Monday, Ann Arbor City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance that prohibits police officers from soliciting information about immigration status.

The ordinance, which was sponsored by Councilmembers Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1), Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5), and Mayor Christopher Taylor, was passed in reaction to the hostile attitude of President Donald Trump’s administration toward undocumented immigrants and refugees, including a new executive order that bans immigration from six majority-Muslim countries.

Councilmember Julie Grand (D–Ward 3) praised the ordinance and urged Ann Arborites to stay cautious, referencing a recent incident in which an undocumented Ann Arbor father of four was detained during a routine check-in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. 

“Without a community that’s really vigilant about the actions that ICE is taking, and you know that they are pulling parents away from children who are citizens … shows that we really need to stand up and look out for families,” Grand said.

Maria Ibarra-Frayre, a member of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, criticized the first draft of the ordinance, however, for making an exception for police to solicit immigration status information after a suspect was arrested.

“I think that will lead us to a very slippery road,” Ibarra-Frayre said. “Racially profiling people.”

Warpehoski explained the ordinance makes an exception only when police cannot establish the suspect’s identity, determine that a person is a flight risk or must report an alien suspect’s arrest, detention or death to his or her home country’s consulate under the Vienna Convention.

“So there’s narrow situations in which being able to ask where are you from or being able to ask which immigration status may be relevant,” Warpehoski said. “And some these are specific to the severity of the crime. Even under the issues of determining someone’s identity when there’s not strong identification, how important that is will depend on the severity of the crime.”

Eaton shared Warpehoski’s view, but admitted that the criteria for exactly when to solicit immigration status information were somewhat vague.

“It’s not asking immigration status information during a traffic stop or minor offense, it’s when there’s an ongoing serious criminal investigation,” Eaton said. “So I’ll be working on a threshold that identifies those cases where we should be asking, so that we can locate those people later.” 

Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D–Ward 2) elucidated further the ordinance is meant to codify what has already been the norm in the Ann Arbor Police Department, not to put them on a leash.

“I just wanted to acknowledge that so much of the groundwork has been laid already for this discussion,” Westphal said. “To my knowledge, (soliciting immigration status) has not been an issue with our police department and their organizational culture, so I also want to acknowledge them for reflecting the values of the city.”

However, Councilmember Jane Lumm (I–Ward 2) expressed concern that Ann Arbor may lose $52 million if it does not comply with a Jan. 26 executive order. The order, which expands on US Code 1373, threatens to cut federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities in which local officials refuse to share residents’ immigration statuses with the federal government.

“([If the new ordinance does not comply with USC 1373) I will not be comfortable supporting this, as I believe council’s primary responsibility is a fiduciary one to taxpayers,” Lumm said. “Some councilmembers have indicated that if we have to forego some of that money so be it. But I do not share that view.”  

Lumm also added that the situation in the White House is fluid, and the council should practice caution in pursuing this ordinance. City staff have so far determined that losing federal funds is not a concern, however.

The ordinance will come into effect when a second reading is approved. If the ordinance is revised to too great an extent, however, the process will start over again.

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