October 25, 2016
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Michigan's Arizona-like Immigration Bill Debated

 The Arab American News, News Report, Natasha Dado

DETROIT--Information on newly proposed Michigan HB 6256 known as the "Immigration Law Enforcement Act" was gathered during a hearing administered by the Michigan Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights June 18 inside Wayne State University's (WSU) Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium. The bill is similar to Arizona SB 1070 that prevents illegal immigration.

Provisions of HB 6256 bill allow police officers to arrest and detain people with sufficient reasonable suspicion they are in the U.S. illegally. 

Those in the U.S. unlawfully may be deported back to their country of origin.

Failing to provide proof of insurance, registration, operator license or alien registration documents while accused of an infraction can trigger reasonable suspicion. 

The bill was introduced June 10 by Reps. Meltzer, Marleau, Lund, Walsh, Knollenberg, Haines, Rogers Kowall, Rick Jones, Proos, Ball, Calley, Kurtz, Crawford, Horn, Daley, Moore, Haveman and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

Panel guests included Meltzer; Oakland County Commissioner Jim Runestad; Kenneth Grabowski, legislative director, Police Officers Association of Michigan; Kary Moss, executive director, ACLU of Michigan; Hassan Jaber, executive director, ACCESS; and Ethriam Brammer, Center for Chicano-Boricua Studies, WSU.

"I think not having their documents with them would be reasonable suspicion. It is within the discretion of the law enforcement officer to write them a ticket at that point for not having that and letting that person go, or proceeding to take them in and arrest them and verify whether they are here legally or not," Rep. Kim Meltzer (R-MI) said. 

The bill turns illegal immigrants over to the federal agency, makes it a crime not to carry alien registration documents and is a reinforcement of the federal immigration law that exists today according to Meltzer.

"Nothing really is changing in this law. The federal law requires a person who is a legal alien to carry their legal documents, that's been the case since 1940," Runestad said.

According to Runestad, police officers are prohibited from approaching people and enforcing the law if no infraction was made.

The discussion was led by questions from Imad Hamad, Michigan regional director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Lawrence Almeda, chairperson, Michigan Advisory Committee; Donna Budnick; Joyce-Herron-Taylor; Jayashree Kommareddi and Arthur White.

Attendees raised concerns the bill promotes racial profiling. 

Hamad said leaving the issue of illegal immigration to the discretion of police officers could have disastrous affects. 

"They can't relay on police officers not to impose their own personal bias while enforcing the law. The bill opens the door for racial judgment. It's going to have a chilling effect not only on Arab Americans but the larger immigrant community. People of color will be severely affected," Hamad said.

Jaber thinks one's foreign accent and appearance could push police officers to ask more questions.

"It's a fact that profiling is a disease. This law, this legislation will only add to that disease," Jaber said.

"Just because one says there are weapons of mass destruction does not mean they actually exist, and just because one says there won't be any racial profiling does not mean there won't be in daily practice, Brammer said.

Runestad said the law doesn't enforce racial profiling. 

"It is absolutely not racial profiling. In fact the provisions of the Arizona and Michigan law strictly prohibit racial profiling. It's actually part of the law that you can not racial profile. A police officer is not allowed to look at a person and make a judgment call about their race in determining and enforcing this law," Runestad said.

Meltzer expects police officers to follow the rules and regulations they have against racial profiling. 

"Police officers still have their own set of rules and regulations they have to follow on violating the rights of an individual. If that person feels that they were racial profiled then by all means they can file a complaint in response to that," Meltzer said.

According to Moss the law would become an excuse for police officers who are under paid, over taxed and poorly trained to abuse their discretion.

The law could lead to lawsuits, job losses and millions of dollars in lost investments for the state. 

Moss said police departments could be sued for not enforcing the law enough, and is concerned that supporters of the bill haven't provided answers to whether people will be taken to jail or immigration following an arrest, how long they would be held, if they have the authority to contact an attorney and what happens to children who are present during the occurrence of a infraction.

Brammer said Arizona has lost millions in tourism dollars and investments because of its anti-immigration label. He fears the state will become part of a national boycott supported by major cities.

"Is that what the sponsors of this bill are hoping for, boycotts of Michigan products, boycotts of Michigan tourism and more and more lost jobs?" Brammer asked.

Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Raymond Lozano said the bill is an economic issue. "If you look at Arizona the last time this happened in 1992 people boycotted, they lost 120 conventions and almost a third of a billion dollars in revenue," Lozano said. 

"Why are our politicians wasting the taxpayers' money and time on this when Michigan has so many real problems to address? Should we read this thing to be an implied admission of failure on the part of our state government and its ability to address real problems facing real people in Michigan, like education, job creation and getting our state's economy back on track? This kind of legislation is not only unconstitutional and immoral it's just plain bad for Michigan," Brammer said.

Community members are invited to share their experiences on racial profiling during a town hall meeting June 30th 6 p.m. at Wayne State University's Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium. Panel guests will include state Rep. Rashida Tlaib; U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade; Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights Vince Warren; President of MALDEF, Thomas Saenz; and Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner Nabih Ayad. 

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