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MLive cites State Lawmakers and proposed Legislation affecting immigrants in Michigan, yet they ignore the immigrant-led groups that are doing the real, on the ground work

July 1, 2019

Last week, MLive ran a story about recently proposed legislation in both the Michigan House and the Michigan Senate, which has to do with immigration policy and immigration status. 

Some of the proposed bills in the Michigan House are HB 4083 and 4090 and in the Michigan Senate SB 382 and 383. “These bills will increase the state’s ability to assist federal officials and penalize those who purposefully prevent law enforcement from doing their jobs,” according to Senator Aric Nesbitt. In another news source, Nesbitt said: 

“Local governments with sanctuary policies protect criminal illegal aliens instead of their own residents,” he said. “This dangerous lawlessness must be stopped.”

Nesbitt, represents the 26th Senate District and has relied heavily on corporate donations during his political career. The other sponsor of the Senate bills is Sen. Tom Barrett from the 24th Senate District. Barrett has relied more on the various Republican campaign committee, but he has also been the recipient of a good chunk of DeVos money ($30,000)

The House Bills, HB 4083 and 4090 are similar to what the Senate Republicans are pushing, but these bills would: 

create two new acts called, respectively, the Local Government Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act and the County Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act. The new acts would prohibit local laws that prevent local officials from cooperating with federal authorities regarding an individual’s immigration status.

These two bills were introduced by Rep. Pamela Hornberger and Rep. Beau Matthew LaFave. Hornberger’s number one campaign funder since she was first elected in 2016, is the DeVos family. LaFave has relied more on Republican campaign committees and PAC money. 

Some Democratic State Legislators have also introduced legislation that provides somewhat of a counter to the proposed Republican bills, specifically HB 4724, which was introduced by Rep. Abdullah Hammoud. 

The bill package “sets the tone for the kind of state we want to be,” Hammoud said in a statement. “Michigan should be a state that welcomes and promotes our diversity…By establishing a welcoming environment for all, we can attract talent from across the nation and globe to make Michigan their home.”

This is an interesting statement since it does not focus on the safety of the immigrant community, nor does it acknowledge the tremendous harm being done to the undocumented immigrant community by ICE arrests, detention and deportations.

While I find it encouraging that these bills as limiting local law enforcement’s role in cooperating with ICE agents, it is too early to tell what this will actually mean or if it even stands a chance of passing in the Republican controlled legislature.

More importantly, what is missing from this MLive article is the fact that communities all across the state are resisting ICE violence. The fact is that this “debate” about current immigration policy has been led by organized immigrant communities throughout the state, along with groups of allies who have partnered with immigrant communities and immigrant-led organizations.

For example, last Friday, Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE released a statement on the one year anniversary of their End the Contract campaign. This statement includes a summary of all of the Abolish ICE work they have done in the past 12 months. (see below)

This summary of all the work these two groups have done in Kent County not only makes them the experts on what the immigrant and undocumented communities really want, but it makes it clear that they are not waiting around for politicians to propose legislation, which may or may not keep them safe from state violence. It is instructive that MLive uses a photo of the most recent May 1st march organized by Movimiento Cosecha GR, but then never cites them or the impressive work they have been doing on the ground to oppose ICE violence.

A Year of Resisting ICE in Kent County

June 28th marks the one-year anniversary of the #EndTheContract Campaign, launched by Movimiento Cosecha GR and GR Rapid Response to ICE to end the contract between ICE and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

As the country once again erupts in outrage over the inhumane treatment of our immigrant neighbors, at the border and in our local communities, we want to note the successes and achievements of this campaign.

On June 28th, 2018, more than 200 people packed the Kent County Commission meeting and let the community know that ICE had maintained a contract with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department since 2012. Storming the floor of the Commission chambers, the #EndTheContract campaign took over the meeting and turned it into a forum where immigrant voices were centered as they talked about the fear of constantly living with the threat of ICE arrests, detention, and deportation.

In the past 12 months, our collective efforts have made it possible for tens of thousands to know about the lived experiences of the immigrant and undocumented community as they live under the terror of the ICE within Kent County.

• At 12 different County Commission meetings, we offered numerous testimonies on ICE violence in this community and provided a list of demands, from ending the contract and ending any cooperation with ICE to supporting the Drivers Licenses for All Campaign.

• We collected over 2,000 signatures on our petition to #EndTheContract.

• We held a People’s Commission where the people themselves voted to End the Contract, since the County Commission wouldn’t.

• We rallied at both the Kent County Jail and at the home of a Kent County Commissioner.

• During the course of these actions, we generated dozens of news stories, both local and national, about the campaign to #EndTheContract with ICE.

• We organized several actions that exposed and confronted ICE at numerous office locations in our community.

• We participated in the national #NoBusinessWithICE day in October.

• We worked with the ACLU and MIRC to expose the unjust practices of ICE in Kent County and to let County officials know that they did NOT have to comply with ICE.

• With the ACLU and MIRC, we helped expose the GRPD’s involvement with ICE, which also received national news coverage.

• Due to our constant pressure, in January of 2019 the Kent County Sheriff’s Department changed their policy on ICE Holds.

In addition, since this date last year:

• We attended numerous City Commission meetings with a list of demands and even shut down one meeting because of the blatant collusion between ICE and the GRPD.

• We partnered with two community-based African American organizations to work in solidarity with these groups to expose police violence against Black and brown communities.

• We held a dozen press conferences.

• We did several banner drops.

• Along with other community groups, we were able to pressure the Civilian Appeals Board to reverse the decision by the Grand Rapids Police Department’s investigation of Captain VanderKooi, the ICE liaison who called ICE on a U.S. citizen.

• We provided funding to several families who needed to bond out family members held by ICE.

• We raised over $24,000 to provide support to immigrant families who have been impacted by ICE violence.

• We held numerous GR Rapid Response to ICE trainings in order to build capacity.

Of course, this list does not include all the meetings, support roles, planning, and volunteer organizing hours that many people invested to support this movement in Kent County to #AbolishICE. We are deeply grateful for everyone who contributed to this movement.

Believing that movements like this that center the leadership of the affected community are the most effective way to success, we know that the work and the struggle must continue!

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