Congressman Hank Johnson holds ICE town hall to ease concerns
On May 10, Congressman Hank Johnson hosted and moderated an event with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials and members of immigrant communities from DeKalb and Gwinnett County at Georgia Piedmont Technical College’s Conference Center.
The meeting provided a rare opportunity for members of the community to air out their grievances with recent ICE operations, as well as the recent executive orders passed down by President Trump’s administration.
There were 10 representatives from ICE at the event. Dozens of immigration activists were in attendance, including the following organizations: the Coalition of Refugee Service Agencies (CRSA), International Rescue Committee (IRC), New American Pathways, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of GA, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and the National Lawyers Guild (Georgia Board).
“We face an emergency in the community, especially with respect to Somalians who live in Clarkston,” said Congressman Johnson. “Since February, agents for ICE detained 675 individuals for removal and over the past couple of weeks, 10 Somalians have been detained by ICE.”
“These folks from ICE are federal employees and I can’t command they attend this type of gathering, but they are willing to come and I appreciate them coming,” said Johnson. “ICE was able to hear the people vent. I am hopeful that the individualized attention from ICE reps can result in some relief for the Clarkston detainees.”
Along with Congressman Johnson and several ICE officials, the other guest speaker at the meeting was Omar Shekhey, Executive Director of the Somali American Community Center. Shekhey was thankful that the Congressman hosted the event and said that while Somalians have been lawfully coming to Georgia since the 1970s, they now feel they are being singled out and profiled.
“We are terrified and scared,” said Shekhey. “These policies are not rational.”
The program included a question and answer portion between attendees in the audience and ICE officials on stage. One speaker was Asma Elhuni, Outreach Coordinator with CAIR, demanded that ICE be held accountable by members of Congress to operate according to the laws they are governed by.
“I was deeply moved by the pleas from the family members about their need for their loved ones to return to them, about the conditions their family members are under while being detained in the ICE detention facility, and about the prospects that await the detainees when they are deported to Somalia,” said Congressman Johnson. “Drought, famine, Al Shaabab, and lack of family, friends and familiarity with the country, and death, are what await these detainees once they are deported.”
Congressman Johnson concluded the event by saying that he plans to visit the ICE Detention Center in Irwin County because its facilities were a topic of concern throughout the course of the event. Congressman Johnson also had some additional concerns about the ICE Detention Center after reading an article published in May by the Penn State Law Center, “Imprisoned Justice: Inside Two Georgia Immigrant Detention Centers.”
After the program, attendees were given the chance to speak one-on-one with ICE officials.