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ICE protest spurs Kent County to move meeting to different location

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Grand Rapids.

A Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting had to be relocated earlier Thursday, because protestors caused too big of a ruckus, according to county officials.

Kent County’s Board of Commissioners couldn’t get work accomplished while a group of protestors tried to reignite a conversation about the county’s contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The contract, which was first signed by the Kent County Sheriff Office back in 2012, allows ICE to detain undocumented immigrants at a Kent County jail.

Wayman Britt, a Kent County administrator, says the protestors should take their concerns to federal officials, not the county.

“They immediately start talking about the fact that families are being separated as a result of the federal immigration law,” Britt said.

Amy Carpenter is with Cosecha GR, the group that was protesting at the meeting. Carpenter says Britt’s characterization of the group isn’t entirely accurate and that it wants the county to end its partnership with ICE.

“We want our county to end an agreement that negatively impacts a vulnerable population in our city,” Carpenter said.

Despite not having exact numbers for how many undocumented immigrants are currently in county jail, Carpenter says the protest isn’t about the number of immigrants being detained.

“It’s about the fear that lingers with every family that someone they know, someone they love could be taken away,” she said.

Carpenter says there are about 1,300 immigrants living in Grand Rapids without adequate documentation.

The contract between the county and ICE was renewed in 2015, and nothing the county has done shows signs that the partnership will end any time soon.

No one from ICE responded to a request for comment.

Bryce Huffman was Michigan Radio’s West Michigan Reporter and host of Same Same Different. He is currently a reporter for Bridge Detroit.
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