Grand Rapids police not covered by new immigration policy

Posted at 3:14 AM, Nov 16, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Officials in Grand Rapids have adopted a new policy that bars most city workers and staff from asking residents about their immigration status, with the exception being police.

The Grand Rapids City Commission adopted the policy Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Press reported . The ordinance was drafted over the last year by the Community Relations Commission, the city’s diversity and inclusion manager, local police and the city’s lawyers.

“Part of what we do as public servants is balance, and we have to balance what’s in the best interest of the people in the community, but also what’s in the best interest of the city as a whole,” City Attorney Anita Hitchcock said. “This is one of those times when it was a little bit difficult, a little bit challenging.”

The policy doesn’t bar local police from asking about immigration status. Instead, it states that officers must follow the Grand Rapids Police Department’s Impartial Policing Policy, which prohibits racial profiling but doesn’t explicitly stop officers from inquiring about immigration status.

Grand Rapids Police Chief David Rahinsky noted that his department doesn’t ask about immigration status.

“We don’t prioritize immigration enforcement — we are a municipal police department,” Rahinsky said. But he said the local ordinance doesn’t stop Kent County, the Michigan State Police or federal authorities from enforcing federal immigration laws.

Gema Lowe, director of the Worker’s Center of West Michigan, said the ordinance doesn’t go far enough.

“I see this as a step forward to attend to what the immigrant community is asking, but it’s not addressing that fear,” Lowe said. “I still feel that fear.”

The ordinance states that “a public servant, who is not a police officer, shall not inquire into the immigration status of any person, or engage in activities designed to ascertain the immigration status of any person, while acting within the scope of public service employment and/or authority.”

City Commissioner Senita Lenear said the policy will help people know “that they can feel safe here.”