Government and Law

County, ICE at odds over detention procedures

Policy change requires federal agency to provide judicial warrant.

March 8, 2019
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Kent County and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency are on tenuous terms.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department recently instituted a policy change that now requires ICE to provide a judicial warrant for the department to detain an illegal immigrant for longer than the individual’s release date. Previously, the department had held such individuals for a longer period at the request of ICE officials.

On Feb. 28, ICE issued a scathing rebuke to the policy change, citing three examples of illegal immigrants engaging in criminal activities.

According to ICE, a Honduran native was arrested in Kent County for assault with intent to commit murder. A pair of Mexican nationals were arrested for alcohol-related offenses. All had previously been in Kent County’s custody and ICE used the detainer system to prolong their captivity. One of the Mexican nationals who was arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated was previously convicted of battery, second-degree battery, fraud-false information to law enforcement and felony re-entry after deportation, according to ICE.

“The release of criminal aliens back on West Michigan streets continues to pose a serious threat to our communities,” said Rebecca Adducci, Enforcement and Removal Operations field office director for Detroit, which covers the two-state region 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.”

Contrary to Adducci’s remarks, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said they are working with ICE to affect the safe and orderly transfer of legal custody from the jail to the ICE officer in those cases where they have filed the proper paperwork and have met the time constraints.

She said since the change in policy Jan. 18, the county has released many individuals to ICE officers who are conducting immigration-related investigations.

“The Kent County Sheriff’s office is focused on the safety of our community and the equitable treatment of all people incarcerated in our facility,” LaJoye-Young said. “We work very hard to collaborate with all law enforcement agencies to make that happen.”

Sgt. Joel Roon from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department said law enforcement is cooperating with ICE in a couple of ways.

He said the department notifies ICE officials when an individual will no longer be in custody on local charges and that the inmate out-processing has begun. That allows ICE to file a detainer request if it wishes to take the individual into federal custody.

“If ICE wishes to take custody of that person and arrives at the KCCF (Kent County Correctional Facility) by the time the inmate is released, they are allowed to take custody of said individual in a secure area of the correctional facility,” Roon said. “This secure transfer of custody ensures the safety of the community, the inmate and the ICE agent who is taking custody.”

An immigrant detainer is only valid for a limited time, however.

Meghan Moore, partner and immigration attorney for Kent County-based Avanti Law Group, said a detainer is a written request from ICE to a law enforcement agency to hold an individual for 48 hours (after the criminal case is over).

She said detainers are based only on ICE's internal information — no matter where it comes from or who has vetted it — that the person ICE wants to detain is deportable.

In addition to immigrant detainer requests, Roon said if the department receives from ICE an arrest warrant signed by a federal judge or magistrate, which was enabled by the local policy change, the department will retain the individual in custody beyond local charges without ICE being present, until that person can be brought before a federal court or transferred to another facility by ICE or its designee.

Roon said the change in policy is an element of oversight to the detention process to ensure that proper justification exists for the detention.

Amy Carpenter of GR Rapid Response, which assists immigrants who interact with ICE, said ICE's assertion that each individual released by the sheriff’s department is a particular danger to the community at-large because of past mistakes is overgeneralized and unfounded fearmongering.

“ICE’s recent statement that the new Kent County policy is a ‘sanctuary policy’ suggests that Kent County or Grand Rapids are ‘sanctuary cities’ in some way,” Carpenter said. “This is definitely not true, with the contract between ICE and Kent County still in place and local law enforcement still clearly engaging in cooperation with ICE based on recent cases.”

The sheriff department’s policy change was made shortly after a U.S. citizen, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, was arrested by the Grand Rapids Police Department on charges of arson. He was later transferred into ICE custody.

“As the sheriff, I am responsible to ensure that every person housed in the Kent County Jail is treated equitably and with due process,” LaJoye-Young said. “I am also obligated to ensure that Kent County is not exposed to liability related to erroneous detention. I have no intention in being a shield for someone so they can avoid being held responsible for criminal violations, which include criminal immigration violations.”

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