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Michigan NewsMichigan Republicans push to end sanctuary policies following tragic Grand Rapids incident

Michigan Republicans push to end sanctuary policies following tragic Grand Rapids incident

Michigan – The arrest of an undocumented immigrant after the killing of a Grand Rapids woman has reignited discussions about sanctuary policies in Michigan cities and counties such as Kent County. Republican leader in the Michigan House, Matt Hall, has been spurred by Ruby Garcia’s death to call for a hearing on his bill aimed at abolishing sanctuary areas for undocumented migrants within the state, despite the fact that the incident was not connected to Kent County’s sanctuary status.

“Some people want to play semantics, and I’ll just say a sanctuary county or city is not just a county or city that passes a resolution saying that they’re a sanctuary county or city,” Hall, of Richland, said.

Kent County authorities, including Sheriff Michelle Lajoye-Young, said that their county doesn’t provide haven to undocumented immigrants, a claim that faces contradiction from U.S. immigration authorities. The contention stems from the manner in which Kent County jail deals with law-breaking undocumented inmates. Normally, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, would ask jails to detain these individuals for an extra 48 hours after they’ve served their time for local crimes, to allow ICE agents the time to apprehend them for potential expulsion.

However, a shift occurred in 2019 when the Kent County jail, following an erroneous detainment of an ex-Marine by ICE, stopped honoring such detainer requests without a judicial warrant. According to the Center for Immigration Studies based in Washington, D.C., which monitors immigration enforcement practices, there are five Michigan jurisdictions considered sanctuary zones, including Kent and Kalamazoo counties. Despite county officials maintaining that their warrant requirement is about legal fairness, they emphasize this practice does not confer the title of a sanctuary county upon Kent.

“There are counties that have become sanctuary counties, but their boards have voted to do that,” Kent County Administrator Al Vanderberg said. “Having somebody from a whole other jurisdiction across the country say that we’re a sanctuary county really doesn’t pass muster.”

In 2019, the then President Donald Trump and immigration authorities criticized Kent County after a man from Honduras was set free by the jail. He had finished his sentence for a violent assault case.

“Earlier this year, authorities in the sanctuary jurisdiction of Kent County, Mich. — everybody knows Kent County? — released an illegal alien charged with assault with intent to murder after he repeatedly and viciously stabbed a man in the head with a broken bottle,” Trump said during a rally in Battle Creek. “They let him go to roam free in Michigan communities.”

Grand Rapids fatal incident of a woman has reignited discussions about sanctuary policies in Michigan cities and counties

However, official state documents show that he was actually charged with assault using a dangerous weapon. In response to these concerns, House Republican Leader Matt Hall presented a bill in June 2023 aiming to get rid of sanctuary areas in Michigan.

“If officials in that county or city have a policy that limits the ability of local officials to work with federal law enforcement on enforcing immigration laws, or if it limits their ability to communicate, that is a sanctuary policy,” Hall said.

The recent murder of Garcia on March 22 was what prompted Hall to request a hearing. Reports say that Garcia’s boyfriend, Brandon Ortiz-Vite, who had been previously deported to Mexico but returned undocumented to Michigan, admitted to her murder.

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, from the Democratic Party and Grand Rapids, posted on Facebook last Friday stating Garcia’s death as a ” tragic instance of domestic violence.” She mentioned that it becomes even sadder when used by people trying to make political gains by spreading fear, hostility towards foreigners, and split within the community.

“We know that immigrants (of all statuses) are a net-positive to our economy, public safety, culture, and community,” she continued. “We know that immigrants (of all statuses) deserve to be treated with dignity — as all people do. Shame on anyone whose rhetoric (or actions, or policies, or leadership) does the opposite.”

The Kent County sheriff and other local leaders this week asked the Center for Immigration Studies to remove Kent County from its list of sanctuary communities, saying the jail cooperates with ICE.