Atlanta’s city jail will no longer accept immigrants detained by federal officials, the mayor announced Thursday, saying it was the best way to demonstrate her administration’s opposition to current “inhumane” national immigration policies.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order directing the Atlanta City Detention Center to stop accepting detainees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The jail had been receiving the detainees under an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service.
The order directs Atlanta’s corrections chief to formally request that ICE transfer all detainees as soon as possible.
“As we work to achieve our vision of an Atlanta that is welcoming and inclusive, with equal opportunity for all, it is untenable for our city to be complicit in the inhumane immigration policies that have led to the separation of hundreds of families at the United States southern border,” Bottoms said.
Until immigration policies are reformed, refusing to hold the federal detainees is the only way Atlanta can live up to its “legacy of compassion and tolerance,” the mayor said.
“Civil offenses do not warrant criminal consequences—and no one should be jailed solely because they seek the American Dream,” she added.
U.S. Rep. and civil rights icon John Lewis applauded Bottoms’ action, remarking in a statement that “people across Georgia suffer from a federal policy that is cruel and inhumane.”
“I am glad the Mayor of Atlanta decided to show the way to other major cities who shelter these abuses,” Lewis said.
In a statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center said the federal agency “does not belong in our jails.”
“This is an important step in the right direction for the city of Atlanta, but more work needs to be done to further policies that promote public safety and protect the rights of immigrants,” Laura Rivera, a lawyer for the Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights group, said in the statement.