Kent Co. Sheriff Dept. changes ICE holding policy following veteran arrest

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, an American-born citizen and decorated marine who fought in Afghanistan.

The Kent County Sheriff's Department has changed its policy on voluntarily holding detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement following the wrongful arrest of a decorated Marine veteran, officials announced Friday. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center applauded Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young’s decision Friday to refuse to hold detainees for ICE unless presented with an arrest warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate.

The change in policy follows the arrest of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a decorated veteran born in Grand Rapids, who was turned over to ICE by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at ICE’s request in December.

In a letter to the Kent County Sheriff and Kent County Commission, the ACLU and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center called for an immediate investigation into the detention of Ramos-Gomez.  

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman commended the decision saying, "no one should be handed over to ICE unless ICE has a judicial warrant."

"Jilmar’s case shows that blindly turning people over to ICE based on ICE’s error-ridden detainer system is a recipe for disaster," Aukerman said. "We call on local law enforcement across the country to follow the lead of the Kent County Sheriff, and ensure that no one gets held for ICE unless a judge signs off.  We also call on ICE – which has refused to do an investigation – to do so."

County Sheriff LaJoye-Young said they launched a full investigation into Ramos-Gomez's case and said it is clear that "ICE detained him on the basis of either incomplete or inaccurate information — information that is their duty to collect and verify."

The public affairs office for ICE said Friday that it was unable to respond to media inquiries due to the ongoing government shutdown. 

Ramos-Gomez, 27, had his United State's passport on him at the time of his arrest, said ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman. He was taken from Kent County Jail after he was ordered to be released by a judge and taken into ICE custody for three days. 

Family said he had to be hospitalized for PTSD treatment following his release on Dec. 17. 

During the county's review of the incident, they found that the Grand Rapids Police Department contacted ICE in conjunction with their arrest and investigation into Ramos-Gomez's case. 

The department said Friday that contacting ICE is "not a routine part of our investigation process," but officials did so since they believed the incident involved a possible terrorist act.

"Grand Rapids Police Department policy requires this notification for incidents involving potential acts of terrorism," a statement issued by the department reads. "Our police department's No. 1 priority is to keep our community safe. We do not enforce immigration laws. 

"There are times when law enforcement agencies work collaboratively to ensure the public's safety. We are committed to being a welcoming community where immigrants and refugees feel safe."

LaJoye-Young said the county's new policy would go into effect immediately. 

"The additional requirement of independent judicial review will increase the level of oversight of ICE detention requests in Kent County," LaJoye-Young said in a statement. "Our justice system is built on a balance of authority and oversight. For that reason, we advocate for the requirement that all ICE detention requests be subject to judicial review at a national level."
Twitter: @SarahRahal_