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Groups protest anti-sanctuary city bills in Michigan legislature

People fanned out across the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest two bills that would prevent Michigan cities and counties from passing ordinances that limit cooperation with federal immigration agents.

House Bills 4083 and 4090 would ban so-called "sanctuary city" policies that instruct police agencies or jails not to detain people solely for being undocumented, or hold people for ICE agents to pick up unless they've been accused of a serious crime or ICE has a warrant for their arrest.

Diego Bonesatti, director of legal services at Michigan United, a nonprofit coalition of religious, civic and labor groups, warned that the bills would invite abuse.

"They create a space where the likelihood is that police will be expected to contact ICE if they come across a person who they think is foreign-born," he said. "This is going to create a mistrust of the police department in immigrant communities."

Some cities keep information about immigration status confidential when a person isn't accused of any non-immigration violation. Supporters of the bills have said cities and counties have a duty to comply when the federal government requests an immigration hold.

Ann Arbor and Detroit don't allow police to ask about immigration status if a person isn't suspected of a crime, but they do cooperate with ICE. Bonesatti said local cops should be fostering a sense of community, not tearing families apart.

"A lot of people in the immigrant community are wary of Lincoln Park, for example, even though Lincoln Park has a considerable immigrant population," he said. "They're concerned that any traffic stop could be turned into some sort of pretext to detain a family member."

Michigan United held the protest as part of its annual "Capitol Day" event, where members met with lawmakers on multiple topics, including the continuing Flint water crisis and a campaign known as the "Caring Majority" that wants to study the idea of state funding for in-home elder care.

The texts of HB 4083 and HB 4090 are online.

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