During the past 10 years, Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner has never questioned the immigration or citizenship status of residents seeking the services of the County Treasurer’s Office, and now, the office won’t ask as a matter of formal policy. On Thursday, October 3, 2019, Meisner announced a formal, office-wide policy developed in partnership with Michigan United, The International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, Green Card Reform and the New American Leaders of not inquiring about citizenship or immigration status, along with support for other immigration-related initiatives, including the “Welcoming” designation adopted by the Oakland County Commission and led by Commissioner William Miller.
"The Oakland County Treasurer’s Office serves all residents of Oakland County, regardless of race, gender, age, disability, physical characteristics, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, marital status, familial status, domestic partner relationship, veteran status, citizenship, national origin, immigration status, or other protected characteristic under applicable federal, state or local laws or ordinances," said Meisner. "Today, adoption of this formal policy affirms our commitment to providing services for, and uplifting the financial wellbeing of all of our residents – who are our neighbors, friends, and relatives. No property owner, taxpayer or resident should feel afraid to access our services, and with this policy, we take a step toward achieving the ideal of One Oakland."
Meisner partnered with a group of nonprofit organizations that serve immigrant communities to develop the formal policy and benchmarking it against national innovators in this area.
“I have lived in Oakland County for the last seven years and am on an H1B Visa because of a federal green card backlog. The Treasurer’s policy is crucial to ensure that I and people like me can avail themselves of the services of the Treasurer’s Office without fear of discrimination,” said Ramagopal Reddy of GCReforms.org. “Regardless of visa status, immigration status, or citizenship status, everyone should be able to avail themselves of these services. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re a citizen, a permanent resident, on a visa, or undocumented. I call on other Oakland County offices, including the Sheriff, to follow Treasurer Andy Meisner’s lead and implement similar policies,”
“As an undocumented immigrant there is a fear of going to government buildings and being questioned about your status. This new initiative that does not allow the Treasurer’s Office to inquire about someone’s status is a victory for the immigrant community of Oakland County,” said Sara Calderon of Michigan United. “This will be a stepping stone for our county which will lead to other government officials not asking immigrants about their status or state identification. I have faith that Oakland County will be a place where immigrants feel safe and are not scared to go to government offices. I would like to thank Treasurer Andy Meisner for bringing this to our county and I am also asking other Oakland County officials to follow Andy’s lead.”
Meisner, who speaks Spanish and a little Portuguese, also believes that his branch of government should employ people who look and sound like the community it serves.
“I immigrated from Vietnam and now work in the treasurer’s office. Today’s announcement of the welcoming policy is something we have already done for years. It’s the right time for government to speak clearly about access to services to all residents,” said Nga Huynh, an account clerk in Meisner’s office assisting with foreclosure prevention and accounting.
When would this policy matter?
The Treasurer’s Office performs thousands of transactions, information requests and taxpayer counseling sessions in a nationally acclaimed program called Community Taxpayer Assistance Meetings connecting property owners to financial advice and resources, all of which would be covered under the new policy. The proposed immigration policy specifically addresses the goal of empowering delinquent property owners, whether documented or not, to not be fearful of engaging the county when trying to avoid tax foreclosure. The policy instructs workers on how to interact with the public using the following clear guidelines:
“No Treasurer’s Office employee shall inquire into the citizenship or immigration status of any person, or engage in activities designed to ascertain the immigration status of any person unless required by law or by court order.”
A key aspect of the new policy is the Treasurer’s Office acceptance of photo identification issued by the person’s nation of origin, including foreign driver’s licenses, passports, and cards issued by consulate offices.