Calls for immigration crackdowns are creating a lot of raw nerves.
And it’s not just for immigrants living in Detroit or Ann Arbor. Concern is being raised by immigrants in small towns like South Haven and Covert, where police and other officials are trying to quell people’s fears.
South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson said her department has received questions from several people whether officers will step up immigration enforcement.
“There is fear that officers may begin attempts to verify immigration status or become proactively involved in investigations of this nature,” Thompson said in a news release. “The bottom line is, when we respond to calls for service, or initiate a traffic stop, we are not interested in immigration status. ... South Haven police officers enforce state statute and local ordinances and do not have the authority to investigate, enforce or request charges on immigration violations. Changes in federal enforcement will not change the way we conduct our duties.”
Michigan State Police is taking the same stance.
In February, MSP director Col. Kriste Etue issued a statement saying, “The Michigan State Police has a longstanding department policy of not detaining individuals solely on the basis that they may be in the United States illegally, and new federal immigration enforcement policies are not expected to impact this policy.”
However, there is one catch.
If a trooper suspects a person has entered the United States illegally, they are supposed to cooperate with and notify federal immigration officials, who then determine if further action will be taken.
Caveats such as those worry undocumented immigrants, their families and friends.
“I am very afraid for my parents,” an 18-year-old high school senior from Covert said in an interview earlier this month. The young woman’s parents are considered undocumented immigrants. However, her three brothers and herself were born in America and are U.S. citizens.
“When my parents got married, my dad said to my mom his dream was for his children to do better than him,” the young woman said. “They worked their way up from minimum wage jobs. They’ve given us every necessity possible.”
The young woman’s two older brothers attend Western Michigan University, majoring in engineering. After she graduates, she plans to attend Western with hopes to become speech language pathologist. But she worries about her youngest brother, 14.
“We are afraid for him if something were to happen to our parents,” she said.
The young woman isn’t the only one from Covert who is worried for family members.
Latinos comprise 56 percent of Covert Public School District’s student population, according to Superintendent Bobbi Morehead. Although she estimates the majority of students are citizens or legal immigrants, the district is reassuring parents that action will not be taken by the school district to have the undocumented deported.
“A child’s immigration status or that of their parents has no bearing at school,” Covert Public Schools officials stated in a fact sheet given to parents earlier this month. “Children have a constitutional right to have equal access to education regardless of their immigration status or their parents’ status.”
Furthermore, the district stated it does not ask for students’ immigration status when they enroll. Even if district officials became aware of a student’s lack of immigration status, they would not share that information with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
To strengthen its policy, the Covert Board of Education went one step further March 13 and passed a resolution backing up the district’s administrative policies regarding immigration.
The resolution statest: “Covert Public Schools will remain a safe and welcoming place for all students and families regardless of immigration status. ...The district will continue to support and adhere to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy that restricts enforcement actions by ICE officers and agents in or around schools, and reminds district employees that they shall not assist immigration enforcement efforts in or around school unless legally required and authorized to do so by the superintendent.”