Decatur’s new immigration policy sparks controversy

Published: Sep. 30, 2019 at 9:25 PM CDT
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DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) - Last week, Decatur’s police chief instituted a new policy determining when his officers can work with federal ICE agents. On Sunday night, the mayor voiced concerns that the policy would make Decatur a “sanctuary city.”

In a Facebook post, Mayor Tab Blowing said Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen is instructing officers to not support ICE agents within Decatur city limits. This started a frenzy on social media with people on both sides of the issue stating opinions.

According to the actual policy, Decatur police are leaving immigration enforcement up to ICE. It then states that there are voluntary agreements, provided by ICE, that require local consent.

Allen states in the policy that Decatur police will not enter into those agreements unless it is approved by himself or if it concerns the safety and/or well-being of the citizens of Decatur.

The policy goes on to state that local police will not detain or arrest people solely for suspected violation of immigration law.

There’s specific language in the policy that Decatur officers do not have the right to request information regarding a person’s immigration status.

Bowling and Allen later released a joint statement saying the city’s legal department and the police are working to clarify the policy and correct misunderstandings or vagueness in the original policy write-up.

No city department would provide immediate clarification.

A lot of residents are asking does a person’s citizenship come into question if arrested in Decatur. Or does it at all?

Mike Swafford, spokesperson for the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, said, “When it comes to immigrants, our goal is to follow existing Alabama law. That comes from 2011 immigration policy. In addition to our normal role of upholding the constitution of the United States, that’s our defining policy of the program when it comes to dealing with illegal immigrants. When someone is arrested, our policy in the Morgan County Jail is if somebody comes in and they’re an undocumented immigrant, we notify ICE. At that point, we wait for their response as to whatever the next steps are.”

Swafford said the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office’s policy is to also to not seek out illegal immigrants and leave that up to ICE.

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