After a week of being attacked by several of Gwinnett’s elected officials, Dustin Inman Society President D.A. King is speaking out, alongside others who have defended the 67-year-old.

King, who founded the Dustin Inman Society in 2005, became the subject of local political attacks after the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office invited him to speak about the benefits of the jail’s 287(g) immigration program at a July 31 community meeting hosted by District 4 Commissioner Marlene Fosque.

While the meeting was intended as a forum to share information and differing perspectives about 287(g), the discussion turned into “unfair and unwarranted name-calling and misleading innuendo,” Gwinnett Sheriff Butch Conway wrote in a letter to the Daily Post.

King, who was the subject of that name-calling, has continued to come under attack in recent days — on Tuesday, Fosque accused him of “spewing hatred and bigotry and racism” — for his work related to the Dustin Inman Society, an organization named after 16-year-old Dustin Inman, who was killed in a car crash by a man who was in the country illegally. King describes the organization as “pro-enforcement on immigration.”

“The Dustin Inman Society is dedicated to educating the public and our elected officials on the consequences of illegal immigration, our unsecured borders and the breakdown of the rule of law in our Republic,” the organization’s website says. “Named for one of the thousands of Americans who have paid the ultimate price for those unsecured borders, The Dustin Inman Society is a non-partisan coalition of citizens of all ethnicities and from all walks of life who recognize that illegal immigration and homeland security are the most critical issues in America today.”

King said his intent at last week’s meeting was to talk about 287(g), and “lend (his) experienced knowledge on how to respond to the far-left race-baiting anti-enforcement lobby that is funded by corporate-America.”

While he says he did that — Conway said King “showed professionalism and restraint during the meeting” — King says others strayed, at times, from the topic at hand, focusing more on King and the Dustin Inman Society than 287(g).

“It should be noted that after being instructed to stick with the topic of 287(g), it was a campaigning (District 99 State Rep.) Brenda Lopez Romero who felt the need to present false ad hominem, personal attacks on me because she has no rational argument for not using every available tool to reduce crime in Gwinnett, including 287(g),” King told the Daily Post. “The goal (of) the illegal alien lobby, which includes the cowardly groups that dropped out and the three anti-enforcement substitute panelists, was never to argue on 287(g) — it was to marginalize anyone who supports the program.”

King said while he has received the brunt of that marginalization, the political attacks — and the Southern Poverty Law Center labeling the Dustin Inman Society as a “hate group” — have affected others, too.

“In its effort to fabricate and pass on ‘anti-immigrant hate’ smears aimed at the Dustin Inman Society, the discredited (Southern Poverty Law Center), congressional candidate Brenda Lopez Romero and Commissioner Marlene Fosque are not only attacking my character, but also smearing the reputations of immigrant, African-American and Hispanic (Dustin Inman Society) board members,” King said. “Kathy Inman, Dustin’s mom, is also a board member ... The deliberate lies presented in the SPLC smear and passed on by Lopez Romero, Fosque and the anti-enforcement lobby also smear Kathy Inman.”

Dustin Inman Society board member Mary Grabar, who immigrated to the U.S. from Slovenia, said she was dismayed by the attacks on King and the Dustin Inman Society.

“The Dustin Inman Society’s sole purpose is to uphold the law; in our case, immigration law,” Grabar told the Daily Post. “As a legal immigrant ... I have an especial appreciation for immigrants who come here legally. I saw what my parents and relatives had to do to get here and make a home.”

Grabar continued, calling King a “man of honor.”

“He is an indefatigable champion of the law and order that is necessary to preserve our precious freedoms,” Grabar said. “D.A. also regards all people according to the ‘content of their character’ and is someone who has not the slightest strain of racism or prejudice. Indeed, he has family members who are Hispanic and who are gay.”

Everett Robinson, who also serves as a board member for the Dustin Inman Society, echoed Grabar, saying he doesn’t know a man “less deserving of the hateful names (King) is being called” — which include being labeled in a petition by Duluth City Councilman Kirkland Carden last week as a “white nationalist and anti-immigration activist.”

“I watched as (King) spent a great deal of time and his own money in 2004 to organize the Dustin Inman Society and have also watched as his good work has resulted in laws in Georgia to address the crime of illegal immigration,” Robinson said. “Our neighborhood is home to many immigrants. D.A. doesn’t hate anyone and we both agree that confusing illegal aliens with real immigrants is an intentional injustice. As a black American who has experienced real racism, a proud founding member of the board of the Dustin Inman Society and devoted friend of D.A., I am and will remain disgusted with anyone who tries to smear us as somehow ‘anti-immigrant’ or ‘haters.’”

King said being labeled as “anti-immigrant” is a tool “the desperate and dishonest anti-borders crowd” uses to “confuse people, including lazy reporters and editors, about immigrants and illegal aliens.”

“While we hope that the immigration system is changed to insure that legal immigration benefits America and American workers, we are anti-illegal immigration — more easily framed as ‘pro-enforcement,’” King said. “Nobody at (Dustin Inman Society), including the immigrants, are ‘anti-immigrant.’”

For his part, Conway said the sheriff’s office asked King to serve as a panelist at the 287(g) meeting because of his “thorough understanding and support of the 287(g) program, along with his experience in helping create immigration laws in Georgia.”

“I’ve known D.A. King for years as a passionate advocate whose life’s work is raising awareness of the importance of immigration enforcement,” Conway said. “Mr. King has worked extensively with Georgia legislators over a period of many years to help create immigration laws in Georgia and has been featured in numerous mainstream media publications over the years, including a front-page profile in the New York Times. I consider D.A. King a personal friend and appreciate his support of the 287(g) program and his willingness to assist us in our efforts to educate the public about the importance of this program to our community.”

Crime Reporter

Isabel is a crime and health reporter for the Gwinnett Daily Post. She graduated from Emory University in 2016 with a B.A. in international studies. She is originally from the Boston area.