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Sheriff, researcher explain impact of immigration raids on communities and law enforcement

Police lights.
Police lights.

Our conversation with William Lopez and Jerry Clayton. Lopez is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan's School of Social Work. Clayton is Sheriff of Washtenaw County.

As he campaigned for the presidency, one of Donald Trump's most consistent messages was aimed at undocumented immigrants. At one point, he promised a deportation force to remove all undocumented immigrants.

That message helped get him elected.

It remains to be seen what will actually come to pass once Mr. Trump takes office in two weeks, but the increased possibility of immigration raids is out there.

William Lopez, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Jerry Clayton, the sheriff of Washtenaw County, joined Stateside to talk about what happens during those raids and how they affect families – Latino communities in particular.

In November of 2013, an immigration raid took place near the University of Michigan campus. It hit close to home for Lopez, who was working with the Latino community in the area at the time.

He found a rare opportunity: to gather health data on the impact the raids had on these communities over the five months that followed the incident.

"We’ve seen and we’ve heard from folks in these communities, their lives are often shaped by or at least strongly affected by these raids," said Lopez. "These raids affect all sorts of relationships. Relationships between individuals, between family members, between Latino communities and white communities, and also between immigrant and Latino communities and local police departments." 

Clayton pointed out that local law enforcement does not enforce federal law. In fact, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is working on a particular case, Clayton's office is unaware of their presence.

Nonetheless, this particular raid was a joint effort between ICE and the Washtenaw County Sheriffs' office That's because the feds asked for the assistance. 

The fear created by these raids has made it difficult for local law enforcement because most people are unable to tell the difference between federal agents and local police. As a result, immigrants feel threatened by police, go underground and are reluctant to reach out to police for help.

Listen to the full interview above to hear more about the Ann Arbor raid that launched the study, some of the study's findings, and related challenges faced by local law enforcement.

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