Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton released a joint statement along with Texas District Attorney Mark Gonzalez and Miriam Aroni Krinsky, executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Oct. 17.

Clayton spoke about a conference the three of them attended discussing the effects of policy on public safety. 

“When we say ‘public safety,’ people just throw that word out,” Clayton said. “But we have to think about what ‘public safety’ means — how we define it. It’s not just ‘free from crime,’ it’s ‘all your basic needs are met.’ There’s a level of comfort and serenity to be in your community and know that you’re supported. All of those things I think factor into this sense of public safety, and DACA and what it delivers to individuals factor into that.”

The statement notes the use of “community policing,” or the approach of collaborating with communities to reduce crime and promote public safety.  

“Roughly one-fifth of police officers surveyed reported that, in 2017, immigrants were less willing than they were in 2016 to make police reports, less likely to help police when they arrived at the scene of the crime, less likely to assist with subsequent investigations, and less willing to work with prosecutors,” the statement reads. 

According to the statement, DACA is seen as a method to preserve the fragile relationships between local law enforcement and communities. 

“With DACA, you’d have a portion of individuals that aren’t as concerned about immigration enforcement,” Clayton said. “They know their presence in a country is supported. Then legally, they don’t have to fear ice coming out of nowhere or law enforcement seizing them and taking them out of the county.”

With this growing fear, the statement notes more crimes are going unreported, endangering the entire community.

“As a result, more than half of the law enforcement officials surveyed reported that crimes such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault have become more difficult to investigate,” the statement reads. 

In his interview, Clayton reaffirmed the danger that unreported crimes pose to the community.

“Crime doesn’t know boundaries,” Clayton said. “We run the risk of having that behavior expanding beyond the immigrant community into the larger community. We should all be concerned and we should all know we have the responsibility to make every community in Washtenaw County safe.” 

Ann Arbor resident Sue Shink is vice president of Pilar’s Foundation, an organization that recently held a gala to stand with refugees and immigrants. Shink said she has seen the effects of DACA on the community.

“My daughter, one of her best friend’s mom got deported,” Shink said. “It created an untenable situation. Her family has gone under a tremendous amount of stress, even though her parents have been contributing members of our society. The fear is well-grounded.”

Ann Arbor resident Sylvia Nolasco-Rivers, president of Pilar’s Foundation, said she was excited to hear about Clayton’s statement.

“It’s nice to see someone in the community making sure that people feel safe,” Nolasco-Rivers said. “At the end of the day that’s what people need to do. We need to go beyond ourselves and expand our hearts out to others and find ways to bring the healing … and make it right.”

Yet, while some members of the community are thankful for the sheriff’s step, they don’t believe it is enough. 

In an email to The Daily, LSA senior Barbara Diaz, Student Community of Progressive Empowerment member, said DACA isn’t a cure-all solution. 

“While it’s nice to see people supporting DACA program, I think it becomes easy to dehumanize the issue of immigration as a whole when we only focus on how immigrants benefit us,” Diaz wrote. “Perhaps trust between immigrant communities and the police help make neighborhoods safer, but I think people (with or without citizenship status) having access to life-saving resources is important on its own regard. Also I understand that sometimes things need to be said in a certain way to persuade people, but at the same time we shouldn’t advocate for others only because there’s some benefit in return.”

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