County leaders to vote on financially supporting undocumented immigrants

Posted at 7:07 AM, May 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-17 07:08:59-04

Washtenaw County is preparing to put money behind a progressive trio of resolutions, that would not only welcome undocumented immigrants but set aside money to help keep them in the country.

The resolutions were approved in committee earlier this month. On Wednesday night, county commissioners will vote on final approval.

The original memo called on a $135,000 one-time use of the county’s rainy day funds. That money would be earmarked to fund programs that help immigrants, including those that face deportation hearings.

All signs point toward the resolutions becoming the law of the land, as commissioners voted 5-to-2 following roughly an hour of impassioned speeches both for and against the move.

Maria Ybarra described her story of coming to the United States as a child, and living her life in fear as an undocumented immigrant. She talked about heartbreaking deportation hearings and families being broken up.

“I’ve been called ‘illegal’  more times than I can count,” said Ybarra. “I’ve seen my friends break down in front of me following a deportation.”

Others, like Northfield Township Trustee Tawn Beliger spoke against the proposed resolutions, noting budget shortfalls in the community she represents. Beliger told commissioners that moving the resolutions forward was a slap in the face to people who had legally entered the U.S.

“Understand that any representative that places the interests of illegal aliens above the law, and above the citizens of this country, needs to resign,” said Beliger, “or to be recalled and removed.”

If the resolutions are approved, as expected, Washtenaw County would join a number of counties across the country that offer protection to undocumented immigrants.

In Texas the governor has threatened the leaders of Travis County over similar actions that limit cooperation with Federal government to enforce immigration law. Gov. Snyder, unlike some of his Republican counterparts, has not made such threats despite multiple cities in Michigan adopting policies to protect immigrants.

The proposed Washtenaw County resolutions cover a variety of immigration topics.

The first denounced expanded immigration actions and calls on Congress to restrict deportation actions to undocumented immigrants charged with aggravated felonies. The second announces the county’s intention to coordinate with organizations that works with undocumented immigrants that are at-risk of deportation. The final resolution adopts a county policy that no employees will ask about the immigration status of a person, or engage in an activity to uncover such information.

“Washtenaw County is probably one of the most progressive communities in Michigan,” said Tom Yaeger, a voter who supports the move. “If we’re not on the ball with this, then who else would do it?”

Yeager said he viewed the resolutions as a direct snub against President Trump’s immigration plans.

Those plans could change this week. The House Judiciary Committee is set to take up multiple immigration bills this week, including one that would add 10,000 officers focused on deportation. The bill, brought by the committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) would allow ICE officers to arrest people without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds to think the person has committed a felony.

Federal law does come into play for commissioners when they vote.

Alicia Ping, one of the two commissioners who voted against the immigration resolutions earlier this month, noted that supporting undocumented immigrants financially equated to supporting illegal activity.

“I don’t support us supporting illegal activities,” said Ping, “nor do I support funding them.”

Commissioners will vote on a final approval of the trio of immigration resolutions on Wednesday night. The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting takes place in Ann Arbor inside the County administration building beginning at 6:45 p.m.