Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff said Saturday that local law enforcement should not enforce federal immigration law because it betrays the "bonds of trust" police should have with the community.
"I don't think it's the role of local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law," he said during an online town hall with the College Democrats of Georgia. "It is important that there be bonds of trust between local law enforcement and local communities.... We can't live in a society where people are afraid to call the police while someone's being assaulted in their home, because everyone's going to get their papers checked when the local PD arrives."
College Democrats of Georgia president Bhavin Patel, who asked Ossoff about his immigration views, told the Washington Free Beacon he took the answer as an endorsement of so-called sanctuary cities. The term refers to municipalities that do not enforce federal immigration laws. Some cities, counties, and even entire states prevent local law enforcement from cooperating with federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or Customs and Border Protection against illegal immigration.
"I agreed with Jon that local law enforcement should not be required to enforce federal immigration law, which I understood as an endorsement of sanctuary cities," he wrote in an email. "Jon explained that there should be 'bonds of trust between local law enforcement and communities.' I agree with Jon because it is profoundly unsafe to have local law enforcement act as de facto federal immigration agents for enforcing the federal immigration law."
Ossoff's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment on his immigration policy and sanctuary cities.
Ossoff also called the 287(g) program—a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act enabling state and local law enforcement to assist federal immigration authorities—"misguided." Renewed by the Georgia Department of Corrections in February, it is a voluntary program that deputizes law enforcement agencies to assist ICE in identifying and apprehending illegal immigrants.
"Nobody is compelling them to enforce federal immigration laws," Federation for American Immigration Reform spokesman Ira Mehlman said. "Many police departments have been using these programs for years. This is simply local governments deciding on their own that this is beneficial to their community."
Ossoff also said he would target those who hire illegal immigrants and that the country needs border control.
"That's what makes us a country.... This isn't something that a lot of Democrats say," he said. "It is right that we have a problem that we don't know and can't control who's flowing across our borders. We need to fix that problem."
In one of the two 2020 Senate races in Georgia, Ossoff is hoping to face off against Sen. David Perdue (R.). He faces Democrats Teresa Tomlinson and Sarah Riggs Amico in Tuesday's primary to receive the party's nomination.