Dearborn will not renew jail contract to hold detainees for ICE

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn — The city of Dearborn has decided not to continue a more than decade-long arrangement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees, officials said Wednesday.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O'Reilly Jr. has decided that the city will not voluntarily cooperate with ICE after it has held thousands of detainees following backlash by immigration advocates and religious groups, a city spokeswoman said.

People gather at a protest at the Dearborn Police Department headquarters calling on the law enforcement agency to end its voluntary cooperation with Immigrant and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

"The mayor withdrew the recommendation for the renewal of the contract with Calhoun County to house the city of Dearborn’s misdemeanor prisoners for extended sentences in light of concerns about the portion of the contract that called for Dearborn to continue to house Calhoun County’s ICE prisoners for very short-term stays," Mary Laundroche said. 

Dearborn council members did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rebecca Adducci, ICE Detroit director of Enforcement and Removal Operations, said the city's decision will not disrupt ICE's local operations.

"The city's decision to no longer house ICE detainees at its facility will have minimal impact on local ICE operations, as a short-term facility," she said. "However, these policies do little to enhance law enforcement partnerships. Any policy that put politics before public safety is ill-conceived.”

The move by the city came after protesters gathered Aug. 13 outside the Police Department as part of the national #CloseTheCamps campaign, which is protesting the Trump administration's immigration policies. Members of Congress, including Reps. Debbie Dingell, Andy Levin and Rashida Tlaib, joined the gathering of 150 people hosted by the Detroit Jews for Justice, Council on American-Islamic Relations of Michigan and Bend The Arc: Ann Arbor.

The department has renewed contracts annually with Calhoun County and ICE for more than 10 years. Dearborn police would hold detainees for ICE in Dearborn's 20-bed facility in an undisclosed location, and in return, would be able to send up to 20 long-term prisoners to the Battle Creek jail.

Short-term immigrant detainees would be held in Dearborn until they could to be taken to Battle Creek or transported from that jail to be held in Dearborn until their deportation at Metro Airport.

Dearborn police Chief Ron Haddad declined to release what more the agreement with ICE included or where exactly the detainees are temporarily 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 earlier in a statement.

"Our sole mission is to provide public safety for all citizens in Dearborn," Haddad said. 

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 city’s plan is to find a different location for misdemeanor prisoners who have been sentenced in 19th District Court for extended periods of time, Laundroche said.

The ACLU of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center sent letters last week to nine county sheriffs, prosecutors and two police chiefs, including Haddad, urging that they stop detaining people in jails at the request of ICE. The ACLU also sent Freedom of Information Act requests to detail the Dearborn department's partnership with Calhoun County and ICE.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, led a protest Tuesday outside City Hall against the Police Department's partnership with ICE before attending the meeting, where the jail contract renewal was No. 27 on the agenda.

"The Dearborn City Council president (Susan Dabaja) and two other councilwomen stated they did not want ICE involvement with (the city's) detainees and then Dabaja tabled the issue without public comment," Walid said. 

"Though we find their statements encouraging, we still don't know the full extent of the relationship between ICE and Dearborn police. Hopefully, police will be transparent in this FOIA request."

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.

► More: Grand Rapids cop returning to job after veteran arrest uproar

Members of congress Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Andy Levin speak at a protest at the Dearborn Police Department headquarters calling on the law enforcement agency to end its voluntary cooperation with ICE.

Congressional lawmakers also called on the department to stop its voluntary cooperation with ICE in protest of the Trump administrations immigration policies. The lawmakers called the policies a "total failure" and advocated for change after Jimmy Al-Daoud, a refugee from Detroit, was found dead recently after he was deported in June to Iraq, a place he had never been.

Dingell, who declined to comment on the city's decision, said her constituents "have a responsibility to stand up to hate" and is planning a Take On Hate effort in the city on Aug. 29.

"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 ... every one of us has a responsibility to keep each other safe."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_