Ahead of any election cycle, it's normal to see campaign buses with smiling political candidates taking tours around their district. What's not normal is seeing a candidate make those tours in a bus meant to imprison undocumented immigrants. But that's exactly what one GOP Georgia Senator Michael Williams' "deportation bus tour" is doing to raise attention toward his run for governor.
In his campaign ad, Williams gestures proudly to a gray bus — revamped to resemble a prisoner transport vehicle — and says his tour isn't going to be like one of those "pansy, political tours." Instead, it'll be the "Michael Williams Deportation Bus."
And in case the purpose of the bus isn't clear, the rear doors have block letters reading: "Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molestors, and other criminals on board." Molesters is spelled incorrectly. Beneath that is a sign that reads, “Follow me to Mexico."
In his ad, Williams uses the bus as a gimmick for his ideal immigration policy, which he refers to in the video as a "287 (g) deportation plan," a program that would give power to state and local authorities to enforce immigration law. His campaign website explains, "Throughout his bus tour of sanctuary cities, Williams will expose how dangerous illegal aliens ruin local economies, cost American jobs, increase healthcare costs, and lower education standards."
"We're not just going to track them and watch them roam around the state," Williams says in the ad. "We're going to put them on this bus and send them home."
It's not exactly clear how Williams will legally gather undocumented immigrants and deport them. The ability to personally enforce immigration law does not typically fall under a politician's scope of power.
And immigration activists are, of course, shaking their heads.
The bus will make stops in Georgia's three sanctuary cities: Athens, Clarkston, and Decatur, according to the Huffington Post. Sanctuary cities only work with federal immigration agents on a limited level, often to protect law-abiding immigrants from deportation while still turning over those who have committed serious crimes.
Williams is a fierce Trump loyalist and currently serves in the Georgia state Senate. He endorsed President Trump in the 2016 election and even served as a campaign surrogate. Right now, Williams is one of seven candidates for the GOP nomination for governor, and his unusual ad may be a shock tactic meant to breathe new life into his candidacy. According to the most recent polls by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Williams currently sits down in fifth place in the polls, but there are still plenty of votes to win over. About one-third of GOP voters in Georgia are still undecided, and around 40 percent of women still have not decided who they will vote for.
As you probably already expected, Williams' approach toward sanctuary cities and immigration mirrors that of the Trump administration. President Trump has repeatedly attacked sanctuary cities, saying that they endanger public safety.
Critics of Williams' "deportation bus" say this stunt is reckless and could embolden immigration vigilantes, according to WSB. The mayor of Clarkston, one of the cities in which Williams plans to stop in, has toldWSB that he is worried that people in the area may see the ad and try to forcibly round up people they believe to be undocumented immigrants. When confronted with the accusation that the ad and bus were both racist, Williams said, “That’s not correct. What this is, is a bus that is focusing on people that have entered our country illegally.”
According to WSB, Williams said he has received a lot of support from people across the country. But he also said that the amount of anger and criticism he has gotten back came as a surprise to him.