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Proposed State Legislation that gives the police more power to assist ICE in the arrest of undocumented immigrants could possibly be voted on soon

June 21, 2021

Last week, MLive reported that State GOP Representatives are pushing legislation that would allow local law enforcement officers to coordinate with federal officials on immigration status checks.

House Bills 4197 and 4539 would prevent counties, cities and other local governments from passing ordinances preventing or limiting law enforcement from contacting federal immigration authorities,” according to the MLive article. 

House Bill 4197 states:

A bill to prohibit local units of government from enacting or enforcing any law, ordinance, policy, or rule that limits local officials, officers, or employees from communicating or cooperating with appropriate federal officials concerning the immigration status of individuals; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain state and local officers, officials, and employees; and to prescribe penalties and remedies.

This proposed legislation also states that after 2 months of the bill is adopted by the stated, if local governments do not comply, “the attorney general shall bring an action to enforce this act in the circuit court in the judicial district in which that local unit of government is located.”

House Bill 4539 will do the exact same thing, except it identifies county governments specifically to comply with the proposed legislation. HB 4539 was introduced in March, while HB 4197 was introduced in February. As of right now, the bills were just discussed in committees and could be presented to the full house for a vote in the near future.

Previous iterations of this legislation have been proposed since 2017, as an ongoing way to both undermine and punish local governments that became sanctuary cities. In addition, this legislation also provides some push back against all of the criticism that police departments across the state have received since the 2020 uprisings that took place throughout the country and the state after the police murdered George Floyd. 

Another instructive component of the MLive article is that it only cites the Michigan Municipal League and the ACLU of Michigan as opponents of this legislation. However, the ACLU of Michigan did submit written testimony, which cites a case in Kent County at length, stating:

Take ICE detainers1 for example, over fifty jurisdictions outside of Michigan have abandoned their prior practice of automatically honoring ICE detainers. In 2019, Kent County changed its detainer compliance policy after ICE unlawfully requested the detention of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a United States citizen and decorated military veteran. Kent County, which received the largest percentage of detainer requests from ICE in Michigan, now requires that ICE provide a judicial warrant in order for the Sheriff to hold individuals for immigration purposes. ICE has tried to minimize those disturbing patterns by claiming that its detainer requests only target people with serious criminal records. But ICE’s own data shows that this is false. The vast majority of detainer requests are issued against people with little to no criminal history. Indeed, two-thirds of the people targeted for deportation have no criminal convictions of any kind. The reality is that ICE detainer requests are indiscriminately issued against almost anyone who comes into contact with local police—immigrants, refugees, students, moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers—instilling fear in already scared communities. The liability risks are large in magnitude and high in probability. Federal courts have consistently held that local agencies and officials can be sued for complying with ICE detainers. First, courts agree that extending a person’s detention based on an ICE detainer constitutes a new arrest. Second, courts agree that a local agency violates the Fourth Amendment when it makes a detainer arrest without sufficient probable cause.Third, courts agree that because detainers are fully voluntary, local officials can be held liable for damages when they effectuate a detainer without probable cause. As a result, police and sheriffs across the country have paid millions of dollars in damages, settlements, and attorney fees for detainer arrests. As an example, the City of Grand Rapids recently paid $190,000 for its participation in the unlawful detention of U.S. citizen Jilmar Ramos Gomez, who was held on an ICE detainer. Detainer-related lawsuits have continued to impose major legal costs elsewhere in the country as well. And the federal government has consistently refused to reimburse these costs. Moreover, the time period in which a person is detained via such a request is not reimbursed by the federal government. The proposed legislation guarantees local communities are put in the impossible position of being stuck between costly litigation or in violation of the statute and subject to injunctions and fees.

Since the case ICE/Police case against Jilmar Ramos Gomez was cited at length by the ACLU statement, one would think that MLive would want to get an opinion by immigrant-led groups that are based in Grand Rapids, like Movimiento Cosecha GR. Movimiento Cosecha Michigan is working to get Driver’s Licenses for all adopted in the state. Driver’s Licenses is an important quality of life issue, since allowing the undocumented immigrant to obtain a driver’s license would provide greater freedom to go to work, pick up children from school, access health care and other basic necessities. In addition, if undocumented immigrants had a driver’s license, they would not end up in local jails after being stopped by local police in Michigan. (Failure to have a driver’s license or an expired license are some of the main reasons why immigrants end up in ICE custody.) Once they are in jail, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is often contacted, which then lands members of the undocumented community in detention center, with the possibility of deportation. The proposed legislation would solidify and expand this relationship between local law enforcement and ICE agents, thus further terrorizing the immigrant community. 

I asked Gema Lowe, with Movimiento Cosecha GR, what she thought about the proposed legislation:

Local police doesn’t need another law that would further more their cooperation with ICE. As it stands, police already cooperates with ICE and intimidates the undocumented community in Michigan. The argument in favor of these bills that would make Michigan a safer place is so far away from reality. The undocumented immigrant workers in Michigan don’t  pose a safety threat to the state, on the contrary, our labor and our consumption sustains the economy and we are an essential part of the state.  Undocumented workers want to live a dignified life without the fear of driving without a license and being detained by the police,  questioned and being turned over to ICE. Undocumented workers just want to get to work.

We also asked Karen Meyers, with GR Rapid Response to ICE, what the proposed legislation would mean. Their response was:

If passed, this bill would not protect communities. It would only further protect police from being fired when they racially profile people, which harms the immigrant community. We know this is true from the many people we have provided support for after a police traffic stop or other minor offense has led to detainment by ICE. We also know from the case of GRPD Captain Curt VanderKooi that when an officer racially profiles someone, that person can end up in ICE custody even if they are a citizen, and the officer responsible will not only not be fired, they will not be punished at all. Bills like these are evidence that–regardless of what party is in power–grassroots immigration rights groups need to be alert and ready to do direct action and provide mutual aid for our under-documented community members.” 

Lastly, it is worth noting that there are 17 GOP legislators who either introduced or cosponsored these two pieces of legislation. Of those 17 State Representatives, over half have received a substantial amount of campaign contributions from the DeVos family, which essentially means that the DeVos family has backed state legislators that want to further criminalize the undocumented immigrant community and give more power to local law enforcement agencies to target the undocumented immigrant community. 

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