Internal Documents Obtained by ACLU and MIRC Show Vanderkooi Routinely Requested ICE to “Check Status” Of People in Police Custody, contradicting claims that Vanderkooi Asked ICE to Check Jilmar Ramos-Gomez’s Status Due to the Unusual Charges
GRAND RAPIDS — The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) and Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) denounced the Grand Rapid Police Department’s decision today to exonerate and reinstate Grand Rapids Police Captain Curt VanderKooi, who asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to check the immigration status of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a United States citizen and decorated Marine combat veteran, leading ICE to attempt to deport him. Captain VanderKooi, who was off-duty at the time, contacted ICE after seeing a picture of Ramos-Gomez on the news. Captain VanderKooi initially claimed that he only asked about Ramos-Gomez’ “status” because he was found on the helipad at Spectrum, leading to concerns about federal airspace. However, both the Internal Affairs Report and 230 pages of GRPD documents obtained through a public records request show VanderKooi routinely contacted ICE requesting that it “check the status” of people held in police custody. The Internal Affairs report does not include the race or ethnicity of those people, but does state that it is appropriate for the GRPD to consider factors like lack of English proficiency and country of origin in deciding whether to contact ICE.
“The records are clear that again and again and again, Grand Rapids Police Captain Curt VanderKooi reached out to ICE to ask about the immigration status of people held in police custody,” said ACLU senior staff attorney Miriam Aukerman. “It is outrageous that the Grand Rapids Police Department would conclude that Captain VanderKooi should return to work when he clearly lied when claiming he asked about Mr. Ramos-Gomez ‘status’ only because he was concerned about potential terrorism. In fact, the records are quite clear, Captain VanderKooi regularly coordinates with ICE. We call on the GRPD to release the race and ethnicity for every case where Captain VanderKooi asked ICE to check on a person’s ‘status.’”
Grand Rapids Police Captain Curt Vanderkooi was put on administrative leave February 28, after evidence showed he racially profiled and mocked Mr. Ramos-Gomez, and called ICE on him following his arrest last year.
The records also show extensive communications between Captain VanderKooi and ICE regarding the U-visa program. For example, Captain VanderKooi explains to ICE that in his new role as Division Commander of Investigative Services, he is the “U visa gatekeeper”. Klifman responds: “Congrats! As always, let me know if you need anything on our end!” In the following months, VanderKooi and Kliffman repeatedly communicate about individuals who have come to the GRPD seeking protection as the victims of crime.
“The entire reason Congress created the U visa program is to ensure that victims of crime feel safe coming forward to report criminal behavior, without fear that they will be reported to ICE,” said MIRC attorney Hillary Scholten. “The whole idea is that we’re all less safe when individuals are afraid to report crimes, and the data proves that reporting goes down when local police maintain these kinds of relationships,” she continued. “VanderKooi’s actions as documented in these e-mails undermines the entire point of the U Visa program. His reinstatement in light of all of this evidence endorses this abuse of power and therefore strikes a huge blow to community trust, making good policing harder and our communities less safe.”
ACLU and MIRC are available at 4:45 p.m. at the ACLU Offices at: 514 Wealthy Street, SE, Suite 260 Grand Rapids, MI, 49506