The poet Audre Lorde said, “Revolution is not a one-time event.”
Small movements often change the world — a tea party in Boston, a march across an Alabama bridge, a fight for farmworkers' rights in California.
As the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement in America, Atlanta has a long and bold history of standing up for the disenfranchised and our most vulnerable populations.
I am proud of that legacy and, as mayor, I am determined to stay the course.
On Sept. 6, I signed an executive order permanently ending the acceptance of federal immigration detainees at the Atlanta Detention Center. At the same time, I requested the removal of all remaining U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement prisoners from our jail.
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As a lawyer, former judge and, most important, the mother of four children, I was moved to act in response to President Donald Trump’s horrific zero-tolerance immigration policy.
This cruel and immoral fiat heartlessly cages innocent children, causes irreparable physical and psychological harm, and prevents reunification with their parents, possibly forever.
With this decision, Atlanta is sending the message that we will not stand by and be complicit in the depraved federal practice of separating children from families seeking asylum at the border.
Some may call this a symbolic gesture that sends merely a ripple of hope into a tidal wave of social injustice.
Others, preying upon people’s fears, will say we are endangering our citizens.
On the contrary, I believe this decision enhances public safety. When immigrant communities do not have to fear the police, they are more likely to assist them when law enforcement issues arise in their neighborhoods.
I broke with ICE on this matter because it is the right thing to do for Atlanta, and it is the right thing to do for America.
It was also the right thing to do when we ended the requirement of cash bail for low-level offenders.
Three weeks after I took office, we ended the discriminatory and predatory system that forces destitute and low-income people behind bars for extended periods of time simply because of their inability to post a cash bond.
No longer is poverty a crime resulting in imprisonment in Atlanta.
These decisions are not about being “soft on crime.” Rather, they speak to our sense of equity and the fairness of the system regarding people who are presumed innocent under the law.
In Atlanta, we want to foster an understanding of what it means to be American and to be a citizen of a country where all people are created equal in the eyes of God.
I hope that other cities and municipalities will follow in our footsteps to fight racism and injustice in our communities, with what our native son King called “the fierce urgency of now.”
In hindsight, we see how small acts that change the world resonate over time. Today, it is critical to consider the lens through which history will view the United States of America, and the judgment that will be passed down on us all.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Atlanta
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