GAINESVILLE, Ga. (AP) -- The federal government should stop allowing local police in Georgia to enforce U.S. immigration laws because it leads to racial profiling and erodes public trust, according to a recent letter from a coalition of 25 groups.
The groups sent a letter Thursday to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking her to end the so-called 287(g) program, which authorizes local police officers to enforce federal immigration law.
"Today in Georgia, as in many states with 287(g) agreements, the color of a person's skin and the accent of his or her voice create a target for harassment, pretextual arrest, and humiliating detention," the letter said. "Hard experience has taught us that local police too often fail to implement federal immigration law in a manner that is racially neutral or that conforms to the standards of your agency."
Attorney Arturo Corso, whose law firm signed the letter said the program was not being used to target criminals and drug offenders as originally intended. Corso said the majority of those deported are nonviolent traffic offenders.
The Hall County Sheriff's Office, which has reached an enforcement agreement with the federal government, defended the program. Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, an agency spokesman, said that the United States is a "nation of laws."
"As such, it's imperative that we uphold and enforce our laws, including our immigration laws," he said. "We feel that we've done our best to do that in a consistent and fair manner."
Wilbanks said the enforcement agreement is not intended as a tool for patrol officers to target suspected illegal immigrants.