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Kent County’s ICE Hold Policy, the White House and the Sheriff Department’s quick dismissal of any Sanctuary claims

March 3, 2019

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department continues to be in the news. This time Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the White House are both accusing the Kent County Sheriff’s Department of releasing “criminal aliens” in recent weeks.

According to an ICE Press Release dated February 28:

Deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) have arrested three criminal aliens in western Michigan over the last several weeks after they were released from Kent County Sheriff’s custody with an active immigration detainer in place.

“The release of criminal aliens back on west Michigan streets continues to pose a serious threat to our communities,” said Rebecca Adducci, ERO field office director for Detroit, which covers the two-state region of Michigan and Ohio. “ICE remains committed to arresting and removing criminal aliens in the interest of public safety and national security, despite local decisions to not honor detainers and jeopardize the safety of its citizens.”

This statement was shared by the White House as well, according to an MLive story that was originally posted on March 1. The statement s from ICE and the White House are related to the case of former US Marine Jilmar Ramos-Gomez. The fallout of the Ramos-Gomez case forced the Kent County Sheriff’s Department to alter their policy around ICE holds, where they now require a judicial warrant to hold immigrants in the Kent County Jail for ICE.

However, while ICE seems to be calling out the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, immigration lawyers and lawyers with the ALCU and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center have communicated to Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE that Kent County seems to still be cooperating with ICE in ways that conflict with the new judicial warrant requirement policy. A group of lawyers will be meeting with County officials this coming week to find out exactly what is happening.

The other issue that was raised in the MLive article and the ICE Press Release has to do with the issue of Sanctuary Policies. The ICE Press Release states:

Sanctuary Policies Put Public Safety at Risk

  • These dangerous policies leave ICE with no choice but to increase enforcement in neighborhoods and workplaces to locate and arrest these persons while they are at-large—
  • increasing the likelihood that other individuals previously not targeted for arrest will be taken into ICE custody.
  • It is safer for everyone if we take custody of an alien in the controlled environment of another law enforcement agency as opposed to visiting an alien’s residence, place of work, or other public area.  Arresting a criminal in the safety, security, and privacy of a jail is always the best option.
  • When law enforcement agencies don’t honor ICE detainers, these individuals, who often have significant criminal histories, are released onto the street, presenting a potential public safety threat. When ICE Fugitive Operations officers have to go out into the community to proactively locate these criminal aliens, regardless of the precautions they take, it needlessly puts our personnel and potentially innocent bystanders in harm’s way.
  • Moreover, tracking down our priority fugitives is highly resource intensive. It’s not uncommon for our criminal alien targets to utilize multiple aliases and provide authorities with false addresses. Many do not have a stable place of employment.

These claims by ICE are ill-informed and the Trump administration has made it clear since they took office that communities which declare themselves as Sanctuary Cities will be punished. To be clear, Sanctuary Cities is merely a decision by local municipalities to say that they will not cooperate with ICE agents to apprehend undocumented immigrants, since it is not their role to enforce federal immigration policy.

Kent County Sheriff LaJoye-Young took issue with ICE calling the County’s policy a “Sanctuary Policy.” IN the MLive article, the Kent County Sheriff is quoted as saying:

We are not a ‘sanctuary’ department. I have no intention in being a shield for someone to avoid being held responsible for criminal violations to include criminal immigration violations.”

To this writer, such a statement by the Kent County Sheriff, continues to reflect that they will continue to cooperate with ICE and that those who are undocumented are considered criminal. The fact that Sheriff LaJoye-Young was so quick to dismiss any accusations that the County is a Sanctuary demonstrates that she will cooperate with federal authorities when it comes to those who are undocumented. This reality is affirmed by the fact that in the past few weeks GR Rapid Response to ICE has been overwhelmed with new cases of ICE arrests, detentions and even a few likely deportations.


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