By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The city will not renew its contract with Calhoun County, ending the Police Department’s cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold its detainees.
During the Aug. 20 City Council meeting, Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. withdrew the resolution to extend the contract with Calhoun County for sentenced prisoner housing and transportation. The agreement would’ve been for the 2020 fiscal year and for an amount not to exceed $250,000.
“The mayor withdrew the recommendation for the renewal of the contract with Calhoun County to house the city of Dearborn’s misdemeanor prisoners for extended sentences in light of concerns about the portion of the contract that called for Dearborn to continue to house Calhoun County’s ICE prisoners for very short-term stays,” Dearborn Public Information Director Mary Laundroche said in a statement.
Council President Susan Dabaja said the contact between Dearborn and Calhoun County Jail in Battle Creek has been in effect since 1999. The most recent contract expired at the end of May.
“What it does is — Calhoun County agrees to provide the city of Dearborn up to 20 beds daily at no cost and Dearborn does the same thing for Calhoun County, 20 beds daily at no cost to each other,” she said. The current day rate is $49.66 charged once all the 20 beds have been filled.”
She added that the contract issue has had some dialogue by people in the community and outside the community.
“I want to stress and I can’t stress enough how much this council has been really putting in a lot of time and effort to make sure we feel comfortable with whatever decision we make,” Dajaba said.
As she was saying whether the council would table the resolution, O’Reilly interjected and said the city wasn’t planning to go forward with the contract renewal.
“This is off the table and we are looking at new options,” he said. “We did not renew the contract that was up a couple months ago and we are working on something totally different which will not have us in this position. We will only be looking after our own needs and not anything else, so we won’t be participating outside of what we’re doing in Dearborn for what we need for the people that we have to address.”
ICE Detroit Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Rebecca Adducci told the Detroit News that Dearborn’s decision will not disrupt ICE’s local operations.
“The city’s decision to no longer house ICE detainees at its facility will have minimal impact on local ICE operations, as a short-term facility,” she said. “However, these policies do little to enhance law enforcement partnerships. Any policy that puts politics before public safety is ill-conceived.”
On Aug. 13 more than 150 people peacefully protested against the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees, and demanding the Police Department end its cooperation agreement with ICE.
The protest held outside the Dearborn police station was attended by U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township), who spoke out against conditions at detention centers.
Also, on Aug. 20 just before the council meeting, about 50 people protested against the contact renewal outside Henry Ford Centennial Library.
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.
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.”
Dabaja said when the council was asked about the department’s involvement, the repeated message they received from the Police Department and Haddad is that there has been no cooperation and no engagement with ICE.
During the meeting O’Reilly clarified the Police Department’s involvement and that detainees spent one or two days maximum in the Dearborn jail.
“I would like it clear that our people never had anything to do with that — in other words (Calhoun County) brought the people in, they took the people out,” he said. “None of our officers were engaged in that. It was a tradeoff economically, that’s all, and the economics of it is not something we’re interested in staying with and we want to have this complete change.”
Councilwoman Erin Byrnes thanked the youth for protesting and said she hoped they will continue to engage moving forward on the topic. She added that she and Councilwoman Leslie Herrick toured the Dearborn jail facility and also had an hour-long conversation with Haddad.
“Most of our items here are local and very specific to Dearborn, but at the same time we can’t ignore the fact that we exist in a broader, national scene and they way ICE is being utilized under the current administration as an agency really does constitute a humanitarian crisis, and that’s not something I want our city or police department to be involved in, in anyway, shape or form,” Byrnes said. “We cannot do that and so I feel very strongly about that. All of my colleagues are aware I made no secret of that.”
Herrick added that she has spent a lot of time over the last couple weeks talking with a number of area clergy representatives, local attorneys and residents who were concerned about the relationship the city had with Calhoun County.
“Our police department wasn’t picking anybody up or transporting anybody,” Herrick said. “We were just housing these detainees, but it’s a part that obviously many of our residents didn’t think that we should be taking a part in anything that has to do with ICE. I certainly respect all of our residents, our clergy and those that took time today to be at the demonstration as well as here tonight.
“I want to thank the police department as well and the administration for taking the time to look into all the questions that we had and answer them clearly, openly and all the time we needed to ask those questions,” Herrick said. “Some of those were from (the public), you asked us and if we didn’t have the answers ourselves we were able to get that information to our satisfaction.”
“ICE is not an agency in any way, shape or form that I support to want to be engaged with,” Dabaja said. “ICE has in most recent years has created a new face, or maybe a face that’s been there but has been really now more in our faces in terms of who they are.
“For me, 10 years ago — one of the advantages of having someone who was detained or maybe picked up and taken to the Dearborn jail over here was the ability to leave my office, pick up and go there to be able to speak with them conveniently rather than drive two hours to Calhoun County.”
As a practicing attorney, Dabaja said those were some of the advantages attorneys and family members appreciated because individuals detained were from Dearborn.
“That was back then and what I’m hearing now is that’s not the case now,” she said. “And I’m not talking about the Dearborn police, I’m talking about the majority of the individuals that are dropped off there by ICE are not people that have just been picked up but maybe people that are out to the airport, and for me I don’t support that.
“I want to be able to support a system that allows the convince of families to be able to communicate or an attorney to reach a client immediately, but if in the overall picture that’s not the objective being achieved then in no way would I be supportive of this.”
During the same city council meeting, a contract extension with the Wayne County Jail in an amount not to exceed $250,000 for fiscal year 2020 to house prisoners was approved.
The Police Department requested continual prisoner housing for prisoners taken into custody within Wayne County boundaries and tried in the Wayne County judicial system, Dabaja said.
The jail houses misdemeanor prisoners sentenced by the 19th District Court for short periods of time as well as defendants who have been arraigned on felony charges or awaiting future hearing dates with a per date rate of $35 per day.
O’Reilly said the Wayne County Jail is overcrowded at times which leads to prisoners serving less days and going back into the street. He emphasized that Dearborn will find the best jail alternative option while using the public’s money to do so in a well-managed way.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])