Today the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) sent a letter to the Kent County Sheriff and Kent County Board of Commissioners, demanding an investigation into how an American citizen and decorated veteran was taken into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody for deportation.

On December 14, 2018, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department handed a United States citizen and decorated Marine combat veteran over to ICE officials so that he could be deported. The veteran, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, was born in Grand Rapids, grew up here, and bravely served our country in Afghanistan.

Read our letter

Mr. Ramos-Gomez was born in Grand Rapids in 1991. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the marines, serving from 2011-2014 as a lance corporal and tank crewman. He was decorated with a national defense service medal, a global war on terrorism service medal, an Afghanistan campaign medal, and a combat action ribbon, among other awards. But when he returned home, he was a shell of his former self, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after what he had seen. His family reports that he is focused on returning for his marine brothers in Afghanistan. He has episodes where he disappears and when he is found again, he often has no recollection of where he has been.

One such incident happened at the end of last year. Mr. Ramos-Gomez was arrested on November 21, 2018 after apparently damaging a fire alarm at Spectrum Health and trespassing on the heliport. The police report shows that Mr. Ramos-Gomez had his passport on him when he was arrested. He pled guilty to a trespassing charge, and the judge ordered him released on a personal recognizance bond on Friday, December 14, 2018, pending a pre-sentence investigation.

At that point, the Kent County Sheriff’s Department should have immediately released Mr. Ramos-Gomez. Instead, the Sheriff’s Department worked with ICE agents to enable his transfer to an immigration detention center in Calhoun County to start the deportation process. Publicly available jail records show that Mr. Ramos-Gomez was subject to a detainer, i.e. an ICE hold, and that the jail turned him over on December 14, 2018. It is unclear how that was possible or why the jail believed it should hand Mr. Ramos-Gomez over to ICE, rather than release him as required by the court order.

We are outraged, and demand that the Sheriff’s Department conduct an immediate investigation and report its finding at the next County Commission meeting on January 24, 2019. This terrible incident is the predictable consequence of the Sheriff’s Department’s decision to volunteer its resources to support ICE’s efforts to deport Kent County residents, a policy that the community has repeatedly and persuasively asked the Department to end.

Read our letter with MIRC sent to the Kent County Sheriff and Kent County Board of Commissioners on January 16, 2019.

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