The confessed murder last week of 25-year-old Ruby Garcia by illegal immigrant Brandon Ortiz-Vite in Grand Rapids continues to send shockwaves throughout the state, but has also sparked disagreement over whether Kent County provides sanctuary for illegal immigrants.

As previously reported by The Midwesterner, Ortiz-Vite was deported during the waning days of the Donald Trump administration, but reentered the U.S. as a “gotaway,” returned to Grand Rapids, where last Friday he shot and killed Garcia, stole her vehicle, and deposited her lifeless body on a side street in downtown Grand Rapids.

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The heinous crime has reignited calls to eliminate sanctuary cities and counties in Michigan, so-called because of policies that hinder local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

Kent County officials rankle at the sanctuary designation by the Center for Immigration Studies.

According to WZZM, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young and administrator Al Vanderberg deny Kent County is a sanctuary. “They say while the sheriff’s office has not had a formal agreement with ICE since 2019, Kent County has never been a sanctuary.”

As recently as a map updated last Friday, March 22, the day Garcia was murdered and her body dumped, CIS listed Kent County as a sanctuary.

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Additionally, rather than addressing the murder of Garcia as an example of lax immigration enforcement, Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker declared the case as “another case of a domestic violence homicide.”

The CIS put Kent County on its sanctuary list in 2019. In January 2019, according to the Detroit Free Press: “LaJoye-Young told ICE that her department will not agree to immigrant detainer requests from ICE unless they have a judicial warrant from a judge. Her move came amid an uproar from civil rights advocates after Grand Rapids Police and Kent County had handed over to ICE a Latino suspect born in the U.S. who was a U.S. citizen and Marine veteran, Jilmar Ramos-Gomez.”

In the same 2019 article, current U.S. Representative and then-attorney with the Michigan Immigration Rights Center Hillary Scholten decried Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s “fear-mongering tactics” and attempting “to bully our local officials into a kind of compliance that is simply not required under the law.”

Scholten applauded the sheriff: “Sheriff LaJoye-Young has taken a huge stand for public safety, due process, and the rule of law in our community,” she told the Free Press. “We continue to applaud her decision as a step toward making us all feel safer.”

The Free Press listed two felony cases when ICE’s detainer requests were denied by Kent County, including a “Honduran national arrested on charges of assault with intent to murder after he reportedly stabbed a man with a broken beer bottle in a fight” and a “Mexican national previously deported charged with operating while intoxicated. He was previously convicted on battery, fraud false info to law enforcement, and felony re-entry after deportation.”

A Gallup poll released late in February, notes that Americans perceive immigration “at the top” of the country’s “most important problem” list. According to the poll, 55% of respondents say the country’s vital interests are critically threatened by large numbers of illegal immigrants entering the country.