Incumbent Sheriff Ira Edwards recently lost his bid for reelection in the Democratic primary for Athens-Clark County, Georgia. Edwards, a 20-year sheriff, found himself embroiled in controversy after assisting ICE in its pursuit of undocumented immigrants.
The specific action taken by Edwards that caused an uproar among the immigrant population in his jurisdiction was his choice to honor ICE detainers. These detainers are warrantless requests sent out by ICE asking local sheriff’s offices to keep immigrants in jail past their release dates if they cannot provide proof of citizenship or legal immigration status. The extended jail time is meant to provide ICE with additional time to take the undocumented immigrants into custody.
The Athens Immigrant Rights Group was one of the many groups that took exception to the actions of Sheriff Edwards. The group began making phone calls and writing letters in protest. Sheriff Edwards stopped honoring the detainers in response to the protests against him. However, the two-point loss he suffered at the polls to challenger John Williams is evidence that the damage for the incumbent sheriff was already done.
Williams, perhaps learning from the mistakes made by his Democratic predecessor, has vowed to not assist ICE by detaining immigrants at the request of the agency. Williams says he is committed to treating all the people in the Athens-Clark County area with respect. He says that subjecting his neighbors to the constant fear of deportation goes against his values.
Immigration law in America is a complex issue that is constantly reshaping itself. An immigration attorney can provide immigrant families with the peace of mind that comes from knowing all paperwork for the path to citizenship is in order while also saving them time, money, and aggravation.