By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Over 150 people protested Aug. 13 against the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees, and demanding the Dearborn Police Department end its cooperation agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The peaceful protest held in the parking lot of the Dearborn Police Department, 16099 Michigan Ave., also called for the Trump administration to close ICE detention centers for what they say are inhumane conditions.
“These conditions are the product of a cruel and intentional strategy by the Trump administration to terrorize immigrant communities, criminalize immigration, and dismantle our asylum laws,” a #CloseTheCamps media release read. “From imprisoning children in inhumane detention centers, threatening widespread raids to break up families, and covering up reports of migrants dying in U.S. custody, we must come together to permanently end family detention and separation, ensure all families are reunited, and close the camps.”
Protester Nabintou Doumbia has been directly impacted by ICE activity because her father was one of almost 1,000 immigrants detained by the Police Department last year for ICE, according to police records, the Detroit News reported.
The 22-year-old said her father came to the United States in 1990, had four children in Detroit, was undocumented and had orders of removal from 2004, but travel documents were not issued so he was placed on supervision before his arrest, according to the Detroit News.
“We ask that our community that we call upon, our elected officials especially here in the city of Dearborn to address the issues we have in our backyard,” Doumbia said. “As many have said before me, these issues are not just around the country they are in our backyard.”
The Police Department housed 1,333 ICE prisoners with final deportation orders in the 2018 fiscal year according to the mayor’s annual report, the Detroit News wrote. During that same time, the Police Department said its records show 961 detainments.
“Our participation in this program returned a savings for prisoner housing costs of approximately $84,223 this year,” the mayor’s report read.
According to the Detroit News, Police Chief Ronald Haddad declined to release the ICE agreement or location of where detainees are held in the city.
In a statement he said the department provides “all persons in our custody civil, humane and professional services including reasonable dietary, spiritual, and family-update measures that may be required.”
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. declined to comment further on the city’s work with ICE, telling the Detroit News Haddad’s statement represents the city.
U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) attended and spoke at the protest hosted by Detroit Jews for Justice, Council on American-Islamic Relations Michigan and Bend the Arc: Ann Arbor.
The three were among 41 House Democrats who signed a letter to President Donald Trump expressing their outrage and grief regarding the death of Jimmy Aldaoud — a Michigan man who was deported to Iraq in June and died on Aug. 6 due to a diabetic crisis.
Members of Congress from both parties repeatedly called on the Trump administration to halt multiple detentions and deportations included in the letter with no response.
“National attention is now focused on Jimmy’s heartbreaking story,” the letter read. “It is incumbent upon us to act, in this moment of tragedy, to ensure that this never happens again. If your Administration continues to deport Iraqi nationals, it knowingly and willingly risks more preventable deaths. As such, we implore you to end the detention and deportation of Iraqi nationals living in the United States without delay.”
Levin mentioned Aldaoud’s story and conditions in which he was deported. He said that another Christian deported to Iraq on Aug. 12 was shot two times in leg on his way to church and is recovering at the hospital.
“People are going to continue to die at our border and in these countries when we deport them for no reason except to expand the base of a white supremacist,” he said. “Not in our country. We need you to press the Congress, to press the city of Dearborn, to press the administration to change course now and provide dignity to immigrants in our country.”
Tlaib said she did a surprise, unannounced visit to the Calhoun County Detention Center earlier that day and was refused entry to see the conditions, but that she still plans to go back.
“We have to continue demanding access into these facilities to expose it because the way we’re going to get the city of Dearborn and all those to really, truly disconnect with ICE is going to be to push that they are currently violating national detention standards,” she said. “There are standards, believe me there are. We’re just not forcing them to comply with them and we have to comply especially if it’s medical or survivors of trauma.”
She added that giving the evidence to places like the police department, who say they are only holding detainees until they are sent to the airport, is important.
“Trust me, I have a great relationship with the chief here and he’s always been extremely sympathetic with sometimes our call for justice and accountability for even his own department, but the way we do it is telling him how our own administration is violating people’s civil liberties, civil rights and international human rights,” Tlaib said. “That’s when we have to tell them to step away and not have connection with an organization so rogue, so un-American and so not who we are.”
Dingell said, “We have to stand up to hate. This country is being divided by fear and hatred and it’s wrong. We stand here today, members of all faiths — we must stand up to hate and everyone of us has the responsibility, everyone of us, when we see it speak up and speak out. We want to organize a Take on Hate effort as well in the next couple of weeks.”
Birmingham Temple Humanistic Rabbi Jeffrey Falick said he loves America, not only for taking in his family, but millions of others.
“Our diversity represents the best of America, it’s on display this evening as we gather here together in solidarity,” he said. “Jews, Muslims, Christians, believers and non-believers, every race, ethnicity and heritage united by a thirst for justice, united by a commitment for human dignity and freedom for all the inhabitants of this land. United by a pledge that we will preserve that torch of liberty and it will remain a beacon of all human kind.”
A petition started by Emma Green to be sent to the Dearborn City Council had 44 signatures of the needed 100 as of Aug. 15. Amnesty International is the organization listed on the petition asking Dearborn and Michigan to do what it can to support and protect refugee or migrant citizens.
According to the petition requests, the organization wants Dearborn to adopt a resolution that does multiple things to ensure the safety of refugees or immigrants.
“Because Dearborn is a diverse city that is home to residents of various racial, national, religious and other identities, we believe that the city of Dearborn should be proactively setting in place legislation which helps those who may be targeted or otherwise threatened by the current or a future presidential administration,” the petition reads.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])