GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Police Department has added a foreign nationals policy that the City hopes will ensure the safety of everyone.

The department added the policy, which establishes guidelines for department personnel to follow when interacting with foreign nationals and other individuals who are not citizens of the country they live in. According to the City of Grand Rapids, the guidelines are in place to "ensure equal enforcement of the law and service to the public" regardless of citizenship or immigration status. 

The main goals of the policy -- which aligns with the City’s Strategic Plan to prioritize public safety -- are:

  • Foster trust and cooperation with all people served by the police department
  • Increase effectiveness of the department in protecting and serving the entire community
  • Encourage all people to communicate with the police department without fear of inquiry into their immigration or documentation status
  • Comply with federal and international law regarding diplomatic immunity and consular notification

“All members of our police department – both sworn and civilian – are dedicated to serving everyone who lives, works and plays in our city with the highest degree of professionalism, dignity and respect,” Police Chief Eric Payne said in a press release from the City. 

“This policy codifies that commitment and the expectation that everyone in our community receives equal service regardless of citizenship or immigration status.”

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Under the policy, as outlined in the press release, no member of GRPD may:

  • Coerce, threaten with deportation or engage in verbal abuse with any person based on the person’s or the person’s family members’ actual or perceived immigration status or citizenship
  • Inquire into a person’s immigration status when the person seeks police services, such as filing a police report or calling 911
  • Stop, question, investigate, arrest, search or detain an individual based solely on actual or suspected immigration status, actual or suspected violations of federal civil immigration law, prior deportation order or other civil immigration document
  • Inquire about immigration status of any person or require any individual to produce any document to prove their immigration status. Exceptions may be made for legitimate law enforcement needs. These include:
  • Complying with consular notification and diplomatic or consular immunity requirements
  • Information required by federal, state or city law, including background checks and employment requirements
  • When circumstances of an ongoing criminal investigation make the information relevant to the investigation – not civil immigration enforcement
  • Request translation services from federal immigration authorities – unless there’s an imminent danger to the public

The City says the policy allows officers to provide assistance to federal immigration authorities when there is an emergency that poses an immediate danger to the public or federal agent.

Read the full policy here. 

GRPD is not responsible or has the authority to enforce federal civil immigration laws used o detain or remove undocumented immigrants from the U.S., the press release stated. Meaning, GRPD does not serve as civil immigration enforcement for the federal government. 

“This policy brings together current practices of our police department and input we have received from the community,” Payne said. 

“It’s another step forward in strengthening trust with the community we serve and providing clearer direction to our officers.” 

The America Civil Liberties Union responded to the policy Friday afternoon. They said they've been advocating for a policy to limit entanglement between Grand Rapids Police and ICE. 

"Immigrants who need help from the police shouldn’t have to fear that if they call 911, they will lose their families and lives in America. This policy recognizes that when local police get involved in immigration enforcement, it undermines community trust, leads to racial profiling, and makes everyone less safe," said Miriam Aukerman, ACLU of Michigan senior staff attorney. 

The ALCU pointed out in their statement, the Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, an American citizen who was detained by ICE after being arrest by GRPD, would not have been handed over to immigration officials under the new policy. 

“While what happened to Jilmar should never have happened,” said Aukerman, “we are glad that the GRPD is taking steps to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”

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