enforcement official makes any decisions on who is to be deported. That decision is determined by ICE and the Federal Immigration Judges,” Daniel said. “We have seen a steady decline in the number of foreign nationals coming into our jail since we have started the 287(g) program.”