Torpy at Large: The real reason Casey Cagle is on Decatur’s case

6:00 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 Local

Lt. Governor Casey Cagle this week again tore into Decatur, alleging that the liberal bastion is a hideaway — no, more like a sanctuary — for immigrants who have entered this country without legal permission.

Cagle filed a complaint with something called the Immigration Enforcement Review Board, a kangaroo court created by the state to give anti-immigration activist D.A. King something to do.

The Lt. Gov’s beef with the city is a Decatur police manual that says the cops aren’t supposed to turn over people to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless there’s a judicial warrant to hold them.

In essence, Decatur is saying police will hang onto people they stop if they are wanted for something — an active warrant for fraud, burglary, not showing up to traffic court, etc. — but they won’t throw the person into the slammer on behalf of ICE simply if there’s a suspicion that they sneaked across the border without U.S. blessing.

Last year, Candidate Trump said he wanted to get rid of the “bad hombres” coming to our country, and Old Casey is deputizing himself in that roundup. In his correspondence, Cagle goes all law-and-order on this matter, talking about murders and dope dealing, and even sex cases.

Cagle’s complaint states that “sanctuary policies create sanctuaries for criminals,” and that he wants to “ensure that every criminal illegal alien encountered by our law enforcement officers is arrested, transferred to federal custody and deported.”

“Criminal illegal alien” might mean that an immigrant is peddling meth or gang banging. Or it might mean he’s a dude who waded across the Rio Grande, cuts your lawn and has his paperwork messed up.

In his complaint, Cagle notes that Georgia prisons house 1,316 convicts whom ICE wants to see after they get released. Sounds bad, right?

But let’s do some math. There are an estimated 400,000 unauthorized immigrants in Georgia. Divide that number into 1,316 and you’ll find that 0.33 of 1 percent of such immigrants are “bad hombres.”

Compare that to the criminality of our local yokels. Georgia has a population of 10.3 million, of which 52,847 are prisoners (after subtracting the 1,316). That means that 0.51 of 1 percent of Georgia’s residents are muy malo. Or, put another way, Americans are more likely to be convicts than the border jumpers.

John Spink/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in action in metro Atlanta: ICE Atlanta deputy field office director Joe Sifuentez (left) and an unidentified ICE agent (right) take José Serrano into custody on Aug. 18, 2017, in Austell. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

In fact, a study by the libertarian Cato Institute says native-born Americans are three times as likely to be locked up for crimes as illegal immigrants.

It makes sense. If you sneak over here to improve your life, then you’ll want to walk quietly and not stir up too much trouble.

Decatur is a safe city, in the top 10 for mid-sized Georgia towns last year. So I’m not sure that Casey was worried about the population there.

My guess is he’s more worried about the population who will be voting next year in the Republican primary. Cagle is running to remove the Lt. from his title and is up against a few other rough political hombres in the race.

One of them, state Sen. Michael Williams, is crazy-desperado tough. At any given moment Williams is likely to be cradling a firearm for the cameras or extolling the virtues of weaponry. I’m hearing his bumper stickers will say: “A bump stock in every glove box.”

Bob Andres/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Left to right: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Gov. Nathan Deal and House Speaker David Ralston at the General Assembly in January 2017. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Candidates like Williams frighten Cagle, who is the front-runner and heir apparent. Williams isn’t frightening because he can win. No, he’s scary because he can make Cagle appear weak and allow one of the other candidates, such as former state Sen. Hunter Hill or Secretary of State Brian Kemp, to pass him by.

Therefore, there’s dependable Decatur, the brightest blue dot on the Georgia map, which hangs there like a piñata waiting to get whacked by Candidate Casey.

The Republican base loves it when the Libs get smacked around, and Cagle is no doubt thinking, “Why not me?”

Why not, indeed? These days, if a GOP front-runner seems to be a bit mild, then he becomes Jeb Bush, dazed and flattened by the angry hordes who come to the polls. Casey’s not going to let that happen, hence his campaign against Decatur.

Cagle also lets Decatur know there’s some funding that could get cut — a little friendly threat.

According to his office, Decatur got $143,389 in state funds during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016. Also, in that same fiscal year, Decatur got $1,329,853 in federal awards administered by the state. That’s a lot of bike lanes!

STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Children and their parents walk down Church Street during the kids parade that kicked off the Decatur Arts Festival on May 27, 2017. 

Decatur, population 22,000, is currently a hot town, a place with a bustling downtown that other areas envy. City Commission meetings are well attended and cordial, even when they discuss using eminent domain to expand a park.

At a meeting this week, one lady in the crowd knitted, another paged through a textbook titled “The History of Western Music,” and a man carried a bike helmet to the rostrum as he addressed the mayor and commissioners. The earnestness in the room was palpable.

The city is gentrifying, with home rebuilds and renovations being commonplace. Census figures show median household income is now $82,000 (twice that of Cagle’s hometown of Gainesville, which probably makes this all the more fun for him.)

This means that Decatur residents pay a lot more taxes — federal, state, local — than residents in most other towns.

The Immigration Enforcement Review Board, the org I referred to earlier in the story, is the do-little board set up by legislators to stick it to towns like Decatur when they step out of line on immigration enforcement.

Last month, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Jeremy Redmon wrote that the board has heard 20 cases in six years, 19 of them brought by an activist named D.A. King. Cagle’s in the 21st case.

In an interview recently with Redmon, the board’s chairman, Shawn Hanley, said places like Decatur are “encouraging more illegal immigration.”

He said that before Cagle sent the board the Decatur case. So I suppose the fair trial will be held before they hang the little blue town.

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