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End the Contract Rally at the Jail: What you wouldn’t learn from the Fox 17 story

August 19, 2018

Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE held a rally at the Kent County Jail yesterday, in their continued effort to get the county to end their contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Unlike all of the previous actions for the End the Contract campaign, there was limited commercial media coverage for this action. There were two Spanish language news entities present, but only one mainstream daily news outlet, WXMI Fox 17.

There are actually two versions of the WXMI 17 story, one that is written online and one that aired during the 10pm newscast on Saturday, August 18th, both of which can be viewed at this link

The written version of the Fox 17 story, provides some background on the campaign, making mention of the June 28th action at the Kent County Commission meeting, followed by a brief explanation of the relationship between the Kent County Jail and ICE.

The written story from Fox 17 then cites two people with Movimiento Cosecha, both of which talk about how this is a human rights issue and how many undocumented immigrants end up in the jail because of a drivers license violation, which then allows ICE to put a hold on those individuals.

The article ends with some data provided by rally organizers about the amount of money the county makes per undocumented immigrant that ICE has a hold on. The article does cite one source from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, but never identifies who it is.

The story that aired on Fox 17 last night is somewhat different. First, the news reader provides a different frame for the rally than the written version. The broadcast version does include comments from two different Cosecha GR members, but it is worth mentioning that the second source cited was interviewed on Friday at a different location, which is different from what the written version communicates.

Third, the unnamed Sheriff’s Department officials state that the contract with ICE “reimburses” the jail for housing undocumented immigrants for ICE and that they “cannot break the contract, because they are simply following the law.”

A major difference in the broadcast version was that they interviewed Monica Sparks, who is running as a Democrat for Kent County Commissioner this November. Sparks said that the county should let the federal government deal with this matter and that other cities have ended their contracts with ICE in recent months, although the reporter did not verify that claim.

This was unfortunate that the Fox 17 reporter did not mention that there was someone from Kalamazoo Cosecha who talked about the fact that the County Commissioner there recently passed a resolution prohibiting the county from using any of its resources to support ICE. In fact, the resolution was read to the people gather at the rally. 

Monica Sparks running for office has generated some controversy, since some people have claimed she used to be a Republican delegate, has been endorsed by Right to Life and coached four teens who organized a rally in 2016 in downtown Grand Rapids, a rally which featured the Grand Rapids Chief of Police. Black Lives Matter GR had written a statement saying they would not endorse this event, because the GRPD was provided a platform to speak and instead protested Chief Rahinsky when he spoke

What you wouldn’t know about the rally from Fox 17

  • There were several speakers from the immigrant community, which shared stories of the fear that they live under because of ICE being in Kent County. Not reporting on how the affected community is impacted by ICE violence means that people reading or watch the Fox 17 story were denied the opportunity to put a human face on this injustice.
  • A school social worker talked about how ICE repression in the area is tearing apart immigrant families.
  • Someone from GR Rapid Response talked about the work they do providing support to immigrant families who have been impacted by ICE arrests.
  • Another person talk about an upcoming national prison strike and how the abolish ICE movement is directly connected to the abolish prisons movement, especially since more people have become aware of the conditions within ICE detention facilities and the abuses against immigrants by detention workers/guards.
  • There was also information shared about numerous ways that people could be involved in the End the Contract campaign, along with being invited to support the work of Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE.

In the end, the story by WXMI 17 did not really further the public understanding of why the Kent County contract with ICE should be ended and why so many people are participating in the campaign.

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