Michigan Sheriff Pushes Back Against ‘Sanctuary County’ Label After Illegal Immigrant Charged With Murder

The department’s apparent shift back to respecting detainer requests from ICE comes as Trump visits the county
Hundreds of migrants are continuing to cross the border with Mexico despite the Texas National Guard's efforts to reinforce it and prevent irregular crossings.
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Kent County, Michigan, Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young is attempting to clarify her department’s policy on holding illegal immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after a murder allegedly committed by an illegal immigrant rocked the community last month.

The Republican sheriff sent multiple letters to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) last week, asking the think tank to remove Kent County from its list of “sanctuary” cities, counties, and states across the U.S. The letter — obtained by The Daily Wire — attempted to “clarify” the department’s “policy regarding ICE hold requests.”

The department’s effort comes days after a once-deported illegal immigrant was arrested and charged with the murder of 25-year-old Ruby Garcia. ICE confirmed in a statement to The Daily Wire last week that Brandon Ortiz-Vite, also 25, was deported under the Trump administration in 2020 and then re-entered the U.S. unlawfully “at an unknown date.”

LaJoye-Young wrote in a letter to CIS, “1. As in any case, the individual may be held on a judicial warrant signed by a judge or magistrate; OR 2. The hold can be upon request by ICE, with review and approval by the Office of the Sheriff or Correctional Facility Captain.”

“An I-247 request, signed by an authorized immigration officer, and a I-200 administrative Warrant for Arrest of Alien signed by authorized immigration officer with the ‘Certificate of Service’ portion completed must be received for the inmate,” the letter added. “Departmental review confirms that the requisite authority to detain is in place.”

Following the letter, CIS said it would take Kent County off its “sanctuary” list, NBC affiliate WOODTV reported.

The latest letter from LaJoye-Young appeared to be a shift in policy from just a few years ago when the sheriff said her department would no longer hold illegal immigrants without a judicial warrant. In January 2019 during the Trump administration, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department told ICE it would not abide by its detainer requests unless the agency obtained a warrant. In many jurisdictions, authorities will hold illegal immigrants upon a simple detainer request from ICE until federal agents arrive.

“My primary goal remains the preservation and enhancement of public safety, due process and the rule of law,” LaJoye-Young said in 2019, according to The Detroit Free Press. “For this reason, I notified ICE officials earlier today that the Kent County Sheriff will hold detainees for ICE only after ICE presents to our office an arrest warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate — otherwise known as a judicial arrest warrant. This change is effective immediately.”


Months later, then-President Donald Trump slammed Kent County, calling it a “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants. LaJoye-Young responded to Trump’s criticism, saying he was “dramatically misrepresenting” the sheriff department’s policy, MLive reported.

In another letter LaJoye-Young sent to CIS last week, the sheriff, along with County Administrator/Controller Al Vanderberg, wrote, “Kent County is not and has never been a sanctuary county.”

“In 2019, the Kent County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) instituted a new policy requiring an arrest warrant issued by a federal judge or magistrate (judicial warrant) in order to hold detainees for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after the adjudication of local charges. After this policy change, ICE elected not to renew our contract,” the letter stated.

The department’s apparent shift back to respecting detainer requests from ICE after the 2019 policy also comes as Trump visits Grand Rapids, Michigan, for an event Tuesday afternoon where he is expected to discuss illegal immigration and address the murder of Garcia.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement to The Daily Wire that the county “is not and has never been a sanctuary county.”

The department added that the warrant requirements adopted in 2019 and then ICE subsequently terminating its contract with the county “resulted in an internal procedural change in January 2020” after the department conducted a review.

“The new procedures effective January 2020 state that KCSO will maintain custody of an ICE detainee that has no active local charges when a judicial warrant exists OR with the use of an ICE 247 and ICE 200 with the review of the [KCSO] Correctional Facility Captain or the Office of the Sheriff,” the Kent County Sheriff’s Office said. “The new procedures simply added stipulations related to the internal review to ensure all proper documentation exists to hold the detainee.”

Republicans in Michigan have proposed legislation that would put an end to so-called sanctuary policies and prohibit municipalities from preventing local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal agencies on issues pertaining to illegal immigration. Republican Leader Matt Hall — who represents part of Kalamazoo County, which is just south of Kent County — told The Daily Wire that Kent County’s apparent policy shift on cooperating with ICE “moves in the right direction,” and he called on other “sanctuary jurisdictions” to follow suit.

“The Kent County sheriff’s newly described policy allowing cooperation with ICE administrative detainers moves in the right direction for the safety and security of local residents,” Hall said in a statement. “Other sanctuary jurisdictions in Michigan, such as Kalamazoo County, should reevaluate and remove their own misguided sanctuary policies that restrict cooperation with the officers who enforce our nation’s immigration laws.”

This article has been updated to include comment from the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. 

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Michigan Sheriff Pushes Back Against ‘Sanctuary County’ Label After Illegal Immigrant Charged With Murder