Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition and Athens for Everyone are excited to announce that 11 candidates for the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission have issued a joint statement urging the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office to overturn their policy of cooperating with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in the effort to detain and deport people based on their immigration status.
The signing candidates cover the mayor’s race and all six commission seats up for election on May 22. They are: for Mayor, Kelly Girtz, Richie Knight, and Antwon Stephens; for District 1, Patrick Davenport; for District 2, Mariah Parker; for District 3, Melissa Link and Tony Eubanks; for District 5, Tim Denson; for District 7, Russell Edwards; and for District 9, Ovita Thornton and Tommy Valentine.
The full text of the statement:
“As candidates and elected officials for the Athens-Clarke County Mayor & Commission, we strongly believe in creating a safe and inclusive community for all who live here. To that end, we wish to show our unity in opposition to the Sheriff’s Office’s policy of voluntary cooperation with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), implemented in July 2017. This policy of honoring ICE detainer requests breaks up Athenian families, opens the county to costly lawsuits, and erodes trust in law enforcement. We urge the Sheriff’s Office to make our community safer, ease our children’s fear, and protect our government from legal action by reversing this policy of voluntary cooperation.”
Kelly Girtz, candidate for Mayor
Richie Knight, candidate for Mayor
Antwon Stephens, candidate for Mayor
Patrick Davenport, candidate for District 1 Commissioner
Mariah Parker, candidate for District 2 Commissioner
Melissa Link, candidate for District 3 Commissioner
Tony Eubanks, candidate for District 3 Commissioner
Tim Denson, candidate for District 5 Commissioner
Russell Edwards, candidate for District 7 Commissioner
Ovita Thornton, candidate for District 9 Commissioner
Tommy Valentine, candidate for District 9 Commissioner
In July of 2017, the Athens community became aware that the Sheriff is voluntarily collaborating with ICE by holding persons without a warrant, using a “detainer request.” Detainer requests are not judicial warrants. They are requests from ICE asking local law enforcement to hold for 48 hours anyone without documentation, so that ICE can take them and start deportation proceedings. While ICE officers claim to make communities safe, the reality of their work is very different. ICE is an agency dedicated to detaining and deporting 100 percent of immigrants who do not have, and are often unable to get, legal status in the U.S. The agency routinely separates families from their children, many of whom are citizens, and destroys lives of people with deep ties to our community.
The AIRC and A4E, along with other community members of Athens, demand that the Sheriff reverse this voluntary policy. Unfortunately, the Sheriff continues to insist on framing discussions of immigration through the false rhetoric of crime and terrorism. Considering the fact that immigrants are less likely to commit violent crimes than native-born citizens, we understand the Sheriff’s rhetoric to be deeply misleading and harmful. We applaud candidates and officials who take a stand against ICE, to keep our community safe from those who would see them detained and deported.by