March 2, 2010
Contact – Brandon Hatler or Natali Fani -

Immigrant Students Walking 1,500 Miles from Miami to Washington, D.C. Face Georgia Sheriff

‘Trail of Dreams’ walkers risk arrest as they seek meeting with Gwinnett County Sheriff R.L. “Butch” Conway


LAWRENCEVILLE, GA – Four immigrant students who are walking 1,500 miles from Miami, FL to Washington, D.C. will make a stop Wednesday at the Gwinnett County Courthouse, calling on Sheriff R.L. “Butch” Conway to meet with them and hear their views about the need to fix the country’s failed immigration system.

Conway has been a vocal proponent of “287(G)” (a federal law authorizing local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law) and other enforcement policies that have resulted in the deportation of hundreds of immigrants from Gwinnett County in just the past three months – policies that the student walkers say are oppressive and discriminatory. 

“We’re not afraid of unjust laws. We’re not scared of Sheriff Conway. We actually hope to share our own experiences as immigrant students with him, and to explain the fear and pain that detentions and deportations cause within families,” said Juan Rodriguez, 20. “Local enforcement of federal policies like the one Sheriff Conway is proudly implementing are proof of the need for real immigration reform. These policies have the long-term effect of criminalizing immigrants – the vast majority of whom are here only to work hard and provide for their families.”

Rodriguez and the other students – Gaby Pacheco, 25, Felipe Matos, 23, and Carlos Roa, 22 – have repeatedly asked the Sheriff’s Office for a meeting and sent in a formal request. So far their requests for a meeting have been denied. Because of reports of Latinos being broadly targeted by authorities in Gwinnett County, and because three of the students are undocumented, they will be accompanied by attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center and other legal advocacy groups who will help them deal with the possibility of being detained and perhaps even deported for taking this action. 

“Our message to Sheriff Conway – whether or not he meets with us – is that the law may say we shouldn’t be here, but that doesn’t mean the law is just,” said Pacheco. “It’s time to change the laws that are destructive to our communities. We immigrants must come out of the shadows of fear.”

Event details:

WHAT: In-person meeting request, followed by press conference

WHEN: Wednesday, March 3 - 2:00 p.m. 

WHERE: Sheriff’s Office at Gwinnett County Courthouse, 75 Langley Drive, Lawrenceville, GA 30046

For more information on the “Trail of Dreams,” visit: