Progressive coalition brings together hopefuls 13th House seat in candidate forum

Candidates hear concerns of constituents on jobs, healthcare, immigration

Many of the leading candidates in the race to fill John Conyers Jr.’s seat in the US house heard from the people they seek to represent Saturday in a candidate forum held Detroit’s New Providence Baptist Church. Detroit City  Council president, Brenda Jones, mayor of Westland Bill Wild and state senator Coleman Young Jr. answered questions from constituents about the issues they deal with every day. State senator Ian Conyers and former state representative, Rashida Tlaib were also invited but couldn’t appear due to scheduling conflicts.

Paul Johnson III of the Disability Network of Wayne County wanted to know who supported a public program for elder care that would guarantee seniors access to quality, affordable long-term care. “I am lifelong Detroiter who  has learned the value of assisting others  from his Parents.” Johnson told the candidates.  “I have had to overcome learning disabilities always treating customer, friends and all others with compassion. “

A teacher in Detroit bravely told the story of how she had been impacted by sexual harassment. Gevonchai Hudnall said a man who had power over her made sexually suggestive comments at work, making her feel deeply uncomfortable, embarrassed, intimidated, and afraid for her job. She challenged the candidates to stand up for survivors of sexual assault on campus. “ I am glad we are now living in the #MeToo moment, and we are seeing an important shift in our culture.” Hudnall  said. “Sexual harassment and assault must no longer be tolerated. Campuses are one place where we must continue to fight and ensure that students are safe.”

Rokhyatou Toure (ROCK-key-ah-too too-RAY), a member of African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA), came to protect what remains of her family after aggressive immigration enforcement that took her father, Katim last month despite having lived peacefully in Michigan for 29 years. “If elected, we expect one of you to be a champion for immigrant communities and refugees.” Toure told the candidates. “ It is time for a Compassionate Immigration Reform, that focuses, ONLY in legalization and the reunification of separated families, NOT one more dollar for deportations. Our loved ones are being stolen away from us and deported, simply for driving to work, or for showing up to their court appointments. Immigration authorities don’t even care if the spouse or children are American citizens.”

Since no Republicans have been nominated to run in the 13th district this year, whoever wins the Democratic primary on August 7th will be unopposed in the general election in November.

Michigan residents to lobby representatives on issues affecting their families

‘The People’s Lobby Day’ Michigan United’s 7th annual Capitol Day gathering

The People’s Lobby Day is a day of direct action and participatory democracy. Residents with shared concerns form into teams to confront lawmakers with issues of Criminal Justice Reform, The Long Term Care Study Bill (HB4674), Universal Family Care, Medicare for All, Water for Flint, and Immigration.

A  rally will be held in the city hall plaza at 12:30 PM when participants in The People’s Lobby Day will welcome pilgrimages for immigrant families that walked from Detroit and Kalamazoo to the capitol.

A 90-mile “Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together” kicked of in Detroit on Monday, May 14th, from the church where Ded Rranxburgaj (RAHNS-bur-guy) has sought sanctuary from deportation.He is the sole caretaker for his wife Flora, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair for mobility. The First Congregational church in Kalamazoo has been walking for Saheeda Perveen Nadeem who has been taking sanctuary in their church. If deported, Saheeda would return to a country where she would face the threat of violence with no family support.

The Rally will conclude with the announcement of a planned direct action to address the Flint Water Crisis. In years past, members have occupied the Governor’s building, the office of the speaker of the house and formed a bucket brigade carrying water out of the Capitol building. This year’s action will address the shutdown of bottled water distribution pods.

 

Pilgrimage to keep immigrant families together stops at ISKCON temple

Families of Cile Precetaj and Ded Rranxburgaj fight deportation to Albania

A 90 mile march from Detroit to Lansing in support of immigrant families in Michigan faced with deportation concluded its second day with a dinner at the ISKCON Temple in Farmington Tuesday. On Monday, the “Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together” left Central United Methodist Church where Ded Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary rather than be taken from his wife, Flora and two sons, Eric and Lorenc. Ded is the primary caregiver for Flora who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and relies on a wheelchair. He hasn’t been able to leave the church even when his Flora had to be taken to the hospital.

“This pilgrimage is about educating people about the broken immigration system and specifically shining the light on the Rranxburgaj family and their plight.” Said Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “People have no idea how immoral the system is that would separate a caregiver from his wife who has MS for 11 years. We will end at Lansing where we will meet with legislators to change the systems that oppress!”

