According to a Detroit Free Press report, after a Grand Rapids, Michigan police officer arrested Jilmar Ramos-Gomez last November – “after he set a fire and gained access to the heliport at Spectrum Butterworth hospital in Grand Rapids” – calling Ramos “loco” and “mad” he called the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on him, who in turn held him for three days for “possible deportation,” after holding him for ICE for 23 days, well after his legal release date. It took a lawyer hired by Gomez’s mother to convince the agency to release him.
Ramos-Gomez is a 27-year-old United States citizen and Marine Veteran who suffers from PTSD since serving in Afghanistan.
Interim Grand Rapids police chief David Kiddle said at a City Commission meeting “that type of “unprofessional language doesn’t represent the culture at his department,” but defended the officer calling ICE because, the officer said, “he was concerned about potential terrorism and feared he could later be released from jail.”
The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center say that released documents and internal emails pertaining to the arrest “show police racially profiled the 27-year-old,” adding “the FBI, not ICE is the proper federal agency to contact for terror concerns” and that police compounded the issue of Jilmar’s PSTD by racially profiling and then ridiculing him.
“It was perfectly appropriate for GRPD (Grand Rapids Police Department) officers to contact the FBI during their investigation because that’s the relevant federal agency,” said Michigan Immigrant Rights Center attorney Hillary Scholten. “But there was absolutely no reason to contact ICE.”
Scholten said that Grand Rapids Police Capt. Curt VanderKooi has trained with the FBI, but he didn’t call on them. He called on the federal agency responsible for deporting foreign citizens. To suggest that Captain VanderKooi was investigating terrorism, when he asked ICE only about Mr. Ramos-Gomez’s ‘status’ and did not follow up despite not receiving a response for two days, doesn’t pass the laugh test. This was racial profiling pure and simple.”
One of the emails obtained by the ACLU show that a Kent County prosecutor, Daniel Helmer, expressed concern about ICE taking custody of Ramos-Gomez.
After he was told ICE was jailing Ramos-Gomez, prosecutor Helmer wrote in an email to a Grand Rapids police officer: “I am confused. Didn’t his property have a US Passport in it? And he was a veteran?!”
According to a timeline based on the acquired internal communications, Grand Rapids PD held Ramos-Gomez from November 21 until ICE took Ramos into custody on December 14. After notifying ICE on the same evening of Ramos’s arrest ICE then, on November 23, sent an agent to conduct an interview with Ramos determining that because Ramos “claimed in verbal statements to be a foreign national illegally present in the U.S.” therefore the ICE agent “lodged a detainer with local authorities.”
At 8:32 a.m. Nov. 21, Ramos-Gomez is arrested at Spectrum Hospital for trespassing after he damaged a keypad. Some burned items are found in his backpack. A police report shows he had a passport in his bag.
Later that morning, police “quickly realize that he has mental health issues,” said the ACLU.
At 11:42 a.m., a Grand Rapids Police Sgt. texts a FBI agent “Vet, PTSD, But not a FBI issue.”
At 7:40 p.m., Captain VanderKooi is at home watching the news on WOOD-TV and sees a story about the arrest of Ramos-Gomez. He then emails an ICE officer responsible for deportations of immigrant with criminal convictions, writing: “Could you please check his status?”
On Nov. 23 (the day after Thanksgiving), the ICE officer forward the email to ICE deportation officer Matthew Lopez with its Enforcement and Removal Operations division. Lopez emails: “I was able to interview that subject at Kent County this morning, and he is a foreign national illegally in the U.S. Thank you for the lead he will be coming into our custody when he is released from his criminal case. Let me or (ICE officer) Derek know if you ever have any other good leads.”
The morning of Nov. 26, VanderKooi sends an email with the subject line: Spectrum Helicopter Pad Loco.” He writes “It is not clear what mad intent was involved in this breach of hospital security but here is the report.”
That afternoon, a county prosecutor raises concern about the ICE detention of Ramos-Gomez.Detroit Free Press 27 February 2019
Because of the incident and the resultant stir it caused, the sheriff of Kent County Michelle LaJoye-Young has set a new policy for the department telling ICE “her department will not agree to immigrant detainer requests from ICE unless they have a judicial warrant from a judge.”
Now ICE and the Trump administration are calling the policy “a “sanctuary” policy” saying that “by not holding immigrants for ICE beyond their release date” is a public safety threat and that the sheriff’s department released three detainees who ICE said were “undocumented immigrants with criminal records” after it had “requested immigration detainers — which are requests by ICE for county jails to hold immigrant detainees beyond their normal release date — so ICE can then detain or deport them.”
Defending her policy and position, Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young said in a statement: “We believe it to be imperative that each detained person have access to due process and we will continue to require judicial oversight for all law enforcement agencies, including ICE,” LaJoye Young said.
For full content and context see:
Police in Grand Rapids called a Latino Marines veteran ‘loco’ and alerted ICE; 27 Feb 19; Detroit Free Press.
ICE, White House slam Michigan county for policy of releasing immigrants; 2 Mar 19; Detroit Free Press.