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Unsettled: Painesville Police to Notify Immigration Authorities After Certain Arrests

Painesville council members and city manager Monica Irelan, second from left, listen at a recent meeting. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Painesville council members and city manager Monica Irelan, second from left, listen at a recent meeting.

This story is part of our series  Unsettled: Immigration in Ohio.

For the past few weeks, dozens of people have packed into council meetings in Painesville to protest what’s known as policy 413.

It says police will alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement if a person suspected of being in the country illegally is charged with a violent or drug offense, OVI or is found to be affiliated with a gang.

Officials in Painesville have said the town is not a “sanctuary city,” a term that often refers to localities that decline to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

Now the new policy is stirring up uncertainty among immigrants and their families in Painesville, where one in four people is Hispanic.

“I just want you to think it twice,” Miguel Echeverria, who runs an asphalt company in Painesville, told council this month. “We want our police to be strong, but not to be immigration officers, to pull anybody and arrest them and try to report them.”

Like many who spoke against the policy, Echeverria defended immigrants’ presence in the city.

“We want to do good for everybody,” he said. “We are not here to take anybody’s jobs, to do any bad thing for our community in Painesville or anywhere else.”

The Policy

Policy 413 went into effect on March 27 this year, according to the city manager’s office.

So far, one person has been reported to ICE under it, City Manager Monica Irelan said at a council meeting this month. She did not say what charges that person faced, but read a statement at the meeting defending the policy.

“The perception of this policy has caused people to believe that it is something that it is not,” Irelan said. “This is a post-arrest procedure.”

Under policy 413, police can take limited English proficiency into account when determining reasonable suspicion that someone is in the country unlawfully. But Irelan said there are limits.

“In fact, the policy states while the lack of English proficiency may be considered, it should not be the sole factor in establishing reasonable suspicion,” she said.

Other factors include admitting to being undocumented, or having papers suspected of being forged. Police may also include additional factors based on their experience.

An estimated 20 percent of residents over the age of 5 speak Spanish at home, according to the latest available Census figures.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and other opponents of the policy say the language provision encourages profiling.

One councilman, Jim Fodor, said he had concerns about it, too. 

“And if that’s the red flag, if there is something we can do, we are not the only community in this situation,” Fodor said at the meeting this month, “so maybe we need to reach out to our other communities.”

ICE Arrests Up Under Trump

Nationwide, ICE says there were 38 percent more immigration arrests in President Trump’s first hundred days than in the same period last year. An executive order by the president expanded the number of people considered a priority for deportation.

The city manager said Painesville is not a part of a federal program for cooperating with ICE known as 287(g).

But in 2008, council passed a resolutionsaying the city would assist authorities in enforcing immigration law. A former councilman who supported that measure, Hal G. Werner, testified at the meeting earlier this month.

“It’s called safety. It’s called the laws we need to adhere to for a civilized country, not a third world country,” Werner said. “And when it pertains to this, it doesn’t say of any nationality of any kind. We have a horrible, dangerous world out there.”

The Ohio ACLU sent the police chief a letter urging him to abandon policy 413. The chief declined an interview request for this story.

Fear of Traffic Stops

Among Painesville’s immigrant community, there’s fear that a traffic stop could lead to arrest and deportation by ICE.

“Instead of driving their cars, they’re walking or they’re just riding bikes,” said Jose Ramon, who said he received protected status under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The executive action shielded from deportation those undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children.

Jose Ramon said his parents have stopped driving themselves to work, and instead get a ride from a friend with a driver’s license.

“That’s the reality right now here in Painesville,” he said. “A lot of people think they’re going to get stopped for no reason, or they’re going to ask them for their IDs and stuff.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.