GLAHR Action, SONG Power, and Mijente, are getting together to mobilize voters to unseat an anti-Immigrant Sheriff with a racist history in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
For the last 24 years the County with the most immigrants and Latinos in Georgia, has been under the power of one of the most racist, and pro-Trump Sheriffs in our state. This year, Butch Conway, announced he is no longer running for re-election, and has selected another Republican with anti-immigrant, anti-Black positions to take his place. A Latino man. We are organizing to make sure we fight to change that, and get us as close as possible to having a pro-Immigrant, pro-Black, Sheriff in power.
Sheriff Butch Conway came to power in Gwinnett County, Georgia in 1996, the same year that Atlanta hosted the world Olympics, which also marked the start of a huge demographic shift that brought thousands of immigrants to Georgia. Early this year, Conway announced that he would not be seeking re-election, leaving a 24-year legacy of criminalizing and detaining immigrants of color.
In 2010, Sheriff Conway signed into effect a partnership with ICE under its 287(g) program, which uses Gwinnett County resources to deputize sheriffs to do the work of ICE agents. The decision has not only led to the deportation of millions of people in Georgia -- Gwinnett County ranks fifth in the nation for the number of immigration detainers issued by ICE -- but also in rampant racial profiling and harassment of Georgia Latinx residents. Sheriff Conway’s tenure in office is part of a long, historical trajectory of sheriffs in the South, as modern day local sheriffs were born out of the work of slave patrols used to uphold the institution of chattel slavery, and subsequently, to enforce segregation.
Throughout his time in office, Sheriff Conway has doubled down on immigration enforcement and the targeting of immigrants. This is most apparent in his alliance with the controversial figure, D.A. King, a self-described “proud American nationalist,” who once wrote that after a rally attended by Latino immigrants in Doraville his first act was to take a shower. Most recently, at an ethics hearing, Sheriff Conway expressed his gratitude to Mr. King for introducing the 287(g) program to Gwinnett County. When Mr. King asked Sheriff Conway whether he had plans to get rid of the 287(g) program, his reply, “Absolutely not.”
But Georgia is changing. Community organizations have challenged the Sheriff’s position on 287(g) every step of the way. Even prior to the Sheriff’s resignation, the growing opposition to his policies were signs that our community needs a new Sheriff - one that works to understand and accommodate the diversity and vibrancy of the immigrant communities in Georgia. Not too long ago during the 2018 Gubernatorial election when Democrat Stacey Abrams came close to victory, despite all efforts to suppress democratic votes. Immigrant rights advocates see the opening of Gwinnett County’s Sheriff seat as an opportunity to set a progressive agenda for the state and re-define the relationship between immigrants and local law enforcement.
This year, we have the opportunity to turn out this election season and hold political leaders accountable for their partnership and complicity in the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. We are committed to doubling down our efforts to elect a Sheriff in Gwinnett County who will decriminalize and protect our community; create a sense of safety for immigrants and US-born residents of color instead of invoking fear through arrests and divisiveness; and commit to uplifting and bridging together all of our communities - to start, by ending the 287(g) program.
This November, in addition to fighting to get the best person for our communities into federal office, people around the country are tasked with the power to vote for local government and law enforcement officials who will work to improve our communities rather than criminalize us. If we are able to put in place a Gwinnett County Sheriff with a pro-immigrant agenda, it will be a sign that there is a chance for progressive wins - regardless of what happens at the federal level - even in the South.
This work is a collaboration between the C4 organizations GLAHR Action, SONG Power, and Mijente PAC.