Released 04 September 2009  By Jonathan Stinson
The first two are about a townhall meeting on 287g in Albertville, Alabama. The last one is a warning from the NJ attorney general about racial profiling under the auspices of 287g.
Town hall meeting hits on 287(g) program
By Jonathan Stinson
Published September 3, 2009
During Albertville’s town hall meeting Monday night, the mayor and City Council hit on issues about how the 287(g) program would be implemented and paid for, but after the meeting some in the Hispanic community still had concerns.
Mayor Lindsey Lyons and Councilman Chuck Ellis voiced their support for the 287(g) program.
The 287(g) program would allow local police officers to act as Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agents.
“287(g) is government terminology, much like 401(k), like some of those other things we talk about. It’s just a paragraph in a section of a code that goes with this, this, and this, and I’m sure that there are a lot of lawyers here who can explain it much better than I can,” Ellis said. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a politician, but I do care,”
“The most important thing that you see when you see somebody implement the powers that 287(g) has given them is that fact that they are doing something or taking care of something or somebody that really needs to be taken care of,” Ellis said.
The mayor also said that the program would not be used like people see it used by Maricopa Sheriff’s Department, which has been criticized for abusing the powers granted in the program.
“Yes, we are pursuing the federal training for a portion of our police department … No. 2, no we are not going to use this as an avenue to target any immigrant because of your skin color, or what country you came from or anything of that nature,” Lyons said.
“It will be used as a law enforcement tool and I would think that we would all agree here tonight: No. 1, in all of our cultures, all of us, we have the criminal element. There is no doubt about it,” the mayor said.
“But, I think we can all agree that we don’t want the criminal element here,” Lyons said.
One of the concerns members of the Hispanic population has is the 287(g) training will be used to target every Hispanic.
Gloria Giles, who sometimes works as an interpreter, told a story to Ellis and Lyons after the meeting about a man who was arrested in Oneonta because of a traffic ticket and then deported.
“He was in a roadblock and he did have a warrant for his arrest because he didn’t pay a ticket,” Giles said. “He was taken to jail and he did not know about (the ticket).”
The family of the man asked for Giles help and they went to try to get him released on bond, but when the family was ready to pay the bond, the man was held on a Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainer, and deported shortly after.
“I knew the family. I knew the man. He was a working man,” Giles said. “He was just a common man that came here and worked and went to church. He was not the type of person that was going to go out and make trouble,” she said.
It is situations like the one in Oneonta that have many in the Hispanic community worried.
Albertville police Chief Benny Womack said he couldn’t guarantee that an undocumented immigrant who has never committed a serious crime is never going to be held on an ICE detainer, but he did say it would be the intent of his department to try to target illegal immigrants who commit more serious crimes.
“You can’t draw a line like that,” Womack said. “If you have arrest powers to do something then you are constitutionally obligated to do it,” he said.
“But, with the traffic safety checkpoints, we target areas that have a lot of the criminal element in them, and I’m not talking about any racial component. You get people on arrest warrants, drug cases, because we almost always have a canine there to detect drugs, that’s what it’s there for,” Womack said.
Womack also said that because there would only be six to eight officers trained and all of those would not be patrol officers, there would not always be a guarantee that a 287(g) trained officer would be working one of the checkpoints.
Lyons said the training for the program is free, but the city would have to pay for the officer’s salary while they were being trained.
The mayor also mentioned there are some other communities in North Alabama who are also pursuing the program, but he would not specifically mention them.
“At this time we have had one contact from one of these other cities here in North Alabama and the bottom line there is we have an ally in a major city in North Alabama,” Lyons said.
Albertville holds town hall meeting
By Jonathan Stinson
Published September 3, 2009
The Hispanic community filed through the doors of the Albertville Recreation Center on Monday by the hundreds, with most of them dressed in white to show unity and support for one another.
The sheer number of the Hispanic community that turned out for the Albertville town hall meeting almost became as important as the issues that were on the agenda like the 287(g) program, the reallocation of tax money, among others.
In all, the Hispanic population filled the bleachers, stood along the walls, and in the lobby of the Albertville Recreation Center.
About 700 people attended — most were Hispanic.
The majority of them could not speak English, according to people at the meeting who were bilingual, and the city did not allow an interpreter, so for most of the town hall meeting they just sat there in silence until a part of the meeting about mowing grass and cleaning up yards was translated by Aylene Sepulveda, the head of the North Alabama Hispanic Committee.
Then they applauded.
Mayor Lindsey Lyons said that a future meeting on immigration would be interpreted, but he felt the town hall meeting should not have had someone who interpreted every last word because there were more issues on the table than 287(g) and other immigration issues.
“(The immigration meeting) would address the issues they would be concerned about and I think it would be appropriate to have an interpreter their,” Lyons said.
“When (Aylene) asked if she could be the interpreter… I took it as, if someone had a question who was going to be at this meeting that couldn’t speak English, I thought she was going in that direction so she could interpret it to us, the question, and then interpret the answer to them,” Lyons said.
“I didn’t know that (Aylene) wanted to interpret the entire meeting, and due to time constraints and all, it just wasn’t feasible and not possible and that is the only reason why,” the mayor said.
“It is not right that you announce there will be an interpreter and the people are here, they have taken off from their jobs, and they are not understanding,” Sepulveda said. “If you really want to work as a community you have to get it to the people so they understand.”
Toward the end of the meeting when council members were given five minutes to make closing statements, the majority of the Hispanic population stood up and walked out.
“I think it’s important that we move forward and schedule (an immigration forum) which would address just illegal immigration, and the related issues that come along with it for the Hispanic community” Lyons said.
After the shuffling had settled down, the mayor addressed the exodus that had just taken place.
“Every citizen’s question that had been sent in online, across the board, could not be addressed tonight due to time constraints,” Lyons said. “So we pulled out a lot of serious questions, and I think we can all agree they are serious. All of them deserve an answer.
“I consider it very disrespectful for what just happened to happen. If you want to try to get along and you walk out on this, that is just not appreciated … and that is not a good show of faith when we are trying to get along here, and I’ve just got to say it,” the mayor said.
After the meeting was over, a few of the people who could not speak English stayed behind while some of the comments were translated for to them.
“I’ll say that I thought it was deeply disappointing that they discussed issues surrounding immigration enforcement, with 70 percent of the crowd being Hispanic and they did not provide interpretation for that part of the program, when they were willing to interpret things about keeping your yard clean.” Andrew Turner, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said. “They were apparently unwilling to provide interpretation, such that 70 percent of the crowd would have understood what was being said about the future of immigration enforcement in Albertville.”