Michigan's most diverse city is wading into the emotional national debate about what role local police should play in enforcing federal immigration laws.
As Congress mulls what to do with those illegally in the country, Hamtramck officials are preparing an ordinance to forbid police and other city officials from asking anyone about their immigration status unless it's relevant to investigations or during arrest bookings.
Supporters say Hamtramck, which is so diverse 26 languages are spoken in its schools, is no stranger to culture clashes and the law would provide a safeguard for immigrants wary about cooperating with police if they fear deportation or harassment.
"We don't want (local public officials) to go beyond their call of duty to carry out responsibilities of federal immigration officials," said Anthony Mosko, of the Detroit faith-based organization Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength. "There's no way to know that just by looking at somebody if they are documented or undocumented."
Such logic outrages foes who say police are sworn to enforce all laws. The proposal, which council members could consider next month, is modeled after an ordinance Detroit adopted in May and is similar to ones in Los Angeles and Chicago. But it goes against a national trend of municipalities teaming with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to allow cops to identify and report undocumented residents. . .
In 2004, the city was thrust into the national spotlight when the City Council initially refused a mosque's request to broadcast a call-to-prayer before repealing a noise ordinance that forbid it. The city was sued after a 1999 election on allegations officials prevented 40 voters of Arab and Bengali descent from voting.
"Due to the history of that situation happening in Hamtramck, it's good to have such an ordinance on the books," said Dawud Walid, director of the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations that supports the measure. (MORE)