January 2019

Sheriff Fuller ends 48 hours ICE holds after months of accountability work from the community

By Eva Alvarez

Elvira Ubaldo Ace Ruiz IV leads a group of protesters during the “Stop ICE holds and end mass incarceration vigil” held outside of the Kalamazoo County Jail where protesters gathered to end ICE cooperation, July 11, 2018.  Photo by Daniel Vasta, MLive.com

Elvira Ubaldo Ace Ruiz IV leads a group of protesters during the “Stop ICE holds and end mass incarceration vigil” held outside of the Kalamazoo County Jail where protesters gathered to end ICE cooperation, July 11, 2018. Photo by Daniel Vasta, MLive.com

On December 5, 2018, history was made in Kalamazoo County by members of Movimiento Cosecha Kalamazoo and the community. Movimiento Cosecha is a nonviolent movement that is fighting for the respect, dignity, and permanent protection for all 11 million undocumented immigrants across the country. For several months, Cosecha worked tirelessly to end Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers or also known as “holds” by holding weekly vigils in front of the Sheriff's office, attending the democratic party meeting to personally extend an invitation for Sheriff Fuller to attend a town hall (which he never did attend), and having a resolution passed from the City Commissioners that would prohibit the use of city funds to seperate families.

An ICE hold is a written request from ICE officials for a local jail to hold an individual that has no legal status in the U.S. so that federal agents can pick them up and take them to an immigration detention center. The ICE detainers would only take effect after they would be otherwise released from jail.

Last month and after several partner organizations joined Cosecha in the  accountability work, Kalamazoo County Sheriff Fuller released a new policy that will not honor federal requests to detain non-citizens after they would otherwise be released from jail. This change in policy is a huge win for our community. Many families have been torn apart because of ICE holds and we hope that this change in policy will give families a more welcoming and safe environment in their community because no family should fear to take their child to school, attend a parent-teacher conference, or simply roam the streets in their own neighborhood.

Our immigrant community has been fighting against a system that is built to criminalize their existence, break families apart, and to destroy a future for them and their families and we will fight against this system. This win is one of many to come. We hope that we can set an example for other counties and be a direct example that creating change for the betterment of our community is possible. This win is great, but we will continue to find additional pathways for  permanent protection.

Art Reyes