KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo city officials are choosing not to move forward with a Department of Justice grant over concerns about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policies.
City administrators told 24 Hour News 8 that they have accepted Justice Assistance Grants for years, but there have been changes to part of the agreement. Officials found those changes could promote the separation of immigrant families.
“We (city staff members) determined that there are some really open-ended questions about whether or not the new requirements conflict with the requirements that were passed by the City Commission in July,” Kalamazoo Deputy City Manager Jeff Chamberlain told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. “In July, our elected officials passed a resolution that stated that they opposed the separation of families for immigration and that also directed the city administration to not work in efforts that would separate families due to immigration status.”
There was a city commission meeting scheduled for Thursday morning to discuss the grant, but it was canceled due to a scheduling conflict. The agreement will therefore not move forward because officials had to accept it before Nov. 16.
City commission documents show that $92,200 grant would have been used to purchase new police equipment. $71,884 would have gone to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and $20,316 to the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department.
Chamberlain said it would have paid for new recording devices for interrogation rooms and a chromatograph mass spectrometer.
“A mass spectrometer is like a very high-powered microscope that can identify what a substance is made of,” he explained. “So, it’s used, often times, for drug testing.”
Officials will find other avenues to fund those projects, he said.
CALLS FOR CHANGE
At an End ICE town hall meeting at the YWCA in Kalamazoo Wednesday evening, immigrants’ rights activists and legal experts said they think Kalamazoo County needs new policies to help immigrants.
Nelly Fuentes, a member of the immigration activist group Movimiento Cosecha Kalamazoo, told the crowd she has met domestic abuse victims who are scared to call police because of they’re scared they’ll be detained.
“There’s days when I just get home and it’s just like, I just need to close my eyes right now and hope that tomorrow is a better day,” she told 24 Hour News 8.
Still, she said she’s committed to promoting change.
As calls to end local contract with ICE continue in West Michigan and across the nation, Fuentes said now is the time for Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller to do so.
“It’s not about Sheriff Fuller, it’s about Kalamazoo (Count)] having no ICE holds policy,” she said.