Gov downplays push to make cops immigration enforcers

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday pushed back against President Donald Trump’s initiative to use state and local police officers to help enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

One of the executive orders that the Republican president signed Wednesday directs the U.S. attorney general to negotiate agreements with each state so local law enforcement officials are empowered to be immigrant enforcement officers.

“I don’t view that as one of their primary functions,” Snyder, a fellow Republican, said after an event celebrating Michigan’s 180th anniversary as a state. “We’re actually doing very well in terms of bringing violent crime down within the state of Michigan. And we’re gonna work hard on continuing to make Michigan a safer place.”

Trump complained during the campaign that the Democratic Obama administration was less aggressive about apprehending immigrants residing illegally in the country, especially ones who committed crimes, and deporting them.

“It is the policy of the executive branch to empower State and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer in the interior of the United States to the maximum extent permitted by law,” reads the order signed Wednesday.

The Snyder administration was neutral Wednesday in its reaction to the executive order. Spokeswoman Anna Heaton said, “We will review the order once we receive it and work with our counterparts in the Trump administration to understand its impact in Michigan.”

Trump is also expected to sign another executive order this week to stop the refugee flow into the United States for at least four months as well as an open-ended halt to Syrian arrivals.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has supported this idea.

“This wholesale immigration into this country of people who are not properly vetted was ridiculous,” Patterson said Wednesday. “We know there are terror groups from these countries, and our own intelligence community has said there’s no way to properly vet them. The FBI and the NSA said it (last year).”

The longtime Republican said there have been problems in Germany and France, which have experienced an influx of Middle East refugees.

“We don’t want those problems here,” Patterson told The Detroit News.

The president’s upcoming order is also expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for at least 30 days, according to a draft executive order obtained by the Associated Press.

On Thursday, Snyder reinforced his commitment to welcoming immigrants and refugees to Michigan.

The governor said he is “going to continue to promote Michigan as a welcoming place for immigrants” and that allowing them into the state is “something that ties right into my theme in terms of growing Michigan.”

In other immigration directives, Trump ordered Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to decide which communities are “sanctuary cities” that don’t cooperate with federal agents in turning over illegal immigrants for deportation and reduce the federal aid — except for funding designated for law enforcement.

Even though Detroit has been identified as a sanctuary city, Mayor Mike Duggan’s Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley said Wednesday that the order wouldn’t apply to Detroit because its officials “cooperate fully with all federal agencies during the course of criminal investigations, regardless of a person’s immigration status.”

The Republican president also directed the attorney general to take “appropriate enforcement action” against any community that “prevents or hinders the enforcement of Federal (immigration) law.”

Staff Writer George Hunter contributed.