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A double standard: Undocumented immigrants count when Grand Rapids wants federal funds, but the City doesn’t want to end the GRPD’s cooperation with ICE

May 20, 2019

On Monday, May 20th, MLive ran a story headlined, Grand Rapids mayor says possible Census citizenship question a concern

The article in MLive cites the Mayor of Grand Rapids, and a few officials with the Grand Rapids Public Schools, over the issue of whether or not Citizenship Status will be a question on the 2020 Census. The Mayor, a City Commissioner and representatives from the Grand Rapids Public Schools met last Friday to talk about the concerns they have over how the possible Census question of Citizenship Status might impact the immigrant community.

The city officials are concerned about those in the undocumented community not filling out Census forms, for fear that it will put them at risk. In the MLive article, Mayor Bliss is quoted as saying, “We know that there is a lot of fear and mistrust in the community and that’s what’s most concerning.”

However, what is interesting is that the MLive article, nor the sources cited in the article, ever refer to specifics about why there is fear and mistrust in the immigrant community. In other words, there is no mention of the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been arresting, detaining and deporting immigrants at an alarming rate. There is also no mention in the article about the cooperation between the GRPD and ICE in recent years, based up FOIA’d documents related to the Jilmar Ramos-Gomez case

Much of the concern from City officials has to do with the relationship between how many are counted in the 2020 Census and how that translates into potentially more federal funding. In other words, the Mayor of Grand Rapids wants immigrants, undocumented or otherwise who live in fear of police & ICE, to fill out the Census data, since it will result in the City getting more federal dollars.

The problem with money being an incentive for the City of Grand Rapids is twofold. First, it demonstrates how the City is either minimizing or denying the actual fear that immigrants face every day in this community, the fear that they will suffer state violence and experience family separation. If the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Public Schools wanted to reduce the level of fear in the immigrant community then they need to make it a policy that the GRPD will in no way cooperate with ICE agents. In the MLive article, the Mayor of Grand Rapids is talking about holding educational forums in the community so that people will understand the importance of being counted in the Census. If that is true, then the City of Grand Rapids needs to demonstrate to the immigrant community that they will no longer play a role in the arrest, detention and deportation of immigrants living in Grand Rapids by ending their relationship with ICE.

The second reason why money as an incentive for the City of Grand Rapids is problematic, has to do with a position they have taken since December of 2016. In early December of 2016, City officials hosted a meeting with immigration lawyers, members of the faith community and community organizers over the issue of whether or not the City of Grand Rapids would be a Sanctuary City

The Chief of Police at that time (Rahinsky), the Mayor of Grand Rapids and the City Manager at that time (Greg Sundstrom) each made it clear that the City would not declare itself a Sanctuary City because they would put millions of federal dollars at risk by making such a declaration.

Therefore, it seems that the City of Grand Rapids didn’t want to risk federal funding by making a public commitment to immigrants in 2016, but now they want the immigrant community to participate in the 2020 Census to get more federal dollars, without making any commitment to reducing the fear and terror the immigrant community experiences daily because of ICE and the GRPD’s cooperation with that federal agency.

Seems like a double standard to this writer.

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