U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the White House criticized a county in Michigan this week for having what they called a “sanctuary” policy which they said threatens public safety by not holding immigrants for ICE beyond their release date without a judicial warrant.
ICE said in a statement their agents have arrested three undocumented immigrants with criminal records — for DUI, OWI and assault — in western Michigan in recent weeks after they had been released from the custody of the Kent County Sheriff.
ICE said that in those three cases, it had earlier requested immigration detainers — which are requests by ICE for county jails to hold immigrant detainees beyond their normal release date — so ICE can then detain or deport them.
In January, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young told ICE that her department will not agree to immigrant detainer requests from ICE unless they have a judicial warrant from a judge. Her move came amid an uproar from civil rights advocates after Grand Rapids Police and Kent County had handed over to ICE a Latino suspect born in the U.S. who was a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez.
ICE says the new policy by the Kent County Sheriff is dangerous; civil rights advocates defended the sheriff’s move.
Kent County’s policy change “negatively impacts public safety and ICE’s efficiency in the apprehension of criminal aliens,” ICE said. The federal immigration agency said opponents of detainers without warrants “wish to undermine immigration enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety.”
The head of ICE enforcement operations in Michigan slammed the move in a statement released Thursday. And on Friday, a White House official also criticized Kent County for what it called a “sanctuary” policy.
“The release of criminal aliens back on west Michigan streets continues to pose a serious threat to our communities,” said Rebecca Adducci, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) director 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.”
In a statement Friday, Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young defended her policy.
“We believe it to be imperative that each detained person have access to due process and we will continue to require judicial oversight for all law enforcement agencies, including ICE,” LaJoye Young said.
Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center also defended Kent County’s policy against detainers without judicial warrants. They noted that the policy does not prohibit cooperation with ICE, but only blocks it from picking up immigrants unless there is a warrant, a policy that other law enforcement agencies have to follow.
“Sheriff LaJoye-Young has taken a huge stand for public safety, due process, and the rule of law in our community,” said Hillary Scholten, attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “We continue to applaud her decision as a step toward making us all feel safer.”
Scholten said that ICE is using “fear-mongering tactics” and trying “to bully our local officials into a kind of compliance that is simply not required under the law.”
“ICE is an agency with completely unchecked power to arrest and detain individuals, and, as evidenced by the recent case of Jilmar Ramos Gomez, sometimes based purely on blatant racial profiling,” she said.
ICE said that in fiscal year 2018, the agency made more than 3,600 arrests in Michigan and Ohio, of which about 75 percent had a prior criminal conviction or had pending criminal charges.
“These statistics make clear that the agency only conducts targeted enforcement focused first on criminals and public safety threats,” ICE said. “Claims of any type of random or indiscriminate enforcement are false.”
The three recent arrests by ICE in Kent County were of immigrants that ICE had issued a detainer request for, but was denied:
- A Honduran national arrested on charges of assault with intent to murder after he reportedly stabbed a man with a broken beer bottle in a fight.
- A Mexican national previously deported arrested on DUI charges.
- A Mexican national previously deported charged with operating while intoxicated. He was previously convicted on battery, fraud false info to law enforcement, and felony re-entry after deportation.
ICE said that “sanctuary policies put public safety at risk.” If ICE is unable to pick up the immigrants from jail, they have to go out into the general public or a workplace, which could be dangerous for law enforcement and the public, ICE said.
Moreover, it could end up leading to even more arrests of undocumented immigrants.
“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,” ICE said. “Arresting a criminal in the safety, security, and privacy of a jail is always the best option.”
Miriam Auckerman, an attorney for the ACLU, said “it’s really appalling that ICE and now the White House would attack a sheriff for requiring due process and simply asking for a warrant.”
She said ICE has “this reckless approach to immigration enforcement.”
“They’re trying to deflect attention from the fact that ICE has an incredibly sloppy and ineffective and shoddy approach to investigations that resulted in a decorated veteran and U.S. citizen getting detained,” she said, referring to Ramos-Gomez. “Instead of taking responsibility, they’re trying to deflect” blame.
Aukerman said that if ICE was required to get a judicial warrant, Ramos-Gomez never would have been put in ICE custody and faced potential deportation.
The officer who alerted ICE about Ramos-Gomez and called him “loco” has been placed on leave, Grand Rapids Police said this week.
The issue of detainer requests has been debated in other parts of Michigan and the U.S. In 2017, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said his jail would not agree to detainer requests unless there was a judicial warrant from a judge.