Lawmakers, protesters call for end to Dearborn police housing ICE detainees

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Nabintou Doumbia stood before a crowd protesting U.S. immigration and detention policies and talked about her family's struggle to deal with her father's deportation to Ivory Coast in November.

More than 150 demonstrators peacefully gathered outside the Dearborn Police Department on Michigan Avenue, calling for an end to the department's agreement to hold detainees, including Doumbia's father, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

Protesters at the Dearborn Police Department called for the city to end its cooperation to house immigrant detainees for Immigrant and Customs Enforcement.

Doumbia opened her comments with a prayer that Moses said centuries ago as he prepared to confront Pharaoh. 

"The prayer is a reminder to myself as well as each of you that the stance against oppression and injustice was, is, and will always be not only a communal obligation but a religious one," said Doumbia of Detroit.

"We must continue to fight back, shouting to the administration to close the camps, no Muslim ban ever and that immigration is a black issue, not because this isn't the America we know, it is, but because this is the America we refuse on our watch."

Doumbia's father was one of nearly 1,000 immigrants who were detained by the Dearborn Police Department last year for ICE, according to police records. 

Doumbia said her father, who came to the U.S. in 1990 and had four children in Detroit, was undocumented and had orders of removal from 2004, but travel documents were never issued. He was placed on supervision and in August 2018, he was arrested at his regular check-in when travel documents were issued.

"We were extremely anxious in the beginning, and felt very helpless," said Doumbia, 22.

The protesters gathered as a part of the national #CloseTheCamps campaign, which is protesting the Trump administration's immigration policies. Members of Congress joined the gathering hosted by the Detroit Jews for Justice, Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan and Bend The Arc: Ann Arbor.

Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad declined to release what the agreement with ICE includes or where the detainees are held in Dearborn. The department provides "all persons in our custody civil, humane and professional services including reasonable dietary, spiritual, and family-update measures that may be required," he said in a statement.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. declined to more comment on the work with ICE, saying Haddad's statement represents the city.

"Our sole mission is to provide public safety for all citizens in Dearborn," Haddad said. "Tonight will be no exception."

The department has housed 1,333 ICE prisoners with final deportation orders during the 2018 fiscal year (a combined total of 1,696 days), according to the mayor's annual report. The Police Department said their records show a total of 961 detainment during 2018's calendar year.

"Our participation in this program returned a savings for prisoner housing costs of approximately $84,223 this year," according to the mayor's report.  

The ACLU of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center sent letters Friday to nine county sheriffs, prosecutors and two police chiefs, including Haddad, urging that they stop detaining people in jails at the request of ICE. 

"They have denied having a contract and holding people in their jail, and from our partnership with MIRC, they've documented intakes with people being held in Dearborn or transported through," said Abril Valdes, immigrant rights attorney for the ACLU of Michigan. "They are being used as a hub for homeland security ... this corrodes community trust, especially if leadership in the city are denying these claims."

In January, Kent County Sheriff’s Office changed their policy on holding detainees for ICE following the arrest and three-day detention of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a decorated Marine who was born in Grand Rapids.

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U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell, Rashida Talib and Andy Levin closed the event, saying their constituents "have a responsibility to stand up to hate."

"This country is being divided by fear and hatred, and it's wrong," Dingell said. "We stand here today of members of all faiths that are being targeted ... and we want to organize a Take On Hate effort in the next couple of weeks."

Tlaib said she did an unannounced visit to the Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek and was denied entry to see the facility's conditions. 

"The way we're going to get the city of Dearborn and all those to really truly divest and disconnect with ICE is going to be to push that they are violating national detention standards," she said. "There are standards ... we are just not forcing them to comply with them."

Levin and 40 House Democrats also signed the letter to Trump Tuesday, urging him to end detention and deportations of Iraqi nationals living in the country. The letter was sent following the death of Jimmy Al-Daoud, a homeless refugee who was found dead last week, two months after he was deported to Iraq after criminal convictions in the U.S.

The detentions and deportations are part of a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s immigration system that the Trump administration has been working to put in place, despite legal pushback, according to the Associated Press.

At least one Republican questioned the reason for the use of local departments to house ICE detainees.

"If an influx of detainees occurs for whatever reason and an overflow results, then perhaps utilizing local departments may become necessary. But if this is a matter of convenience due to a lack of funding and resources and the result is draining resources of local departments, ... that is a problem," said David Dudenhoefer, GOP spokesman for Michigan's 13th district. 

"The local officials and protesters may have a valid point, and not commingling the responsibilities and duties of departments for a variety of reasons, both from the perspective of law enforcement and the perspective of citizens."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_