Kent County

ACLU to urge Kent County to leave ICE contract

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There are renewed calls for Kent County to cancel its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and now the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is getting involved.

The ICE contract has been a controversial issue for months, causing disruptive protests during county commission meetings.

At the regularly-scheduled Thursday meeting, attorneys with the ACLU and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center plan to lay out legal arguments for why the Kent County sheriff should end the contract with ICE.

"The old sheriff has said, 'Oh, I can't do anything about it. I'm bound to do it.' That's legally, simply not true," Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday.

"Our goal tomorrow is to put that in a legal framework and say, 'You've heard those stories, you've heard people coming and weeping before you about what is happening to their families and our answer to you is yes, you can you can do something. You should do something,'" she continued.

Aukerman argued that the ACLU believes Kent County Sheriff's Department is actually violating the law by providing subsidized services to the federal agency.

"Instead of having their hands tied, they're actually violating the law, in our view," she said.

>>PDF: July 25 statement from sheriff, commission on contract

New Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young, who was the undersheriff before last week, said she is well aware of the calls from groups, like Movemiento Cosecha GR, to throw out the ICE contract.

"I've been around the controversy now for the last several months just like everybody else has," she said Wednesday evening.

The sheriff said the current contract expires in September. She has no plans of ending it early, but said she'll continue listening and doing research before renewing it.

"It's needless to say very complicated," she said.

LaJoye-Young said it's her duty to separate emotions from any decision on the contract. She wants to decide what's best for the community without jeopardizing security.

"The ramifications will be there no matter which direction we head," she said. "So we're going to take our time, we're going to make it (a decision) with reason, we're going to make it with input, and it will be at the point the contract's renewed, not as an early termination."

The Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the County Administration Building. The ACLU's presentation will happen during public comment.


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