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When the pilgrims arrived in Farmington, they met Mikey, Megan and Martina, the children of Cile Precetaj, an Albanian woman awaiting deportation in St. Claire County jail. Her kids had a message for Rebecca Adducci, the regional director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): “Please don’t destroy our futures. Give our mom back.”

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The Birmingham Temple has also been a comfort to immigrant families in distress. “For almost nine months our congregation has been helping a Syrian refugee family whose father was deported leaving mom and four young children behind.” Said Rabbi Jeffrey Falick. “Our original goal was to help them navigate their way to becoming Americans. This goal took a sad turn when this administration cruelly withdrew the family’s temporary protected status which allowed mom to work while they applied for asylum. This left the family with no income whatsoever. Since then our congregation has raised almost $10,000 which, together with funding from ACCESS and its donors, has kept the family alive. This sad story is all too typical of what is now happening in our country to people who sought nothing more than relief from the horrors of war.”

IMG_7319Farmington and Farmington Hills State Representative Christine Grieg (D-37) was inspired by the activism and encouraged the pilgrims to carry on. “Our community can lead the way to change. By showing the solidarity that we have here tonight, by taking it to the streets, by taking it to the polls, we can change the direction of the state and of the country.” Rep Grieg said.

The pilgrimage will begin again Wednesday as the group continues up Grand River Ave. towards New Hudson where they will next share stories over a potluck dinner in James F. Atchison Memorial Park.

Ded Rranxburgaj Sends Off Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together

Faith leaders march to Lansing, visit wife, Flora in hospital

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Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian immigrant, waved goodbye from Central United Methodist Church, where he has taken sanctuary from deportation, as Rev. Jill Zundel and other faith leaders began a nine-day march to Lansing on his behalf to ask the director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to grant Ded a Stay of Removal and stop separating families.

Rranxburgaj had been allowed to stay in the United States to take care of his wife, Flora, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), under immigration policies prior to the presidency of Donald Trump. As Trump enacted changes, Rranxburgaj was forced to take sanctuary at the church with his wife, Flora, and two sons.

Flora had planned to start the pilgrimage along with the family’s advocates but was hospitalized after becoming ill over the Mother’s Day weekend due to her MS. The first stop of the pilgrimage was visiting Flora at the hospital, where she is recovering.

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“It is so terrible that my wife is sick in the hospital, and I cannot be there with her. Every time she had to go to emergency over the past 11 years, I always went with her. But now, I cannot leave this church, and that is very hard,” said Rranxburgaj.

“This is the second time we have called 911 since they took sanctuary in January. Because ICE will deport Ded if he leaves the church, he cannot visit his wife in the hospital, so we must visit her for him. And that is what this pilgrimage to keep families together is about. Ded can’t march to Lansing for himself, so we must march for him,” said Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, where Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary. “They have taken away his freedom, and Flora’s dignity, so we must act for them.”

Dozens of supporters left the church to begin the 90-mile march to Lansing with signs in support of the Rranxburgaj family and ending deportations.

“I don’t know what I would do if my husband was deported. Who would take care of me? Who would take me to the hospital? I don’t know why ICE is doing this to me, to my family,” said Flora Rranxburgaj.

Supporters will make stops each day to tell the family’s story and show support for other immigrant families separated by deportation.

THE PILGRIMAGE TO KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER

Detroit to Lansing
Schedule of Events:  May 14th – May 22nd, 2018

A 90-mile “Pilgramage to Keep Families Together” from Detroit to Lansing is kicking off Monday morning. Michigan United and allied immigrant communities will join supporters of an Albanian American family in sanctuary in a Detroit church for the journey.  The church where the event will begin is also where Ded Rranxburgaj (RAHNS-bur-guy) has sought sanctuary from deportation. The goal of the 90-mile trek is to seek justice and a stay of deportation for Ded, the sole caretaker for his wife Flora, who has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair for mobility. He is also the sole breadwinner for the family which includes two teenagers.

The group of immigrant families and other immigrant rights advocates plan to march into Lansing on Tuesday, May 22 with multiple stops and events along the way, including a few in Detroit. The events will be led by different immigrants impacted by deportation, they will tell their stories, educate the public attendees about the immigration system, and provide opportunities for advocacy to stop deportations, including the deportation of Rranxburgaj.

