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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Residents demand an end to Kent County's contract with ICE

Organizers from Movimiento Cosecha Gr give public comment at the Kent County Commission meeting
Michelle Jokisch Polo

Early morning on June 28th about 100 people gathered at the Kent County Commission Meeting Downtown Grand Rapids give speak up against the contract between ICE and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. 

Sergio Cira Reyes is a resident of Kent County and a formerly undocumented immigrant, who organized the protest in hopes of holding the government bodies accountable. 

Commissioner Jim Saalfeld of District 11 and Board Chair, shut down the meeting turning off the microphone and livestream.

“It’s time that Kent county commissioners take responsibility for their role and their complicity in contributing to a structure that enables ICE to continue to do what they are doing to our community and that is tearing our communities apart”

Commissioner Jim Talen explains that the contract is between the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and ICE.  The contract was signed in 2012 and renewed in August 2017. 

“The county commission only originally approved well considered the contract the sheriff had to take it into the county commission because it was a mid-year contract that had not been in his budget.”

Sheriff Lawrence Stelma shares that the contract allows the department to collaborate with ICE. 

“The contract is strictly on those individuals that have been charged with a criminal offense by any department and are booked into the county jail and when they are booked into the county jail that information is required by me and by federal law that I submit that information to the FBI database.” 

In 2017, 185 residents were jailed at the request of ICE resulting in a revenue of nearly $18,000 dollars for Kent County. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News 

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