Atlanta City Detention Center.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order this morning to permanently stop receiving U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees at the city jail and for current detainees to be transferred as soon as possible.

The executive order was signed as the Trump administration announced a new rule  that would allow immigrant families to be held in detention indefinitely. The move also comes after a scathing report was issued on alleged human rights abuse at the jail, known as the Atlanta City Detention Center. The city is also exploring selling the jail facility after a sharp drop in inmates.

“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 in a statement.

The City of Atlanta originally entered into an agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service in March 2010, which allowed the housing of ICE detainees. That agreement was originally halted by the mayor’s temporary executive order in June, after the Trump administration began to enforce zero-tolerance immigration policies that resulted in the separation of hundreds of families at the United States/Mexico border.

To assist the city in determining the best path forward, the Bottoms convened an Advisory Committee on Immigrant Detention made up of advocates, representatives of ICE and Department of Corrections staff.  After numerous meetings and the receipt of public input, the committee recommended that the city should no longer accept ICE detainees.

“With the guidance of immigration detention and corrections experts, I have determined that the most prudent decision is to permanently stop accepting and housing ICE detainees in the Atlanta City Detention Center,” Bottoms said. “I do not make this decision lightly, or without concern as to the impact on these individuals. But until there is comprehensive immigration reform, this is the only way Atlanta can truly fulfill its legacy of compassion and tolerance. Civil offenses do not warrant criminal consequences – and no one should be jailed solely because they seek the American Dream.”

In addition to the executive order, Bottoms announced several new initiatives to support immigrants in Atlanta including a partnership with Uber, Catholic Charities, and Lutheran Family Services to provide free transportation and meals to families separated at the US-Mexico border and reunited in Atlanta.  She will also be asking the Atlanta City Council to approve the expansion of legal services to immigrants through the City’s Access to Justice program in the Office of the Public Defender.

The city has also filed an amicus brief along with other U.S. cities to protect Americans who have Temporary Protective Status (TPS) from deportation.  This will assist 12,000 Georgians who are from El Salvador, Sudan, Haiti, and other affected countries

A copy of the executive order can be read here.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.