Michigan saya Get Out to spiks

LANSING — A Michigan lawmaker believes the state’s law enforcement officers need the authority to arrest illegal immigrants and is drafting legislation similar to Arizona’s new immigration law.

Rep. Kim Meltzer, R-Clinton Township, said her bill would allow police to request proof of citizenship from people who are stopped and questioned on another offense, such as a traffic violation or selling fraudulent identity documents. Officers would have the authority to arrest people who can’t prove their legal status.

“We have borders in place for a reason,” Meltzer said. “Everyone should play by the rules.”

Meltzer, who’s a candidate for state Senate in the August primary election, said racial profiling — a key fear among opponents of Arizona’s law — would not be tolerated. She said a driver’s license would be reasonable proof that a person was legally living in the U.S.

The Arizona law approved last month empowers local police to question anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. It has triggered a heated national debate, touched off protests and prompted some states to look at their own laws.

Meltzer said that when the federal government ignores its border patrol responsibilities, it presents “a financial liability for our states, local communities and schools.”

Her plan has already garnered strong reaction.

“This is absolutely unacceptable,” said Emily Diaz-Torres, executive director of the new Macomb Hispanic and International Service Center in New Haven. “If it’s anything like the Arizona law, we will definitely fight it.”

Shelli Weisberg, legislative director for American Civil Liberties Union in Michigan, said the group would fight Meltzer’s bill in the Legislature and in court if necessary.

“We don’t want an Arizona-style bill. It encourages racial profiling,” Weisberg said, adding that such a law would put Michigan out of step with other states.

But Ken Grabowski, legislative director for the Police Officers Association of Michigan, said a law giving local police more authority is “probably something that needs to be done.”

“In many instances, if police find someone who is here illegally, they take them to the local (Immigration and Naturalization Service) office, and the person is given an appearance notice for a later date. But nobody ever shows up. It’s a farce,” he said.

There is no official estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in Michigan, state demographer Ken Darga said, adding that the counting process “is pretty imprecise.”

Meltzer said Michigan law enforcement officers have been left with the responsibility to protect the state against those who sneak across the U.S.-Canadian border.

Federal border officials allocated about $20 million a year ago for 11 cameras to be set up along the St. Clair River to watch for illegal immigrants crossing from Canada.


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