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Clarke County Sheriff warns of overcrowding if state lawmakers pass immigration bill

Clarke County’s Sheriff is warning that a measure under consideration in the Georgia General Assembly could have major effects on the county’s jail.

House Bill 1105, the “Georgia Criminal Alien Track and Report Act,” would require local law enforcement agencies to comply with requests from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold suspected undocumented persons for up to 48 hours.

That’s not something the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, does right now. Sheriff John Q. Williams says that if his department is forced to comply with federal detainers, it could cause major problems.

"I think that would put us in a situation where a lot more would be detained in jail and right now with with our staffing, we're trying to get through that," Williams said. "And just in terms of being able to safely operate the jail, we're bursting at the seams right now with our numbers."

Williams says that overcrowding will lead to safety and staffing issues.

"We're going to have to open more units," he said. "We're going to have to find a way to man those units. That could be, I guess, about as bad a scenario as you could get as far as not having the staffing to safely operate the jail. But then also with getting people back and forth to court, there's a lot of dominoes that would fall into effect."

House Bill 1105 passed the State House of Representatives, and currently in the Georgia Senate’s public safety committee. Williams released a statement earlier this week clarifying the Sheriff's Office's policy on undocumented migrants.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.