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Sheriff previously pledged not to assist ICE where nursing student was murdered

via John Q Williams for Sheriff
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There is debate in Athens, Georgia around whether the community can be considered a “sanctuary city” following the murder of nursing student Laken Riley allegedly by an illegal immigrant.

When the Athens mayor insisted the city was not a sanctuary, residents pointed to past comments by Athens-Clarke County Sheriff John Williams from his 2020 campaign where he stated he would not cooperate with ICE and promised not to contribute to a “culture of fear” among undocumented immigrants.

Williams said building trust in the community was important and the sheriff’s office would not be doing immigration roundups or detainers.

Williams said, “It is not my intention to cooperate with detainers.”

He explained, “I see it as the sheriff’s responsibility to protect the community. We can’t help with a culture of fear in our community and expect our community to respond and help us in situations.”

Williams said while campaigning, that “Building relationships is key and if we’re antagonizing people because they are undocumented, then they built that fear in them, and they’re not likely to come to us. Not only when we need their help, but when they need our help.”

“So that’s not something that we’d be doing. We won’t be doing any types of round-ups, and we won’t be contributing to that culture of fear,” promised the sheriff.

Williams added, “We want people to respect the police, but we also want them to trust us.”

His past remarks were brought up after angry protesters interrupted the mayor’s press briefing on increasing public safety, shouting he was “liar” and had “blood on his hands” for the murder due to being a sanctuary city.

While the mayor maintained Georgia law does not allow for sanctuary cities, Williams’ prior position has led some residents to characterize Athens as one.

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