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Guest column: Ban on sanctuary cities threatens safety in Michigan

Wednesday, June 14, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Detroit Free Press
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This article, written by NASW-Michigan member and State House Representative Stephanie Chang, was originally published in the Detroit Free Press.

 

 Law enforcement leaders who work to improve police-community relations to keep everyone safe deserve support, not interference from Lansing. Yet the Michigan House is considering House Bills 4105 and 4334, legislation that would pre-empt cities, townships, counties and their respective law enforcement agencies from adopting or implementing any “law, ordinance, policy, or rule that limits or prohibits a peace officer or local official, officer, or employee from communicating or cooperating with appropriate federal officials concerning the immigration status of an individual in this state.”

 

 These bills jeopardize public safety because immigrant community members in Detroit and across Michigan will be even more afraid to report a crime such as domestic violence, or to provide information when a crime in their neighborhood is being investigated. Immigrants who are in need may become afraid to go to the police for help for fear of being detained or deported. This would dramatically undermine police and community trust that many officers have worked hard to build.

 

 Local law enforcement agencies in Detroit and across the state have real public safety issues they have to address in our communities with limited resources. It is important to point out that, across the country, counties that have adopted welcoming policies tend to have lower crime rates than similarly sized those without these policies. Why would we want to reverse that trend?

 

 Michigan is supposed to be known as a welcoming state and our governor has stated that he wants us to work on increasing the population. These bills beg the question: How does encouraging local police to drive more immigrants into the detention and deportation process help us achieve these goals? We are living in a time when detentions and deportations of immigrants are already on the rise because of the Trump administration’s executive actions that essentially say that any undocumented immigrant, regardless of criminal background, is now a priority for removal. A new report shows that arrests of immigrants with zero criminal backgrounds increased 150% across the country.

 

We have seen far too many immigrants who are contributing to the economy caught up in the system to be deported even though they pose no threat to public safety. These are not the “bad hombres” President Donald Trump talking about during his campaign. These are people like Mario Hernandez-Delacruz, who only had a traffic ticket. These policies mean more families are being separated, sending more children who are American citizens into foster care, and leaving these children with well-documented trauma and other damaging psychological impacts. House Bills 4105 and 4334 essentially call on local police to add to this crisis.

 

 Lastly, these bills will increase costs for local governments across our state. The bills will likely result in endless lawsuits against cities, townships and counties because the bills essentially encourage residents to sue their local governments if they think they are not “communicating or cooperating” enough with federal officials. This policy empowers local law enforcement to check immigration papers — something they are not trained for or have time to do.  Police officers and local officials would face fines of $2,500 to $7,500 if they do not meet this undefined metric of working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Border Patrol agents.

 

 Anti-welcoming legislation is the opposite of what we need in Michigan. House Bills 4105 and 4334 are bad for public safety, will break up more Michigan families, and cost our cities thousands of dollars. 

 

 Stephanie Chang, a Democrat from Detroit, represents Michigan's 6th District in the Michigan House of Representatives. 


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