Michigan Immigrant Rights Center
Legislative Alert: House Bill 4197 & 4539 (2021)
June 15, 2021
MIRC opposes these bills for the reasons discussed below. We encourage you to contact your elected official to oppose these bills. The bills will have a hearing on June 15, 2021, at 12 pm in the Michigan House of Representatives in the Committee on Military, Veterans, and Homeland Security. To watch the hearing visit the Michigan legislature website for more details.
Michigan House of Representatives
HB 4539 (2021), was introduced by Representative LaFave (R), District 108 on 03/18/2021, and HB 4197 (2021) was introduced by Representative Hornberger (R) on 02/10/2021
Summary of Bills:
As introduced, the bills would ban a county (HB 4539) or local unit of government (HB 4197) from enacting or enforcing any kind of law or policy that limits or prohibits local officials, law enforcement officers, and employees of those entities from "communicating or cooperating" with federal officials concerning the immigration status of an individual in the state of Michigan. Immediately following a 60-day grace period for governments to come into compliance with the law, the bills provide for enforcement through litigation brought by either individual citizens or the Attorney General. Specifically, the bills allow any individual resident of a county or local unit of government to sue in state court if they believe that the county or local unit of government was enacting or enforcing a law, policy, or rule that limits or prohibits an officer or employee from communicating or cooperating with appropriate federal officials concerning the immigration status of an individual. The bills require the attorney general to bring an action for non-compliance in the relevant circuit court.
The bill provides for mandatory remedies if a violation is found,including1. an injunction restraining the county or local unit of government from enforcing the law, ordinance, policy, or rule; 2. mandatory repeal of the law, ordinance, policy, or rule, and an award of actual damages and costs; and 3. reasonable attorney fees to the party challenging the law, ordinance, policy, or rule.
Background and Analysis:
MIRC strongly opposes these bills because it would create powerful incentives for racial profiling in our communities, siphon valuable local resources for federal immigration enforcement, and limit the ability of democratically local elected leaders to set priorities.
The bills are substantially similar to legislation introduced in 2009 (HB 4044), 2015 (SB 445), and 2017 (HB 4105 & HB 4334). They place tremendous burdens on local government to assume optional federal immigration law enforcement duties. Currently, localities retain the discretion to choose when and how to cooperate with these requests. The law is extremely clear that "cooperation with ICE detainers is discretionary rather than mandatory." The bills would take away that discretion in Michigan and effectively make cooperation and information-sharing mandatory in all circumstances. There are numerous, well-documented reasons local governments can and should elect not to volunteer their county resources to federal immigration enforcement efforts.
The kind of ICE collaboration required by the bills would create a wedge between local governments and their communities. Studies have shown that when local officials collaborate with ICE for immigration enforcement, public trust is lost. Law enforcement leaders all over the country have explained that attaching immigration consequences to police interactions makes ordinary police work more difficult (NILC, Dep't of Justice) (LAPD). In a recent study, a majority of prosecutors, judges, and police officers reported that ramped-up immigration enforcement makes it harder to protect local communities from crime (NIWAP) (ACLU). Indeed, since the Trump administration took office, crime reporting has plummeted among Latinos in multiple cities (NY Times) (FiveThirtyEight) (LA Times). Academic studies have confirmed that immigrants avoid local authorities who act as a pipeline to the deportation system (Harvard) (Ctr. for Am. Progress).
The bills would also distract governments from their primary goal of ensuring public safety in their communities - delivering essential services and resources. The kind of ICE collaboration the bills require would put incredible strain on already sparse local budgets and resources. We pay local taxes to fund local operations, and federal taxes to fund federal operations. ICE is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year federal immigration enforcement agency that does not need to take away from city and county resources that are desperately needed to maintain local infrastructure, support the arts and education, and ensure public safety within the jurisdiction.
Immigration enforcement by local jurisdictions also increases the risk of racial profiling in our communities. Michigan is a state with diverse communities. Local officials who are tasked with the extra burden of enforcing immigration laws are more likely to target community members for enforcement based on race, either due to officers' intentional acts based on profiling or unconscious bias.
The bills would expose public officials to litigation both from supporters and from individuals who may be harmed by the bills - if officials do not properly interpret the immigration law, or use racial profiling methods to target suspected immigration violators, they expose themselves to another form of legal liability. As explained above, the bills would create powerful incentives for racial profiling. And, by design, the bills would subject cities and counties to costly litigation from anti-immigrant individuals and groups who do not perceive that their local units of government are engaging insufficient "communicating and cooperating" with ICE. "Communication and cooperation" is a concept that is not defined in these bills or in federal law. No one knows what that term means. So, that litigation would likely be complex and costly.
Some Michigan communities currently lawfully limit communication and cooperation with ICE in their local codes and many Michigan communities have administrative policies put in place by local law enforcement leadership that this bill would seek to outlaw and punish. For example, in 2019, the Kent County Sheriff's Department enacted a new policy requiring ICE to provide a federal judicial warrant if ICE wanted the county to hold an individual in a county facility for ICE. This policy change came after ICE asked the county to detain a Michigan-born United States citizen and decorated military combat veteran, alleging he was potentially subject to deportation. The policy is completely legal under current state and federal law because holding individuals for ICE is optional for local governments. Under these bills (HB 4539 specifically) Kent County's new policy, firmly grounded in its clear right under federal law to decline detainers and its fresh experience of their unreliability, could be alleged to be unlawful as a limit on "cooperation." Any resident could sue their local jurisdiction alleging that a wide variety of perfectly legal local resource and community relations decisions relating to immigration fail to rise to the level of "communication and cooperation" that the resident believes is required by this bill.