Grand Rapids police set guidelines for interaction with immigrants

    Grand Rapids | Creative Commons

    The Grand Rapids Police Department announced Friday its new policy for interacting with non-citizens, which will forbid the department from, among other things, asking about immigration status or threatening deportation.

    The city says its new “foreign nationals policy” is meant to “ensure equal enforcement of the law and equal service to the public regardless of citizenship or immigration status.”

    Police Chief Eric Payne said in a statement that the policy “codifies [the] commitment and the expectation that everyone in our community receives equal service regardless of citizenship or immigration status,” and that “it’s another step forward in strengthening trust with the community we serve and providing clearer direction to our officers.”

    Grand Rapids police under fire from civil rights groups for Latino arrests

    In addition to placing restrictions on whether police can ask about immigration status or make threats based on that status, the department’s new policy forbids them to “Stop, question, investigate, arrest, search or detain an individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status,” or to “request translation services from federal immigration authorities – unless there’s an imminent danger to the public.”

    Attorneys Miriam Aukerman (L) and Hillary Scholten (R) in Grand Rapids | Nick Manes

    In May, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) began an investigation of the Grand Rapids Police Department for its alleged pattern of discrimination toward Latino residents. That investigation is still ongoing.

    Miriam Aukerman, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, praised the move in a statement.

    “Immigrants who need help from the police shouldn’t have to fear that if they call 911, they will lose their families and lives in America,” Aukerman said. “This policy recognizes that when local police get involved in immigration enforcement, it undermines community trust, leads to racial profiling, and makes everyone less safe.”

    Derek Robertson
    Derek Robertson is a former reporter for the Advance. Previously, he wrote for Politico Magazine in Washington. He is a Genesee County native and graduate of both Wayne State University, where he studied history, and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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