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Coverage from across Michigan and the state Capitol with the Michigan Public Radio Network and Interlochen Public Radio.

Opponents crowd hearing on bill to outlaw “sanctuary cities”

A state House committee held its first hearing Wednesday on legislation that would outlaw “sanctuary cities” in Michigan. The bills would ban local ordinances and rules that police officers says cannot ask about the immigration status of a suspect or a witness unless it’s tied to their investigation.

The Republican sponsors say local governments should not have rules against enforcing federal immigration laws.

“Officers currently take an oath to uphold our Constitution, federal, and state laws and (House bills) 4105 and 4334 will very simply deter local officials that force local officers to violate their oath of office,” said state Representative Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield).

But state Representative Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) said, in many cases, the rules were adopted by police departments to focus resources on enforcing state and local laws.

“You are now subjecting police officers to criminal penalties for following the directive of their police department to not ask for someone’s immigration status,” he said.

Local officials also say people are more likely to report crimes if they’re not afraid they’ll wind up in a trouble over their immigration status.

Susan Reed is an attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

She says police officers and sheriff’s deputies should not to be forced to do the job of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  

“Local officers are not ICE officers,” she said, “just like they’re not they’re not IRS tax collectors or federal wildlife officers. That’s a resource decision that many local communities make.”

Reed also said the legislation could lead to more harassment and racial profiling.

The bill could be voted on by the House Local Government Committee in two weeks.

Link to HB 4105

Link to HB 4334

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.