Dearborn City Council will not be renewing its prisoner housing contract with Calhoun County. The agreement stems from controversy over detentions of undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
"We will not be renewing at this point in time and don't anticipate working with Calhoun County," says Mary Laundroche, Director of Dearborn's Department of Public Information.
A protest of around 50 students, residents, and organizers was held before the council's Tuesday night meeting to urge the city to cut ties with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
City council president, Susan Dabaja, addressed the public's concerns.
“We absolutely do not want to participate or take any part in what ICE does. Period,” she said.
Initially, the council decided to table the item and explore other options. Some meeting attendees, including Jenna Hassan, expressed their feelings of being shut down when this topic was postponed.
“It seemed very intentional that they didn’t want anybody to speak, because for every single other agenda item, they allowed people to just get up and speak,” Hassan said.
Hassan is an organizer with Michigan's chapter of Palestine Youth Movement and attended the protest that occurred before the meeting, asking Dearborn to cut ties with ICE.
Over one thousand ICE detainees from Dearborn were housed in Calhoun County last year, according to the mayor’s annual report for the 2018 fiscal year.
Councilwoman Erin Byrnes attended the rally and thanked the organizers for having the protest.
“I think we’re on the same page. I’m here tonight for a reason. I don’t want to see this contract go through, the way that it is. Please know that I’m working really hard on this, my colleagues are as well,” she said.
One of the protest organizers, Jenna Kobeissi, says it’s important for youth to be involved and speak out against city decisions that negatively impact people.
“In a city that was built on the backs of immigrants, whose economy comes from businesses from immigrants, it’s unacceptable,” she said.
Residents and different organizers held a similar rally on Aug. 13 attracting over 100 people, but Kobeissi says they planned this protest to occur right before the city council meeting to put pressure on council members.
“We just want them to vote no. And that’s pretty much it. We want this to be a safe place for immigrants to come and live, whether you’re undocumented or not,” she said.
Currently, the council is looking for other alternatives to the contract.
"We will continue to explore our options for housing of misdemeanor prisoners outside of Wayne County due to overcrowding issues, but those options will not include an ICE component," Councilwoman Byrnes said.