Kent Co. sheriff: New policy protects due process

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County sheriff says her department is cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite the federal agency taking aim at a new policy that requires judicial approval of detainment requests.

Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young told 24 Hour News 8 on Friday that since implementing the new policy in January, the jail has transferred inmates into ICE’s custody under judicial warrants dozens of times.

A Thursday release from ICE slammed the new policy, saying that as a result, three people in the country illegally had been released from the jail because ICE presented the sheriff’s department with an agency warrant rather than a judicial warrant. ICE said the policy strained “already overburdened federal courts” and that it was a “figment created by those who wish to undermine immigration enforcement.”

The policy change was sparked by the case of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who as wrongfully detained for three days in December.

“We came to the conclusion that there needed to be a judicial oversight inserted into that process to give us the assurance that somebody wasn’t erroneously detained without due process,” LaJoye-Young explained.

The sheriff said the move was not meant to create adversarial divide between her department and ICE.

“We’re simply asking ICE to use the judicial review process as opposed to the civil process in cases where they’re asking us to maintain custody of somebody beyond their normal release,” the sheriff said.

The civil process is one avenue ICE can take under immigration law when working to remove someone from the country. Those detainments don’t require judicial review.

“It’s certainly not a hostile move against ICE, but it is a positive forward move for due process for every person detained in the Kent County jail. That’s the scope of this decision,” LaJoye-Young said.

She couldn’t talk specifics about the three cases referenced by ICE because she did not have any direct communication with the agency before the Thursday release.


The latest developments in Kent County sparked the nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies to list the county as a sanctuary jurisdiction.

But the sheriff says that’s not true.

“We are not a sanctuary community. However, we are interested in ensuring due process is afforded for every single person that’s detained in the Kent County jail, whether it’s through local law enforcement, a state law enforcement agency or a federal agency. That due process is what we’re guarding,” LaJoye-Young said.

She reiterated the county is cooperating with ICE and hopes there can be future communication to work together more effectively.

“I think it’s important that (people) understand our policy,” the sheriff said. “It’s not to protect somebody from being legally held for immigration law violations if somebody is here illegally and has gone through the proper policy review and procedure. We are absolutely cooperating with ICE to enforce immigration law. We’re not doing it without the proper review.”

ICE has said Ramos-Gomez told agents he was in the country illegally. But Ramos-Gomez is and always has been a U.S. citizen, and a Target 8 investigation found authorities had evidence of that when he was arrested (he had his passport with him) and that one Grand Rapids Police Department sergeant told the FBI almost immediately that there was no need for the feds to get involved.

The GRPD captain who called in ICE — from home and without consulting anyone else at the department — is on administrative leave while the city investigates whether he was properly disciplined for referring to Ramos-Gomez as “loco” in an email.

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