Michigan has become one of the latest states to debate whether to require law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they approach for an offense and whom they suspect may be here illegally.
A proposed bill in the House known as No. 4305 also would require government agencies to verify the immigration status of people older than 18 years of age who apply for federal, state or local public benefits. As in many of the roughly 20 other states considering bills that target illegal immigration, the Michigan bill has drawn criticism by immigrant rights groups and religious leaders who say it would create a climate of fear and division.
An editorial in the Midland Daily News said “the bill fails the stink test.”
But the measure's supporters say undocumented immigrants, who number an estimated 200,000 in Michigan, are a drain on the state that in recent years has been plagued with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and an exodus of its residents.
The measure would require law enforcement officers to make a "complete, full and appropriate attempt" to verify a person's immigration status after the person is stopped for another offense and officers have probable cause to suspect the person is in the country illegally. People who don't have a driver's license or other documentation and are suspected to be illegal immigrants could be turned over to federal custody.
The Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform Michigan said the proposal would allow police to stop and arrest people solely on the suspicion they may be in the U.S. illegally.
Agema said that wouldn't be the case, and that the immigration status check would come only after someone had been arrested or stopped on suspicion of violating state or local law and didn't have proper identification.
"If they were drunk driving or they were caught stealing, that's when they'd do it," Agema said. "They don't just pull them over because `hey, that guy looks like he's an illegal.' No. That's not in the bill."