Immigration Backlash: Bill hits cities that ban profiling

10:57 AM, Sep 14, 2007   |    comments
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Fed up with illegal immigration, a state legislator wants to crack down on communities with ordinances that prohibit the profiling of immigrants and minorities by hitting the municipalities in the pocketbook. Under a bill introduced this week by State Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Township, cities such as Detroit would lose millions in state revenue sharing money if they have laws that prohibit police and other city employees from targeting people based on appearance. The Detroit City Council passed an anti-profiling ordinance in May after receiving complaints from immigrants and U.S. citizens who said they were being pulled over by police and asked about their immigration status based on how they look. Hamtramck is considering a similar ordinance. But Meltzer said she's tired of the government having to pay for bilingual programs for students and those who are in the United States illegally. National security also is a concern, she said. "We've had enough of this," Meltzer said. "It's so unfair and wrong ... let's push back." Supporters of the anti-profiling ordinances say that Meltzer's bill ignores the fact that the ordinances allow police investigating crimes to ask people about their immigration status. "There's nothing radical at all about this ordinance," Juan Escareño said of the Detroit anti-profiling law. He works on immigration issues for Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength (MOSES), a Detroit-based coalition of 65 groups in southeastern Michigan that led the push for the Detroit ordinance. "In fact, it's based on the U.S. Constitution," which protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures. He and others said Meltzer's bill was a publicity stunt that divides the region. "All this ordinance does is clarify a person's constitutional rights," Escareño said of the Detroit anti-profiling ordinance. "Instead of writing this bill, she should spend time reading the U.S. Constitution and think about the state budget crisis." Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, was one of the supporters of the Detroit anti-profiling ordinance. "It's really shameful that an elected official is using proposed legislation to cause more racial division in Michigan," Walid said. "Michigan is a state that is in a dire fiscal crisis and does not need to be seen ... as an immigrant-unfriendly state. ... How can a person just look at someone and suspect whether they're legal or not?" Meltzer's bill may have a tough time getting passed because Democrats control the House. But she has support from some state residents. Nancy McClean, 65, of Warren said she's concerned about the growing number of immigrants coming to Michigan. "They're letting in so many people, but we can't take care of our own," McClean said. "They're too many coming in, and we have to put a stop to it." The Detroit anti-profiling ordinance prohibits police and city employees from stopping and questioning people on the basis of race, ethnicity, religious dress, physical appearance or immigration status. Under the ordinance, police can't ask people for their immigration papers unless it is related to a crime. Detroit, which has one of the lowest percentages of foreign-born residents among major U.S. cities, was trying to make the city more hospitable to all when it passed the ordinance. Meltzer's bill, called the Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act, would require Michigan communities to make sure their employees comply with immigration enforcement rules. It also would require communities to provide written confirmation to the state that they are complying with such rules. And the communities must keep the state updated on how many times they have reported immigration scofflaws to federal authorities. Communities that fail to comply would have their state funding slashed. "I'm bothered by the fact there's this, 'Don't ask, don't tell' policy," Meltzer said. "These are the same people asking us to fund ... subsidized language programs for those kids who are here as a result of illegal immigration." Contact NIRAJ WARIKOO at 248-351-2998 or

By Nirag Warikoo, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

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