Grand Rapids — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has criticized a Michigan sheriff’s department that released three people living in the country illegally despite federal detainment requests.

ICE says its enforcement abilities are undermined by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department new policy that requires the agency to present a federal warrant signed by a federal judge or magistrate when making detainment requests.

The feds said the sheriff’s office recently released a Honduran national arrested for assault with intent to murder; a Mexican national arrested for a DUI; and a Mexican national arrested for operating while intoxicated. ICE has since arrested all three.

“This idea is simply a figment created by those who wish to undermine enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety,” ICE said.

ICE also noted that Congress hasn’t created rules that call for a federal warrant to be needed when arresting someone for suspected immigration violations.

Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young stood by the policy decision, saying its "imperative that each detained person have access to due process."

“We believe it to be imperative that each detained person have access to due process and we will continue to require judicial oversight for all law enforcement agencies including ICE,” she said.

The sheriff’s office enacted the policy in January after ICE arrested and detained American citizen and decorated U.S. Marine veteran Jilmar Ramos-Gomez in December.

Ramos-Gomez, 27, was in the county jail on charges related to a November incident at a Grand Rapids hospital. Ramos-Gomez was accused of setting a fire, pulling a fire alarm and getting access to a helipad. He was supposed to be released on Dec. 14, but jail staff honored a request from ICE to turn him over.

He spent three days in a detention center before a family lawyer proved that Ramos-Gomez is a U.S. citizen born in Grand Rapids.

Ramos-Gomez, who suffers from PTSD, had his passport, Michigan driver's license, military identification and Marine Corp tags on him at the time of his arrest, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

MoreCivil rights groups say ex-Marine detained by ICE was racially profiled

MoreOfficer on leave amid uproar over veteran detention

More: ACLU says government mistakenly sought to deport Michigan vet

The Grand Rapids police officer, Lt. Curt VanderKooi, has been placed on administrative leave after activists accused him of racial profiling. 

On Tuesday, protesters interrupt a Grand Rapids City Commission meeting protesting the city police officer's actions, demanding he be removed.

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 following the incident. The investigation, along with community input, led to the sheriff's department change in policy.   

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said ICE's latest actions are "deflecting from the real issues."

"It's pretty astounding that ICE, having arrested and attempting to deport a decorated Marine veteran, would attack the Kent County Sheriff Department for demanding basic due process," Aukerman told The Detroit News Friday. "There’s nothing that prevents ICE from getting a warrant. ICE doesn’t want to do the very basic, very simple act that every other federal agency does."

ICE said detainers serve as a request to maintain custody of a potential alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes.

"ICE places immigration detainers when the agency possesses probable cause to believe an alien is deportable from the United States," ICE said in a statement.

"When law enforcement agencies fail to honor immigration detainers and release a criminal alien onto the streets, they have declined an ICE detainer," ICE said in a statement. "This negatively impacts public safety and ICE’s efficiency in the apprehension of criminal aliens."

Aukerman said had the policy been enacted sooner, Jilmar would have been released, rather than taken into custody from the jail by ICE for deportation.

"There was every reason to believe Jilmar was a citizen ... an enormous amount of documentation," she said. "A judge would have never signed off on a warrant, but ICE issued a detainer, which shows you how incredibly reckless and sloppy the agency is when it comes to immigration enforcement."

Detroit News Staff Writer Sarah Rahal and Associated Press contributed.

Read or Share this story: