On the eve of former President Trump’s visit to Grand Rapids to discuss “Biden’s Border Bloodbath,” the Center for Immigration Studies removed Kent County’s designation as a sanctuary for illegal immigrant criminals.

Trump’s Tuesday visit comes less than two weeks after Mexican national Brandon Ortiz-Vite, 25, was arrested by Michigan State Police on multiple potential life sentences for the gruesome murder of Ruby Garcia. Investigators allege Ortiz-Vite, deported by the Trump administration in 2020 following a string of crimes, used an illegally purchased handgun to shoot Garcia multiple times before dumping the 25-year-old’s body alongside US 131 and fleeing in the woman’s car on March 22.

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The shocking murder focused attention on Kent County’s designation by the Center for Immigration Studies as a sanctuary jurisdiction, which is based on policies that hinder cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. It also prompted Kent County officials to petition the center to remove the designation.

On Friday, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young and county administrator Al Vanderberg sent a second letter to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, to “respectfully request the immediate removal of Kent County’s designation as a sanctuary county from your website because it is factually inaccurate.”

The letter outlined the sheriff’s current policy regarding ICE hold requests. Those policies include holds for a judicial warrant signed by a judge, or through a request from ICE with approval from the sheriff and signatures from an immigration officer and a completed “Certificate of Service.”

“Departmental review confirms that the requisite authority to detain is in place,” the officials wrote.

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That letter prompted Vaughan to lift the sanctuary designation on Monday, WOOD reports.

“I was really pleased to find out that Kent County is not a sanctuary,” Vaughn told the news site, “and I think that the citizens of Kent County should also be pleased to know that the county officials are doing the right thing and they always have been.”

LaJoye-Young said in a statement she’s “thankful for the center’s reviews of the policies and their recognition of our commitment to keeping our communities safe.”

The change is the latest in a years-long saga over immigration enforcement in the West Michigan county, where LaJoye-Young in January 2019 announced her department would not agree to detainer requests from ICE without a judicial warrant signed by a judge.

“We believe it to be imperative that each detained person have access to due process and we will continue to require judicial oversight for all law enforcement agencies, including ICE,” LaJoye-Young said at the time.

The Trump White House and ICE criticized the policy, noting a correlation between sanctuary policies and risks to community safety. ICE said in a statement the practice of refusing to hold illegal immigrants on detainers without warrants “undermine immigration enforcement and excuse the ill-conceived practices of sanctuary jurisdictions that put politics before public safety.”

U.S. Rep. Hillary Scholten, then an immigration attorney, applauded the 2019 policy change, suggesting “Sheriff LaJoye-Young has taken a huge stand for public safety, due process, and the rule of law in our community.”

The Detroit Free Press at the time highlighted two felony cases involving ICE detainer requests denied by Kent County: a Honduran national arrested for assault with intent to murder for allegedly stabbing a man with a beer bottle; and a previously deported Mexican national charged with operating while intoxicated. The latter was previously convicted for battery, providing false information to police, and felony re-entry after deportation.

Garcia’s murder is at least the second in West Michigan involving an illegal immigrant in as many years. In May 2023, Luis Fabian Bernal-Sosa, a Mexican national, shot and killed Leah Gomez. Bernal-Sosa was free on bond and awaiting trial for strangling Gomez in July 2022 when he allegedly shot the 22-year-old multiple times in front of her 2-year-old child, WZZM reports.

Data from Kent County cited by WXMI shows 26 individuals lodged in the Kent County Correctional Facility were transferred to ICE custody last year, and another 10 were transferred so far in 2024.

“The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is committed to transparency and collaboration with all law enforcement agencies, including ICE< to safeguard our community while upholding the highest standards of legal and ethical responsibility,” the department wrote in a statement to the news site.