Archive for April 11th, 2007

Visit Georgia, do time!

April 11, 2007

An Ottawa student, passing through Georgia, gets busted for a minor traffic offense and spends 11┬áhours in jail. Now that’s Southern hospitality in spades!

A 23-year-old Carleton University master’s student is outraged and demanding an apology from Georgia officials after spending more than 11 uncomfortable hours in a detention centre for running a stop sign and speeding.

Cheryl Kuehn said she was fingerprinted and had her mugshot taken before being forced to strip naked and shower, don a navy blue jail outfit and sleep in a cell with two other women while other inmates jeered and leered at her from adjoining cells.

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But officials with the Georgia state police and Glynn County Detention Center, where Mrs. Kuehn was being held, said they were just following procedure when someone from another country is stopped for speeding or other traffic violations — no matter how minor they might seem.

That procedure, they said, includes holding Canadians, including those carrying a valid passport like Mrs. Kuehn, or other “foreign nationals,” in custody until the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency confirms they are legally allowed to be in the country.

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I always love that: following procedure. That explains everything. And a passport is a real lot of good. It looks as though it gets you into the country but it’s not much good once you get to the Peach State.

“We are not doing it to punish anyone or cause any greater grief. It is just the way the law is written,” said the trooper, who offered no apologies for how Mrs. Kuehn was treated.

Col. Louise Newsome, jail administrator at the Glynn County Detention Center, said policy requires all non-U.S. citizens to go through the sometimes lengthy immigration process to determine if they are wanted on warrants. She said the jail adopted the policy in advance of a new Georgia state law, scheduled to come into effect in July.The controversial law, which deals with a variety of immigration issues, including social services and human trafficking, also requires legal status verification for people charged with a felony or drunk driving offence, according to a summary of the law posted on Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s website.

However, Mrs. Kuehn was charged with neither a felony nor drunk driving.

And it’s not even the law at this point in time! Talk about wanting to drive away the tourist business.

Whoever wrote up this law must have been listening to Tom T. Hall’s “A week in a county jail“.

The couple of times I have been to Georgia I have loved it. Particularly being in Savannah. But with this type of law on the books I don’t know that I want to pass that way again.


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