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Unsettled: Painesville Councilman Explains Policy Reporting Some Arrests To ICE

Painesville Councilman Michael DeLeone says the city wants to be welcoming to law-abiding citizens. (Nick Castele / ideastream)

This week we’re talking about immigration, as part of the series Unsettled: Immigration in Ohio.  We’re using Painesville, in Lake County, as a starting point.  The city recently issued a policy to have police report arrests for certain crimes to immigration authorities.  This has drawn some strong backlash from activists, and the ACLU. 

Painesville councilman Michael DeLeone told me more about policy 413:

Michael DeLeone: “The city manager, and the police chief, and the law director, formulated policy 413 to be a post-arrest procedure which in my opinion and my read targets violent offenders, targets gang offenders, and targets drug offenders.  I know that there’s been some thoughts that this targets, or this is racial profiling. But we have more than Latino immigrants in our community, and this policy wasn’t intended to strike at any one nationality.  It was intended across the boards of these are the regulations from the feds, and this is what they asked us to do, and we’re gonna do it.”

Ganzer: “According to the 2015 census, I believe, 22% of Painesville’s population identified as Hispanic or Latino, and among the folks that I’ve spoken to, at least, there’s at least a perception that there is a targeting, or there is a shift, of how they can operate in their community.  So from a councilman’s perspective, what is the responsibility for that segment of the community and how do you ease those residents’ concerns?”

Michael DeLeone: “I think it’s our duty, and our job to educate people that this is how the policy is written, this is its intent, this is how it works, and this is how it’s working.”

Ganzer: “Some of the people we’ve talked to said since President Trump has been campaigning and then won office, that they have seen a change in how free people feel to even walk down the street, or congregate in certain ways.  Have you seen a shift in how the community is responding to itself, even, or divisions within the community?”

Michael DeLeone: “I’ve seen a shift in the community, but I saw that shift before the presidential election results.  That shift basically on what you believe—we used to be able to discuss issues, we used to be able to have rational, reasonable discussions, and we might not agree, but that doesn’t mean we’re not friends.  But I’ve seen the diminishing of that in our society that if you’re on the other side from the people you’re speaking with, you’re wrong.”

Ganzer: “We’ve spoke to people who are being deported, are in the process of being deported, they have ankle bracelets now, and they’re saying all of this together: Painesville police coming up with a policy; ICE arrests being up 38% percent since the President has taken office; this equals we’re not welcome here even though it’s our community, too.  What do you think?”

Michael DeLeone: “And that is a perception, and we’re constantly fighting the perception.  In fact, 5 ½ years ago we would’ve been having this discussion, it would’ve been a talk about the discussion of the opposite.  We were being perceived as a sanctuary city.  And that was a big deal.  I pulled out the 2008 resolution back then: how can you call us a sanctuary city, we have this document right here that says we aren’t.  And again, I live and breathe the letter of that document.”

Ganzer: “I think it was 2007 when there were a number of ICE raids in Painesville.  Some people think that this is just another wave of that, that we’re back to that situation or worse.  From your perspective, do you believe that’s where we are?”

Michael DeLeone: “I don’t believe that’s where we are.  We have to recognize that legal immigrants are a valued part of our community.  Are there illegal immigrants here? Yes. Now for those illegal immigrants that aren’t committing any crimes, this policy will never affect them.”

Ganzer: “Something that a number of people we spoke to said, was that Painesville without its immigrant community would be a lot of empty houses, some businesses would not have been formed—is there any concern from the city level that even if it’s a perception that things are less welcoming than they were before that that could hurt both the bottom line, but also the culture you’ve created here?”

Michael DeLeone: “My perspective has always been that we want to be welcoming to law-abiding citizens.  We want to be welcoming to law-abiding people.  Like many cities across the nation we’re struggling, we’ve always been struggling, we need to create economic development.  There’s always a concern from my perspective when there is a false perception out there, which is why I believe education is so important and getting the message out of this is what is.  When everyone says policy 413 did all these things, it’s only been responsible in six months for one person being reported to ICE.  So I don’t really think it’s had the impact that people are fearing, and I think once it gets a track record out under it, people will start to see, and once that track record develops it’s our job as council-people to get out there and spread the word.”

Michael DeLeone is a Painesville city councilman.

Find more parts of this series here.

Tony Ganzer has reported from Phoenix to Cairo, and was the host of 90.3's "All Things Considered." He was previously a correspondent with the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, covering issues like Swiss banks, Parliament, and refugees. He earned an M.A. in International Relations (University of Leicester); and a B.Sc. in Journalism (University of Idaho.) He speaks German, and a bit of French.