The City of East Lansing (CoEL) Treasury office received a call this morning from an unidentified caller, alleging that four buses with undocumented immigrants would be dropped off in East Lansing Thursday (Dec. 28) afternoon. City officials have not confirmed the legitimacy of the call but are working to be prepared if help is needed.
ELi stayed in touch with city officials throughout the day, receiving a statement from City Manager Robert Belleman through East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) Deputy Chief Chad Pride minutes before 5 p.m.
“At approximately 9 a.m., the City of East Lansing Treasury office received an anonymous call alleging that several buses of migrants would be arriving in East Lansing at some point today, specifically noting that East Lansing is a sanctuary city. The caller also mentioned the name of the mayor. No other details were provided. The caller did not provide their name but did provide a phone number. The matter was immediately referred to police command, who have been working to identify the caller and confirm the veracity of the assertions in the call.
“At this time, we cannot confirm if the call is legitimate, however, we are working with the appropriate city and local support staff to coordinate assistance in the event help is needed. If anyone has more information about the call or alleged buses, please contact Deputy Chief Chad Pride at (517) 899-8040.
“We will provide an update if the situation changes.”
An email earlier in the day from Officer Jacey Kingsbury to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services workers and local service providers gave more information. The email indicated much uncertainty about any details of the alleged buses and occupants and said the ELPD chief was meeting with city leadership to work on a plan in the event buses arrived.
“We have staff reaching out to businesses/people/locations to supply housing, transportation, food, warm clothes and blankets, and similar things,” Kingsbury wrote.
In mid-January of this year, the East Lansing City Council voted 3-1 to make East Lansing a sanctuary city, with now-Mayor George Brookover being the lone dissent.
Brookover said at the time the vote was symbolic, since the city had already designated itself as a safe haven in 2017. He also worried East Lansing would be a target of politically conservative stunts, like those enacted by the Republican governors of Texas and Florida, Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, sending Central American migrants to northern, liberal communities. (The Texas Tribune reported that Texas flew a chartered flight of 120 migrants to Chicago last week.)
“The reality is,” Brookover said at the time of the sanctuary city vote, “if we were faced with an influx of individuals who might fit this category, I think we would then morally have a responsibility to take care of them. We don’t have the resources to take care of them and I would feel pretty bad about that.”
Local non-profits and faith communities, however, began preparing for the arrival in case today’s phone call was true.
“I am at the Women’s Center [of Greater Lansing] putting together winter coats and hygiene supplies, just in case,” Executive Director of the Women’s Center and former candidate for City Council Rebecca Kasen told ELi in a text this afternoon.
“If necessary, All Saints [Episcopal Church at 800 Abbot Road] could put up 20 people in the undercroft overnight, and possibly supply other assistance,” the Rev. Kit Carlson told ELi after speaking with Kingsbury. “She [Kingsbury] is building a list of resources at this point, so [if] something like this ever does happen they might be better prepared.”
“This is our call of duty and we are obliged to respond,” Thasin Sardar, a lay leader at the Islamic Center of East Lansing at 920 S. Harrison Road, said.
“If true,” said the Rev. Shawnthea Monroe of People’s Church at 200 W. Grand River Ave., “then we will respond as we do, with resources, compassion and faith. Even if it isn’t true this time, we should seriously consider making a contingency plan.”
ELi reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to learn of any contingency plans the agency might have in place to address situations like these. Public Information Officer Bob Wheaton refused to comment, saying, “Given that we have no confirmation that this is happening, I don’t want to speculate.”
ELi also contacted numerous city leaders during the day, hoping to learn about the developing story. Mayor Brookover declined to comment on the record. City Councilmember Dana Watson could not provide an update, but did offer her thoughts.
“We need more planning,” she said in a text. “Ingham County Health Department does have an Emergency Preparedness team and they did create somewhat of a plan before.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
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