MONDAY 5/14

11:00AM Event:   Send-off from the Sanctuary

Speakers: Ded Rranxburgaj, Flora Rranxburgaj, Rev. Jill

Walk with us:  11:30AM-5:00PM

10.9 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. to Evergreen Road

Shuttle to Event Location from corner of Grand River & Evergreen to Brightmoor UMC

provided by Arthur and Mary Park

5:00PM Event:   Supporting Immigrants in Detroit

Brightmoor Aldersgate UMC, 2065 Outer Drive West, Detroit

Speakers: Flora Rranxburgaj, ABISA

Shuttle to Vehicles provided by Arthur and Mary Park, Carmen Kelly at 6:00PM.

Dinner provided by members of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church – Bloomfield Twp.

TUESDAY 5/15

Arrive at 10:15AM: ISKCON Farmington Hills Temple, 36600 Grand River Ave, Farmington

Shuttle to starting location of Grand River & Evergreen provided by the Birmingham Temple

Walk with us:  11:00AM-6:00PM

9.9 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from Grand River & Evergreen to ISKCON Temple in

Farmington. Lunch will be provided.

6:00PM Event:   Supporting Immigrants in our Community with our State Legislators

ISKCON Farmington Hills Temple, 36600 Grand River Ave, Farmington

Speakers: Flora Rranxburgaj, Peter Gojcevic, Rabbi Jeff Falick, 

Dinner provided by Birmingham Temple

WEDNESDAY 5/16

Arrive at 9:15AM: James F. Atchison Memorial Park, 58000 Grand River Ave, New Hudson

Walk with us:  10:00AM-6:00PM

11.7 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from ISKCON Temple to James Atchison Memorial Park

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action Potluck

James F. Atchison Memorial Park, 58000 Grand River Ave, New Hudson – Pavilion 1

Dinner provided by Indivisible Huron Valley

THURSDAY 5/17

Arrive at 11:15AM: First UMC, 400 E Grand River Ave, Brighton

Walk with us:  12:00PM-6:00PM

8 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from James Atchison Memorial Park to First UMC Brighton

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

First UMC, 400 E Grand River Ave, Brighton

Speakers: Ded & Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype)

Dinner provided by First UMC Brighton at 6:00PM.

FRIDAY 5/18

Arrive at 10:15AM: Howell, MI; exact location TBD

Walk with us:  11:00AM-6:00PM

10.3 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from First UMC Brighton to Howell location

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

Speakers: Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype)

SATURDAY 5/19

Arrive at 11:15AM: Fowlerville, MI; exact location TBD

Walk with us:  12:00PM-4:30PM

7.8 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from Howell to Fowlerville

SUNDAY 5/20

8:30AM Event:   Mass and Coffee Hour

St. Agnes Catholic Church 855 E Grand River Ave, Fowlerville

Walk with us:  10:30AM-4:30PM

11.6 Miles – Up Grand River Ave from Fowlerville to Williamston

MONDAY 5/21

Arrive at 10:15AM: All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing

Walk with us:  11:00AM-5:00PM

11.3 Miles – Up Grand River Ave. from Williamston location to All Saints Episcopal Church, East Lansing

6:00PM Event:   Story-Telling & Take Action

All Saints Episcopal Church, 800 Abbot Road, East Lansing

Speakers: Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj (Skype), Action of Greater Lansing,

TUESDAY 5/22

Walk with us:  10:00AM-12:00PM

4 Miles – Along E. Michigan Ave. from East Lansing to Lansing

12:00PM Event:   Pilgrimage Finale & New American Dreams Launch at the Capitol City Hall Plaza, 124 W. Michigan Ave, Lansing

 

Job posting: Universal Family Care Organizer

Organization Background

Michigan United is a statewide organization of community members and institutions fighting for the dignity and potential of every person. Created out of the merger of MOP (Michigan Organizing Project) and AIR (Alliance for Immigrant Rights), we have won major victories to improve the lives of those who have been marginalized by poverty, racism, and inequality. We organize along the following issue areas: immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, universal family care (including health, child care, elder care and paid sick time), and civic engagement. Our main office is in Southwest Detroit, with additional offices in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Flint.  As a racial and economic justice organization, we actively encourage individuals who are underrepresented on the basis of racial, ethnic, economic, and sexual orientation(s), as well as those who share the life experiences of the members we serve, to apply. Come and be a part of our team!

Position Summary

Universal Family Care is a campaign that is advancing a vision of dignity and justice for children, elders, and people with disabilities who need some type of caregiving. We are building a campaign around the premise that Michiganders deserve high quality care to live full and healthy lives, from infants and young children to older adults and people with disabilities. The campaign seeks to develop the talents of people most impacted by limited access to care or insufficient wages as caregivers. We are developing leaders across the state to employ a variety of tactics to build the people power we need to move this issue politically. The Universal Family Care Organizer will report to the Director of Universal Care and will be responsible for building support for universal family care in key districts across the state.

The organizer will be responsible for building relationships with constituents, developing a core team of leaders, organizing events, and training volunteer leaders.  Statewide travel is expected for this position.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

  • Conduct 1:1 meetings with potential leaders who are impacted by issues targeted by the Universal Care Campaign
  • Schedule meetings with elected representatives to advance the agenda of Universal Care across Michigan
  • Use social media and other tools to educate the public on issues of Universal Care
  • Plan and execute actions that create awareness
  • Effectively represent Michigan United within coalitions made of other community organizations
  • Work closely with staff in Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids to achieve unity of purpose (while there may be difference in execution) across the state, and identify opportunities to connect the work of Michigan United across the state
  • Build membership base of leaders who can carry out actions to effect change
  • Teach organizing strategies and tactics
  • Prepare reports of activities as requested
  • Canvassing and phone banking as necessary
  • Contribute to organization fundraising initiatives
  • Other duties as assigned

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

  • Exemplary communication skills and the ability to communicate with equal effectiveness to marginalized community members as well as major donors
  • Excellent judgment in day-to-day decisions and ability to operate with limited daily supervision
  • Self-starter and motivated
  • Ability to work individuality AND function as a part of an organization
  • Knowledge of principles of community organizing and advocacy strategies
  • Highly organized and meets deadlines
  • Familiar with database management, data reporting systems, and computer programs (Microsoft, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Docs)

Previous Life and/or Educational Experiences

(* notes which are preferred, but not required)

  • 1-3 years of organizing experience*
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills (demonstrated)
  • Proficiency in another language (Spanish)*

Working Conditions

  • Office environment with moderate amounts of standing, walking, climbing stairs, ability to lift 25 lbs
  • Normal business hours, some additional hours (evenings and weekends) required
  • Detroit-based, with travel across the state
  • Reliable transportation required

Salary & Benefits

  • Pay Range: $30K – $36K
  • Benefits: Health care, Health savings account, two-month paid sabbatical after 4 years of service, phone and travel stipends

Application Details

  • Resumes will be accepted on a rolling basis. Priorities will be given to those received no later than May 31, 2018.
  • Submit resume, statement of interest, and name & contact information of three references (at least two references must be work related, one may be personal)
  • Please put the name of the position you are applying for in the subject line
  • Resumes that do not adhere to these instructions will be discarded

 

Job posting: Regional Organizing Manager – Kalamazoo

Organization Background:

Michigan United is a statewide organization of community members and institutions fighting for the dignity and potential of every person. Created out of the merger of MOP (Michigan Organizing Project) and AIR (Alliance for Immigrant Rights), we have won major victories to improve the lives of those who have been marginalized by poverty, racism, and inequality. We organize along the following issue areas: immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, universal family care (including health, child care, elder care and paid sick time), and civic engagement. Our main office is in Southwest Detroit, with additional offices in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Flint.  As a racial and economic justice organization, we actively encourage individuals who are underrepresented on the basis of racial, ethnic, economic, and sexual orientation(s), as well as those who share the life experiences of the members we serve, to apply. Come and be a part of our team!

Position Summary:

Under the direction of the Managing Director, the Regional Manager – Kalamazoo will be responsible for managing a team of community organizers and service providers in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids in a way that contributes to the growth and sustainability of Michigan United on the west side of the state. In addition, this person will lead the charge for growing the presence of Michigan United in Kalamazoo and surrounding communities through raising money and expanding our relationship with churches, labor unions, community organizations, and individuals. This person will serve on the organization’s senior leadership team, as the voice for the west side of the state. They will also work closely with the Detroit-based Executive Director and the Development Director.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

 

  • Manage staff of 3-5 community organizers and/or service providers who work in different issue areas
  • Be the face of Michigan United to the Kalamazoo community, representing our work, values, and vision in a way that is inclusive, respectful and engaging
  • Establish and maintain strong relationships with funders on the west side of the state and submit grant and funding proposals
  • Recommend and develop areas of focus or campaigns that are consistent with the Michigan United vision to undertake in the Kalamazoo area
  • Work closely with staff in Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids to achieve unity of purpose (while there may be difference in execution) across the state, and identify opportunities to connect the work of Michigan United across the state
  • Build membership base of faith and community-based organizations in Kalamazoo
  • Support media placement of stories featuring work of MU and its leaders
  • Other duties as assigned

 

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities:

 

  • Familiarity with best practices in non-profit management
  • Exemplarily communication skills and the ability to communicate with equal effectiveness to marginalized community members as well as major donors
  • Excellent judgement in internal and external communication and in managing internal and external relationships
  • Knowledge of (or willing to learn) principles of community organizing and advocacy strategies
  • Highly organized and meets deadlines
  • Familiar with database management, data reporting systems, and computer programs (Microsoft, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Docs)

 

Previous Life and/or Educational Experiences

(* notes which are preferred, but not required):

 

  • 3-5 years of supervisory experience
  • Strong written communication skills (demonstrated)
  • Development, and grant writing experience within the Kalamazoo foundation network
  • Deep connections to and relationships within the greater Kalamazoo community
  • Proficiency in another language (Spanish or French)*
  • Bachelor’s degree (Social sciences, Social Work, Business, Non-profit management, or related field)*

 

Working Conditions:

  • Office environment with moderate amounts of standing, walking, climbing stairs, ability to lift 25 lbs

 

  • Normal business hours, some additional hours required
  • Kalamazoo-based, with some travel to Detroit and Grand Rapids

 

Salary & Benefits:

 

  • Pay Range: $45-50K
  • Benefits: Health care, Health savings account, two-month paid sabbatical after 4 years of service, phone and travel stipends

 

Application Details:

 

  • Resumes will be received on a rolling basis, however, reference will be given to applications received on or before May 31, 2018
  • Submit resume, statement of interest, and name & contact information of three references (at least two references must be work related, one may be personal)
  • Please put the name of the position you are applying for in the subject line

 

 

Job posting: Managing Director

Organization Background

Michigan United is a statewide organization of community members and institutions fighting for the dignity and potential of every person. Created out of the merger of MOP (Michigan Organizing Project) and AIR (Alliance for Immigrant Rights), we have won major victories to improve the lives of those who have been marginalized by poverty, racism, and inequality. We organize along the following issue areas: immigrants’ rights, criminal justice reform, environmental justice, universal family care (including health, child care, elder care and paid sick time), and civic engagement. Our main office is in Southwest Detroit, with additional offices in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Flint.  As a racial and economic justice organization, we actively encourage individuals who are underrepresented on the basis of racial, ethnic, economic, and sexual orientation(s), as well as those who share the life experiences of the members we serve, to apply. Come and be a part of our team!

Position Summary

Reporting to the Executive Director (ED), the Managing Director (MD) will act as the head of internal operations of Michigan United while partnering closely with the ED to chart Michigan United’s growth and strategic response to an ever-increasing demand for the organization’s services, organizing, and civic engagement work. The incumbent will manage a team of 4-5 community organizing directors (each who head a specific issue area). The Managing Director will be responsible for instituting and encouraging the use of best practices for non-profit management and identifying ways to operate more efficiently. The ideal candidate has community organizing experience and has been a part of a turn-around effort and contributed to positive cultural change in a growing organization.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities

    • Lead the program management of activities undertaken by issue teams (immigrant rights’, universal care, criminal justice, environment, and civic engagement) to ensure they are consistent with the organizational mission, leader expectations, and occur on time and within budget.
    • Manage increasing segments of information technology, human resources (recruiting, reviews, staff deployment/workload balancing, and career progression) with related internal communications and processes.
    • Identify best practices and improve internal systems with an eye toward future needs and budget realities.
    • Mentoring, coaching; visible, approachable sounding board/resource for front-line staff
    • Work closely with staff in Detroit, Flint, and Grand Rapids to achieve unity of purpose (while there may be difference in execution) across the state
    • Other duties as assigned

 

 

Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities

 

  • A high degree of emotional intelligence and desire to prioritize racial and economic justice in decision-making
  • Experience in non-profit management
  • Skilled project manager
  • Knowledge of principles of community organizing and advocacy strategies
  • Ability to perform with a high degree of skill in a fast-paced work environment
  • Exemplarily communication skills and the ability to communicate with equal effectiveness to marginalized community members as well as major donors
  • Excellent judgement in internal and external communication and in managing internal and external relationships
  • Highly organized and meets deadlines
  • Familiar with database management, data reporting systems, and computer programs (Microsoft, Excel, PowerPoint, and Google Docs)

 

 

Previous Life and/or Educational Experiences

(* notes which are preferred, but not required)

 

  • 5 years of experience in a senior management position (non-profit preferred, but not required)
  • Strong written communication skills (demonstrated)
  • Bachelor’s degree (Social sciences, Social Work, Business, Non-profit management, or related field)
  • Experience in Human Resources
  • Proficiency in another language (Spanish or French)*

 

Working Conditions

  • Office environment with moderate amounts of standing, walking, climbing stairs, ability to lift 25 lbs

 

  • Normal business hours, some additional hours required
  • Detroit-based, with some travel to Flint, Kalamazoo, and Grand Rapids

 

Salary & Benefits

 

  • Pay Range: $63,500 – $67,250
  • Benefits: Health care, Health savings account, two-month paid sabbatical after 4 years of service, phone and travel stipends

 

Application Details

 

  • Applications will be received on a rolling basis, but priority will be given to applications submitted by May 31, 2018
  • Submit resume, statement of interest, and name & contact information of three references (at least two references must be work related, one may be personal)
  • References should be provided in a separate document (with the name of the candidate on the document)
  • Please put the name of the position you are applying for in the subject line

 

 

Immigrant Families & Advocates Press for Rights at May Day Rally

Coalition demands rights for all working families

Clark Park was the gathering site for a large coalition of groups calling for immigration reform on May Day, International Workers Day. Michigan United was part of the coalition that insists the rights of working families are crucial regardless of ethnicity, immigration status or national origin. Flora Rranxburgaj who has multiple sclerosis (MS) spoke at the rally. Flora is the wife of Ded Rranxburgaj who is her sole caretaker and the family’s breadwinner. Ded is also in sanctuary at Central United Methodist church as protection against his being deported and depriving his wife of care and their two teen sons of their father. Flora and the pastor at the church where Ded is in Sanctuary both spoke out about the role of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I have been sick with MS for 11 years, and my husband takes care of me every day, said Flora whose immigrant husband is in sanctuary. “ICE is trying to split us apart and we are asking the director, Rebecca Adducci, for help. So far, she is still trying to split us apart. It is not right. This should not happen to any family.”

The Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor at the church that granted the family sanctuary, also spoke out about the necessity of keeping the family together. Rev. Zundel also made note of an upcoming march to fight for the rights of all endangered immigrant families.

“When our church saw that families were being separated by deportation, we decided to stand up and be leaders for unity!” said Rev. Zundel. “We have fought hard for the Rranxburgaj family, but so far ICE is still trying to tear them apart. We know that can’t happen, for Flora’s sake, so we will keep fighting.  We also know that they aren’t the only ones being torn apart by ICE, so we will keep fighting until we can keep all families together! On Monday, May 14, we will begin a march across Michigan to Lansing, a march to keep families together. Please join us!”

Detroit Activists Convene to Bail Out Mothers Around Mother’s Day

By Sam Corey, contributing journalist

At this moment, hundreds of thousands of people around the country sit in a jail cell, stripped of their freedom. While they are no longer able to vote, pay their taxes, or engage in public protest, they are not guilty of any crime – they are just poor. Individuals like this have fallen victim to an aspect of the criminal justice system that has been criticized by former Attorney General Eric Holder, the International Association of Chiefs Police and the American Bar Association. What’s keeping them locked up? They don’t have the ability to make their bond.

The cash bail system is one of the bluntest instruments made available to judges and prosecutors to keep poor people in jail. On any given day, kids are left unsupervised, home and car payments are left unpaid, and job loss takes place not because individuals are negligent or lazy, but because they are locked away from their lives outside jail. Last week, Detroit activists came up with a partial solution to this problem: establish a charitable bail fund to release mothers’ detained pretrial by Mother’s Day.

Organizing a bail fund

The Church of the Messiah, where these Detroit area organizers convened, sits just off East Lafayette, about two blocks from Belle Isle. Although the church is historic – about 142 years-old – it is very much vibrant and intact. About 60 percent of its congregation is African American men under the age of 30, and most of the church’s work includes providing affordable housing, nutrition and aerobic classes, serving food to the elderly, and maintaining after-school programs.

The spacious basement of the church is strewn with tables, and has high ceilings and windows that creep just into view. Here, I met the organizer of the Mother’s Day Bailout, Nick Buckingham, who sports a wide smile and a thin mustache. Nick, a Mass Liberation organizer for the Mass Liberation Campaign with Michigan United, hopes to cut mass incarceration in half by 2030.

Nicholas Buckingham“Over the next four years 2018-2021, we will develop the permanent grassroots organizing infrastructure that augments the overall movement to end mass incarceration and achieve this 50% reduction by 2030.”

For Buckingham, the creation of a bail fund is not some abstract goal. Having been formerly incarcerated, he knows what it’s like to be detained in jail before having a fair trial in court, and wants to prevent that for others.

“I remember sitting in the Ingham county jail, immersed in a violent, harmful place with the expectation to keep a humane, sane mindset and fight my case. During my time in the county jail, I would witness fights and correction officers’ (deputies’) misconduct which ultimately placed the incarcerated individual at risk of creating more trouble for their case.”

At the first convening to form a bail fund, organizers hailed from several activist organizations like Black Youth Project 100, Michigan United, The Color of Change, Good Jobs Now, and one individual running for office in Washtenaw County. They discussed their grievances with the criminal justice system, and the most optimal path towards creating a successful bail fund.

Black-Mamas-Bailout-Twitter (1)Click HERE to support the Black Mama’s Bailout!

While new to Detroit, bail funds – especially on Mother’s Day – are not novel. Last year, Black Lives Matter helped raise over $500,000, and bail out mothers from across 20 different cities. More consistent bail fund non-profits have become even more popular.

According to the Marshal Project, funds raised to helped poor individuals get released from pretrial detention have arisen in Boston, Brooklyn, Nashville, and Seattle, and more bail funds are beginning to take root in St. Louis, Miami, Cincinnati, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Austin.

The Bronx Freedom Fund, a non-profit bail fund in New York City, has already helped 600 people stay out of jail in 2017 with their charitable fundraising, according to their website. That organization morphed into the Bail Project, a nationally scaled bail fund with the mission of bailing out thousands of individuals’ detained pretrial around the country in the next five years.

Given the numbers of those incarcerated pretrial, it’s surprising a bail fund hasn’t been suggested in Michigan before.

According to an investigative report by Bridge Magazine, about 41 percent of Michiganders in jail are awaiting trial. Some of the more egregious counties include Newaygo, Genesee, and Ottawa, where some odd 78 percent, 72 percent, and 60 percent, respectively, are in jail awaiting their trial or arraignment. While there has been no pretrial data made available by Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, some in the area are advocating against money bail.

Barb Hankey, Oakland County Community Corrections Manager, is vocal about the injustice that money bail provides for community members, and that it serves no purpose.

“If you’re dangerous and you pose a threat to society, you’re dangerous and society should be able to assume that you’re going to be detained. No amount of money should be able to effectuate your release if you’re dangerous.”

An American Exception

Money bail is a problem particular to the United States, according to Hankey. “The United States and the Philippines are the only two countries in the whole entire world that use for-profit bail – doesn’t that seem kind of odd?”

Many have taken notice of money bail’s pernicious affect. It’s become common knowledge that America shares five percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, allowing the U.S. to lock up more people than any other nation on earth.

According to a 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, 536,000 people in America are detained before having a trial – most of them remaining in local jails. That population of incarcerates is larger than most other country’s prison and jail populations combined.

The incarcerated population locked up for not being able to afford bail has skyrocketed just within the last 30 years. From 1983 until 2014, 99 percent of jail growth increase consisted of people that were legally innocent. This means that the vast majority of America’s increased jail population comes from those that have not yet been convicted of the crime they were charged with.

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Denzell McCampbell

The massive rise of incarceration rates, according to Denzell McCampbell, the Deputy Communications Director for Engage Michigan and organizer for Black Youth Project 100-Detroit, is not a design flaw in the justice system but  rather an integral lever that helps push the machine along.

“People say that the system is not working right now. I will say that it’s working the way it is designed to be and we need to get to a point that we are doing true restorative and transformational justice. I think this (bail fund) is a step in that direction.”

Who are the losers and winners?

It should be no surprise that money bail – one aspect of an incarceration machine that disproportionately locks up people of color – most significantly affects African Americans. (A recent Princeton study on racial bias and bail decisions found that when judges in Miami and Philadelphia decide on bail, they are significantly impacted by racial stereotypes and exaggerated fears of crimes by black defendants.)

Bishop Herman StarksBishop Herman Starks, an organizer with Michigan United and the Michigan Peoples Campaign, has been a pastor most of his life, having been raised in the church. He spoke with me at the Church of the Messiah.

“It’s not fair. There needs to be a restructure of the system. (Bail) is just one part of it. Everyone needs to come to the mindset that the system is unfair toward people of color. Period. It wasn’t established for people of color because people of color had no say in the creation of it. They had no say in the creation of laws pertaining to it. We should not be the individuals being victimized by it – and guess what? We are.”

The disproportionate impact of money bail on people of color is hard to deny. A recent UCLA report found that, between 2012 and 2016, people in LAPD custody paid 193.8 million non-refundable dollars were paid to bail bond agents – of that sum, $92 million and $40.7 million were paid by Latinos and African Americans, respectively. Since women family members, and friends, of the accused pay the vast majority of bail bond funds, it’s fair to say that Black and Latina  women have had to pay the bulk of such bond money.

Of course, all that money has to go somewhere. Ultimately, the criminalization of those locked up without ever being convicted of a crime – disproportionately poor, black individuals – can mean big business for others.

A 2017 report entitled Selling Off Our Freedom: How insurance corporations have taken over our bail system, bail companies receive big profits in America, generating about $14 billion each year. However, people are not only profiting off individuals incarcerated in America; large, foreign corporations have bought up bail insurers in order to maximize their profits overseas.

Tokio Marine, one of Japan’s largest corporations “owns multiple bail sureties and bought a wholesale bail agency in 2016.” And Fairfax Financial, a Toronto-based life insurance company, bought up “multiple bail insurers” and is now worth about $10 billion. These companies help bail bondsmen stay in business with publicly traded stocks bought with money that is used to temporarily free the innocently incarcerated.

“How can somebody going to jail make someone else rich?” Asked Bishop Starks. “You got a little boy of there around three years old,” he said pointing to the child. “They betting on the fact that he’s already going to prison. They already got a bed made for him.”

The future of money bail and a Detroit bail fund

Hankey, of Oakland Community Corrections, thinks that although cash bail has become a default setting in our criminal justice system, there’s no need to think it will last in Michigan forever.

“Most people in the pretrial field would say there’s no need for money bail at all. It should be totally eliminated.”

Michigan’s move toward reform does not exist in isolation. Pretrial reform, and the shift away from money bail, has already begun around the country in places like New Mexico, New Jersey, Washington DC, Kentucky, Illinois, and Alaska, and more recent reforms have occurred in cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

“If we’re not going to eliminate money bail,” Hankey said, “then we need to make sure that we have restrictions around money bail and that people’s due process isn’t violated because if you can’t post a money bail, what does that mean? It means you’re detained. And our constitution – the Michigan constitution – says ‘only individuals who are charged with capital offenses can be detained.’

This week, Detroit organizers will meet again to hash out details that will help enact a bail fund. Questions like, how much money needs to be raised? Which jails should be targeted? And, who will follow up with families in order to make sure that detainees have the legal resources and social support they need?

McCampbell just hopes the bail fund will afford moms the ability to spend Mother’s Day with their family.

“I think we need to be making sure that we are getting folks back home to spend time with their family and having the opportunity to have mothers, and black women inside their homes and back in their community, where they should be, while they are dealing with things. And also providing the community a way that folks can have the support that they need. That’s the primary aspect for me.”

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When a mother’s arrested, the first thing she thinks about is where her children are.This shouldn’t be the case. #FreeBlackMamas this Mother’s Day! Support the fight to #endmoneybail by donating here.


Sam CoreySam Corey is a journalist who worked with the American Civil Liberties Union and will soon be interning at Michigan Public Radio’s current events show, Stateside with Cynthia Canty.

 

Justice & Dignity for All