During last night’s Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Washtenaw County residents asked the council to forbid city police officials from taking part in federal immigration raids.
The trio, representatives of the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights, requested that the council revise a 2003 resolution that allows members of the Ann Arbor Police Department to be involved in U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raids.
Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje, who met with WICIR members Friday, said review of the resolution is needed to address community concerns. Some have voiced concerns of unnecessary violence during the raids.
WICIR representative Alicia Alvarez called immigration law “complex,” saying federal officials should deal with such cases.
“It is not necessary for local police to be involved in enforcing immigration laws because ICE has the power and the resources to enforce its orders and its wards,” she said. “By enforcing local immigration law, the police risk losing community support, and create problems with racial profiling.”
Councilmember Mike Anglin (D-Ward 5) agreed with the mayor and called for a “stronger resolution” that limits the AAPD’s role in federal arrests.
Hieftje said city residents became concerned after the AAPD assisted federal agents in the apprehension of an illegal immigrant who was resisting arrest. After the arrest, AAPD officers followed federal agents to a raid that the Ann Arbor officers observed but didn’t participate in.
Anglin said the incident made residents suspicious of the local law enforcement.
“It was perceived by those viewing that the police were involved in some form,” Anglin said. “We don’t want people to fear the police.”
WICIR member Laura Sanders said the ICE raids instilled fear and distrust in Latino communities.
“ICE officials have thrown people on the ground, left blood on the floor, chased women into rooms,” she said.
Greg Palmore, a spokesperson for Michigan’s branch of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, denied allegations ICE officers are violent during arrests. He said accusations of brutality on behalf of ICE officers are “an exaggeration.”
“This is probably, in fact, this is the most humane enforcement entity for fugitives,” he said.
Palmore said ICE provides medical and translation services for all detainees. He said a “humanitarian enforcement component” ensures that children won’t be left alone if their sole caregivers are detained.
WICIR members also questioned a recent increase immigrant raids in the Ann Arbor area. There have been 14 raids in Washtenaw County in the past two weeks, but none have occurred in Ann Arbor, AAPD Chief Barnett Jones said.
Barnett said that a law enforcement raid – “when you kick the door in and you rush inside” – is not allowed under Ann Arbor’s current city ordianance and has never happened.
Barnett said although many people may not understand the local law enforcement’s role in handling the raids, AAPD involvement is beneficial for both federal officers and community members.
“One of the things we can guarantee right now if ICE comes into our community is that they’re contacting us to be there so that we have an officer who knows this community, who know the citizens, who knows about our resolution, who’s duty-bound to protect and serve all the citizens here, the illegal citizens and the legal citizens,” Barnett said.