Washtenaw County deputies won't ask immigrants about their status

Calls to Michigan Immigrant Rights Center triple since 2017

WASHTENAW COUNTY, Mich. – Following the mass shooting in Texas and ICE raids in Mississippi a local sheriff wants to reassure immigrants who may be afraid.

Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton says his deputies will not ask immigrants about their status. He pointed out that immigration enforcement falls under federal jurisdiction. Clayton wants people in trouble to feel safe calling police.

Immigration advocacy groups like this one in Ypsilanti, say they’re alarmed by the number of violent crimes that go unreported. 

"It’s a step but in grand scheme of things I don’t think it makes a huge difference," Ruby Robinson, of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

 ​But on a local level Robinson says the move by the Washtenaw County sheriff sends a strong message.

"He wants to protect everybody in his community and make sure they are safe regardless of immigration status," Robinson said. 

The sheriff also weighed in on the issue.  

"There’s fear and we know when there’s fear in the community the likelihood of them engaging with us is minimized," he said. 

Calls to the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center have tripled since 2017. 

"The phone is ringing. We represent a lot of people who are victims of crime, people are not reporting it despite horrific effects on them and their children," said Robinson. 

Clayton wants victims of crime to feel safe calling police. 

"When we respond to a call for service we don’t know if someone is documented or undocumented, that’s not important to us. What we know is someone needs our help and then we move on from there," Clayton said.  

The sheriff says immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility. And says his department will not transfer an inmate to ICE without a warrant from a judge. 

"What we have said to ICE is that if this person is that much of a threat, if it’s that important that we hold them/get a judicial order and we won’t have that issue/I want folks to know that we’re here to help keep everyone safe," said Clayton. 

About the Author:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism