"Why would a big man with a badge go after a 21-year-old college student, who's a top performer, an asset to this country, an asset to this state? The questions are just too many," said Rich Pellegrino, director of the Cobb Immigration Alliance, to a crowd of about 20 residents and media members.
Pellegrino and his supporters called for Warren to reply to the allegations of selective law enforcement. They also called for him to drop the charges against Colotl, who did not attend the gathering, and repeal 287(g), an agreement Cobb County has with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to check the immigration status of everyone booked into the county jail.
If the sheriff does not respond to the allegations, Pellegrino warned, he and his supporters would possibly seek civil rights charges against him.
"From this point on, the coalition will be watching," Pellegrino said. "We will watch the sheriff and the other law enforcement officials, the elected officials, to see if they really believe in the rule of law or if it's just a neat slogan in order to expediently target who they don't like."
The sheriff was not available to comment Thursday; however, Chief Deputy Sheriff Lynda Coker said Warren would respond within the next few days.
"Sheriff Warren hasn't had a chance to review all of the allegations made against the sheriff's office, and plans to respond as soon as he's had that opportunity," Coker said. "In the many years that I have worked with Sheriff Warren I have never observed him being selective in enforcement. He always legally and consistently enforces the law."
Colotl, 21, was stopped on KSU campus March 29 for a traffic violation and later arrested for driving without a valid license. After Colotl was booked into Cobb Jail, she was turned over to immigration authorities. She was taken to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Ala., on April 1, but was released May 5. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities agreed to defer any action against her for one year so she could return to her studies at the university.
On May 12, the Cobb Sheriff's Office obtained a warrant for Colotl on a felony charge of lying to law-enforcement officials, based on a reportedly false address she provided upon her book-in at the Cobb County Jail in March. On May 14, Colotl turned herself into Cobb authorities and was released on a $2,500 bond.
D.A. King, founder of the Dustin Inman Society, an anti-illegal immigrant group, applauded Warren for his work as a law official.
In response to Thursday's press conference, King said, "It looks to me very much like the Thursday train from cuckooville has arrived in Marietta, Georgia, and the usual suspects have disembarked and are demanding attention with race-bating. The despicable attempt to discredit the brave and dutiful Sheriff Warren in Cobb County is coming from all the right enemies. Neil Warren is an American hero. Here in Cobb County we are very grateful that he has authority to enforce the law."
Pellegrino, however, said King is an example of Warren selectively enforcing the law.
Pellegrino cited an August 2008 Cobb County Commissioners meeting, in which King displayed two fraudulent Mexican identification cards. King said he had obtained the fake IDs and enlarged them to show how easy it was for illegal immigrants to get them. As obtaining a fake ID is illegal, Pellegrino filed a complaint with the Cobb County Sheriff's Department. King was investigated, but never charged.
Officials said the IDs, which were blown up to the size of desk calendars, were clearly not intended to be used. However, Pellegrino quoted Georgia Code, which states that intent to use is not a factor in the law. Pellegrino also accused state Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) of similar charges regarding a presentation of fake IDs in the Georgia Assembly. Dollar did not return calls for comment from the Journal. King called Pellegrino's charges against him frivolous.
You Don't Speak for Me, a Hispanic-American national organization against illegal immigration, reached out to the Journal on Wednesday in response to Colotl's case.
Mariann Davies, vice-chair and charter member of the 20,000-member group, said it's unfortunate that Colotl and other students like her don't take advantage of educational opportunities given to them in their home countries. Davies said all Mexican nationalists are eligible to attend the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City for free.
"Again, it's unfortunate what this gal did - she violated the law ... You don't do that," Davies said. "I see this as a very black and white issue and I don't understand why anybody would think she's deserving to stay. Plus she has every opportunity available to her to go to a world-class university in Mexico for free."
Pellegrino said, "The big picture is about immigration and immigration reform."
In Washington on Thursday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon spoke to Congress in opposition to the new Arizona immigration law, saying that comprehensive immigration reform is vital to secure the countries' border.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-east Cobb) said Isakson did not have a response to the speech because he was unable to attend due to an ethics committee meeting.