Immigrants in Michigan often fall victim to abuse and discrimination at the hands of police officers and immigration agents. As our ground-breaking report The Border’s Long Shadow documented last year, federal immigration agencies frequently work closely with local and state police officers to discriminate against immigrants and tear their families and communities apart. Together, these local and federal agencies have woven a tangled web of immigration enforcement that creates a culture of fear in every corner of the state. Years’ worth of racist rhetoric, anti-immigrant policies, and over-policing have only made matters worse.
The ACLU of Michigan is now taking the next step in addressing this daily violence, discrimination, and surveillance: launching a project dedicated to representing immigrant victims of police mistreatment in seeking relief for the abuse and harassment they faced. As a part of this project, we have set up the Immigrant Police Misconduct Hotline (313-208-7048) that is available to any Michigander who wants to report instances of police violence, discrimination, or surveillance on the basis of their immigration status to the ACLU. All information that is provided will remain confidential.
We offer help in four languages 24/7
While reviewing the government records that formed the foundation of our report, we saw again and again how people of color were singled out by law enforcement at all levels. Immigrants of color, many of them longtime residents of the state, were targeted for all sorts of illegitimate reasons. People were regularly pulled over because of their skin color, with officers using a playbook of pretexts to justify traffic stops rooted in racism. In one case, a group of workers getting breakfast at a McDonald’s were detained and questioned just because they spoke Spanish. From talking with our friends in various immigrant communities, we also know how agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol can sow terror just by sitting in marked vehicles near schools or places of worship.
Offering assistance in four languages – Arabic, Bangla, Spanish and English – the hotline, operated by the ACLU of Michigan, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People calling will be asked to leave a message describing the problem they’re having with law enforcement. We will listen to the message and respond as soon as we can.
If we agree to help directly, it will likely consist of advocacy efforts such as filing a misconduct complaint against an officer or exerting pressure on a law enforcement agency to change its policies. Sometimes the results could be simply an apology. In other cases, it could be monetary compensation or department-wide policy change. If we determine that we can’t help directly, we hope to at least direct callers to other resources better suited to address their concerns.
Tracking patterns of police complaints
The Immigrant Police Misconduct Hotline also has another purpose: By aggregating information collected we can identify patterns of abuse within particular police departments or law enforcement agencies, with a broader goal of changing law enforcement practices throughout the state.
Again, all contacts with the hotline will remain strictly confidential. We won’t share a caller’s name, immigration status, or other personal information with anyone outside of the ACLU unless the caller agrees to having their name attached to a complaint or some other action.
By fighting back against abusive police agencies, this project takes an important step toward restoring safety and trust among immigrant communities in Michigan.