Kalamazoo County Sheriff updates policy on jail time for undocumented immigrants

Kalamazoo Law enforcement.PNG

Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller released a new policy on the agency's website Thursday regarding holding undocumented immigrants in jail.

Part of the policy changes the amount of time some undocumented immigrants will be held in jail. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement gives local jails “ICE Detainers," which is a written request to hold undocumented immigrants, so federal agents can have additional time to put the person in custody. Fuller’s new policy does not make a commitment to those requests.

“The policy’s changing to those that have committed minor offenses—driving without a license, having two parking tickets, those are things that should not be a reason why you get arrested and then put on an ICE hold and deportation proceedings," said Adrian Vazquez, executive director at El Concilio.

Vazquez and El Concilio, the Hispanic American Council for the Kalamazoo area, work with many undocumented families. He said the group has also been working with Fuller about upgrades to ICE Detainer policies.

“We have a department that’s willing to work with the community and making sure that they’re here to serve and protect. They’re not here to look for your status,” said Vazquez.

Susan Reed, the managing attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said in a statement, “The new policy no longer authorizes 48 hour optional holds for ICE by the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Department. This will meaningfully improve the department's community relations and focus department resources on crime rather than people's civil immigration status. Providing optional operational support for a federal agency that enforces a deeply broken immigration law needlessly exacerbates fear and mistrust of law enforcement in our community.”

Nelly Fuentes, the volunteer coordinator for Cosecha Kalamazoo, an advocacy group for undocumented families, said the group held Fuller and the sheriff’s office accountable for updating policies after witnessing the impacts of the previous rules.

“This policy comes as a direct result of our efforts,” Fuentes said in a statement.

Vazquez said, to his understanding, the new policy will not excuse every undocumented immigrant from jail time.

“People who are committing high crimes and felonies are still going to be punished and we’re in support of that. We don’t want nobody who’s not making our community safe,” he said.

Vazquez hopes Fuller’s policy for the county will encourage state and national government to also make changes—especially regarding immigration policy.

“Our system is old. Our system hasn’t been updated for 30 years. And right now people who are living here for more than 10 or 20 years, there’s no process for them. Even though they’ve been here that long, they have kids who are citizens,” he said. “Changing immigration laws that allows people that are here already to become legal residents. There isn’t a process where millions can apply and are able to stay here and work and then apply to become citizens. There isn’t a process.”

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