287(g) may not mean much of anything to the majority of Hall County residents, but to Latino residents, 287(g) could mean the end of the American dream.
Under Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provides state and local law enforcement officers, with federal approval and training, the authorization to identify, process and detain immigration offenders they encounter during their regular, everyday law-enforcement activity.
Sponsored by the group Gainesville United, a town hall meeting at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex was held Thursday evening to discuss community and law enforcement issues. The primary issue? Section 287(g).
“Now that (local law enforcement) knows that especially the Latino community has a huge concern with the 287(g) program,” said Michelle Jones, a candidate for Georgia State House District 30. “I’m confident that (local law enforcement) will be having more discussions about that and hopefully we can put an end to it.
“I would like to see Latinos more confident in calling the police when they are needed because at the moment they don’t.”
A perhaps unintended consequence of Section 287(g) is that some crimes against Latinos allegedly go unreported due to a fear that police involvement will potentially lead to deportation even if a Latino resident is calling the police for help.
To help put the community’s fear at ease, a panel of local law enforcement officials and faith leaders, along with Jones, was put together to answer questions and concerns from Hall County residents.
“Being able to reach the community, being able to get information out to the community is our top priority,” said Sergeant Kevin Holbrook, head of the Community Relations Unit for the Gainesville City Police Department. “Many times people don’t understand why we operate the way we do, why we act the way we do and we want the community to know that.”
“Our purpose here tonight, of course, is about coming together as Gainesville,” said Roderick Hughey, pastor at Voices of Faith North. “It’s about all of us coming together no matter what background you’re from or what religion.
“It’s about coming together and truly doing something. Not just talking about it.”
This is still an ongoing discussion as Hughey says they have another event already planned for next month and plan to keep going every month with an event of some sort. As far as future town hall meetings are concerned, Hughey says their goal is to have one a quarter.