By R. Scott Belzer | The Champion,
City to pass “symbolic” non-detainer policy to help protect immigrant residents
“Somalians have been coming here since the 1980s. We have integrated into this great country. We have paid our dues for passes… We’ve raised our children here. When we saw the raids by ICE, it affected us. It hurt our feelings. It’s not something we’re used to here and expected from this country. In this country of freedom, everyone is judged by who they are. Now, our families are being raided, terrorized, profiled, separated and destroyed… This is not the American way—
I’ve been here for 35 years, been educated year. I’ve never seen anything like this—this is the work of the devil.”
These are the words of Omar Shekey, president of the Somali American Community Center in Clarkston.
Shekey is one of many Somali Americans living in Clarkston’s refugee and immigrant community. According to Shekey and others, residents of the DeKalb County city have faced approximately 10 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests and raids, resulting in hysteria unseen since fleeing Somalian refugees fled their native country.
“The country we left is waging a civil war right now,” Shekey said. “People are dying by famine, there’s a terrorist group suicide bombing every day. How can we allow people to go back to Somalia at this time? How can we allow people to hurt and separate families at this time? This is irrational, unconstitutional and inhumane.”
Following these reports, Clarkston’s public safety committee met April 27 to inform residents a non-detainer policy will be passed May 2 at Clarkston’s monthly city council meeting.
According to Clarkston officials, the non-detainer policy will urge law enforcement to not participate with requests from ICE unless presented with judicial warrants.
“An ICE detainer request is a voluntary request from ICE to state or local law enforcement to arrest or hold an individual until ICE can take that person into custody,” reads a memo to Clarkston city officials from city attorney Stephen Quinn. “In the last year alone, state and federal courts in four states—Minnesota, Texas, Rhode Island and New York—held that ICE detainers… raise the specter of routine Fourth Amendment violations. ICE detainers are not probable cause that a person is in the country illegally.”
While Quinn maintains a non-detainer policy will not violate Georgia law, he does acknowledge potential “retaliation” from federal authorities in the form of withholding funding.
Dozens residents were present at Clarkston’s meetings on April 27 to show support for Clarkston’s policy.
Some, such as Azadeh Shahshahani, legal director for Project South, Stephanie Ali, civic engagement director with New American Pathways, Stephanie Cho, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, and Dawn O’Neal of Black Lives Matter, were present to offer legal advice, social support and options to the Clarkston community.
Shashahani said a lack of a detainer policy places Fourth Amendment liability on Clarkston.
Others, such as Nema Musa, were present to share stories of family trauma–losing husbands, fathers and mothers in the middle of the night. Musa, a mother of five, said ICE officials approached her family one day before looking for a man named Hussein’s address. One day later, he was arrested.
According to Musa, her husband, Ibrahim Ahmed Musa, suffers from mental illness and is being inhumanely held at the Irwin County Detention Center on suicide watch. She said he is being denied medication and has lost a significant amount of weight.
“This is not right and this is not the America we know and this is not fair,” Musa said. “My husband has a social security card, his parents are citizens. He has work authorization he pays for every year. He checks in every six months with immigration.”
Others present shared similar stories involving model fathers and mothers who are—or have been—detained by ICE in the past few months. This prompted resident Tom McClellan to state any ordinance—even symbolic ones—are needed in Clarkston to send a message to the rest of the country.
Bryan Cox, spokesman for ICE’s southern regional office, said ICE is conducting routine “targeted enforcement operations” throughout the country. He said anyone arrested in Clarkston and detained elsewhere were unlawfully present foreign nationals who had a day in court in front of immigration judges.
Cox references Musa’s husband as a person with a removal issue as old as 1998. He also states one man, Abdull Issak, as someone with “numerous criminal convictions in DeKalb County.”
DeKalb County has no records of Issak or Musa ever being lodged in DeKalb County Jail.
Councilmen Ahmed Hassan, Dean Moore, Jamie Carroll and Awet Eyasu urged constituents to remain strong while Clarkston officials considered options for protecting residents.