With illegal immigration a hot topic this election year, all eyes are on Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As its policies become gradually less respectful of civil rights, activist groups and cities are taking a stand. But here in typically progressive Ann Arbor, the City Council is standing idly by, accommodating ICE and not opposing it. With several major cities already leading the fight, Ann Arbor has no excuse for its lack of action. It is time for Ann Arbor to follow the example of other sanctuary cities and take a stand against civil rights infringement by becoming a sanctuary city.
ICE is the organization that monitors, detains and deports illegal immigrants. Because ICE often deals with non-citizens, it uses certain questionable practices that other crime enforcement agencies can’t. For example, ICE agents have the right to question individuals about their immigration status and even detain them without a warrant if they are found in the company of an illegal immigrant for whom ICE does have a warrant. There have even been allegations that ICE has broken down doors and assaulted parents in front of children, all of which ICE has denied. In any case, ICE’s clear racial profiling and other questionable exercises are an affront to the civil rights endowed to all living in the United States.
In Ann Arbor, the city police accompany ICE on arrests. The Ann Arbor Police Department says that it goes along to monitor ICE activities for civil rights violations, but the ramifications of ICE’s actions are magnified when local law enforcement gets involved. When the local police assist ICE operations, the targets of these raids can easily assume that the two groups are connected, thus alienating them from the AAPD. And when immigrants are afraid of local police, they are less likely to report crimes. Soon, there is an entire population living outside the law. This creates a serious safety risk for all residents, legal or otherwise.
In response to growing concerns about the constitutionality of ICE practices as well as the ramifications for legal residents, several major cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and Detroit have declared themselves “sanctuary” cities. They have enacted policies to protect immigrant residents and prohibit local police forces from assisting in ICE operations. Ann Arbor, on the other hand, has been unclear at best and meek at worst in its stance against the unjust treatment of immigrants.
In 2003, the Ann Arbor City Council passed a civil liberties resolution in regards to illegal immigrants — but it was distressingly feeble. Instead of taking a firm stance, the resolution declared only that it “opposes measures that single out individuals for legal scrutiny or enforcement activity based solely on their country of origin and/or religion.” In fact, the city threw out a section of the original draft that would have required AAPD to “refrain from participating in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.” Instead of taking a decisive action, the council took the teeth out of its proposal and stepped away from its responsibility to its constituents.
By submitting to the federal government, the city has forsaken its own residents. Ann Arbor, usually an opinionated, progressive town, has been uncharacteristically noncommittal on this vital issue. If the council continues to postpone action, it could be an untold amount of time before immigrants are treated with the respect they deserve as residents of the United States and human beings. The City Council can and should take an active stance on this issue before Ann Arbor compromises its progressive reputation — and, more importantly, the safety of its residents.