Detroiters pray for release from Marathon refinery pollution

Vigil held in hope that God touch the heart of CEO to treat residents fairly

Under blustery, grey skies Thursday evening, the faithful gathered outside the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery in Southwest Detroit to pray for a release for those who live in the polluted conditions around the plant. As the chimney stacks of the coker belched smoke and flames that filled the night sky, area clergy delivered a message similar to Moses’: Let my people go.

“Opening my windows when it is warm outside is not an option for me,“ said lifetime resident John Atkins. “The refinery air smells horrible.  Marathon should buy my home so I can enjoy the rest of my years.“

In 2012, the refinery underwent a $2.2 billion expansion. Marathon purchased the homes in the predominantly white neighborhood of Oakwood Heights. But despite the cries of the people, the corporation has refused to treat their black neighbors as fairly as they did their white neighbors.

Emma Lockridge, the Michigan United environmental justice organizer that spearheaded the vigil, almost didn’t go, having struggled all week with breathing issues. Lockridge went to the doctor with respiratory distress after filming a flaring incident at the refinery.

During the prayers, residents held white crosses that said ‘Exodus’ on the front with the names of friends and family impacted by the air pollution on the back. “We pray Marathon CEO Gary R. Heminger will act in a just manner and purchase our homes,“ Lockridge said. “It would be the righteous thing to do.“

Flint residents speak out against court ruling on municipal water contract

Federal Judge advances contract over objections of city council

U.S. District Judge David Lawson ruled Friday that a 30 year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority can go forward over the objections of the Flint city council. Many residents are understandably skeptical of the deal and resent the loss of autonomy of their elected officials.

“Forcing decisions onto the city government is exactly how the Flint Water crisis started!” said Michigan United activist Carly Hammond at a press conference Tuesday outside City Hall. “This contract was negotiated with the state’s best interests in mind, not the city of Flint and certainly not the residents.”

Lead leached into Flint’s municipal water supply in 2014 after a state appointed Emergency Manager ordered that the city switch from Detroit water system to the caustic Flint River in order to save money over the objections of the city council. State officials ignored residents complaints for years before the problem was documented. During that time, scores of people were also infected by the Legionella bacteria. Twelve of them died.

“We want the State and Federal Government to release Flint from the grasp of officials who have no incentive to treat the residents of Flint fairly.” Said Megan Kreger. “If we had been able to maintain authority over our own governance, thousands would not have been poisoned, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have been allocated to fix pipes.”

Fighting #9 demands answers from Rep. Levin

Fear proposed cuts to the federal budget and end to critical cost-sharing payments

Members of the Indivisible group known as the “Fighting #9” were outside a Democratic Party Meeting Thursday to demand answers from Rep. Sander Levin. Terrified by recent actions pending in the Senate, including proposed cuts to the federal budget and President Trump’s decision to end critical cost-sharing payments, protesters shouted “We will not quit fighting!”

“We want Rep. Levin to know how important protecting everyone’s healthcare is. No matter how many different ways the GOP and the Trump Administration try to take our health care guarantees away!” Joyce Peralta, spokesperson for the group explained. “The Trump budget is just another way they are trying to kill Medicaid, and next it will be Medicare! I also wanted Levin to strongly oppose Trump’s tax plan that will hurt all but the top 1%, while raising the deficit! We know the GOP plan will not create jobs, but lower funds for our necessary domestic programs!”

The group continues their ongoing protests to be sure their elected officials know they won’t back down. They are paying attention. And they want to work with Levin and other elected officials to give them feedback how their efforts will be most effective.

The Fighting #9 also expressed concerns about the answer they received from Levin about why he voted for a budget that still contained the huge increase in the Pentagon budget. Peralta said, “I felt Rep. Levin agrees wholeheartedly with our values and will fight for us.” However, she is still concerned with his vote to increase military spending.

Public Officials sound off as Trump signs order sabotaging ACA and proposing budget that cuts $700 billion from Medicaid

Citizens terrified of the devastating effects of massive cuts to social safety net in lower income communities join panel discussion with national, state and local elected officials

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, state Rep. Ronnie Peterson, Washtenaw County Commissioner Ricky Jefferson, Ypsilanti city council member Peter Murdock, Community Alliance executive director Kathy Grant and former state Rep. John Freeman will discuss the potentially devastating impact of Trump’s proposed budget which seeks to cut $700 Billion from Medicaid in front of an audience of concerned community members and constituents.  The discussion focused on how these cuts will impact vulnerable communities in Washtenaw County, including developmentally disabled adults, seniors in nursing homes, school districts ability to serve special needs children, and low income workers.

Kathy Grant, Executive Director, Community Alliance, provides insight on the need for Medicaid and the effects any cuts would have  “Medicaid is a lifeline for people with disabilities. Sometimes it is the only source of funding for long term supports and services that many people with developmental disabilities rely on to live in the community.  Community Alliance works with nearly 500 people with developmental disabilities to help them to utilize Medicaid funded programs and services to receive the necessary assistance with personal care like eating, bathing, getting dressed and taking medicine.  Cuts to Medicaid turn back the clock to a time when the only option for people with developmental disabilities was institutionalization. “

In addition, former State Rep. John Freeman discussed the poison pill provision that will trigger cancellation of Michigan’s medicaid expansion, which would cause 600,000 Michiganders to lose their health coverage as soon as 2019.  As Freeman wrote in a recent memo:

“If federal funding for Medicaid is dramatically reduced, this will trigger the termination [of the Healthy Michigan Plan]…But even if nothing is changed at the federal level, the Healthy Michigan Program will still likely terminate after fiscal year 2019-20”

Furthermore, this is only one of the many ways Trump is actively undermining the ACA and harming the most vulnerable among us.  The President has just signed an executive order that will allow insurance companies to raise rates for sicker and older people by exempting younger and healthier people from certain essential benefits.   As Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation has said, “Within a year, this would kill the market.”

Citizens and public officials met to raise their voices and resist these assaults to ordinary Americans’ healthcare.

Michigan Families Will Be Harmed by Senate Budget Resolution Vote.

Healthcare for Michigan Medicaid Enrollees, Medicare Recipients Jeopardized, so that Top 1% Can Get $76,560 Tax Cut. Meanwhile 13% of Middle-Class Michigan Households Will Get a Tax INCREASE.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on a budget resolution that will set the framework for how much federal spending and taxes will be cut. The proposal would allow for a $1.5 trillion tax cut mostly benefiting the wealthy and corporations, which is not paid for by closing loopholes, meaning the costs will be added to the deficit.The ballooning of the deficit will jeopardize funding for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education,and other services that America’s families rely on. Meanwhile, many middle-class families will see a tax increase under the plan.

This threat to the basic living standards of America’s working families is not abstract. The Senate budget proposes $5.8 trillion in cuts to federal spending, including nearly $500 billion from Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other healthcare programs. Another $650 billion may be cut from income security programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled individuals, and tax credits for working families. Michigan’s working families and seniors will be particularly harmed, and Senators Peters and Stabenow should vote NO to protect their constituents.

See data below for the effects on Michigan’s families.

A panel of officials and constituents gathered Monday at Community Alliance, a non-profit agency in Ypsilanti, Michigan, to discuss the potential changes to Medicaid.

“Seniors need help sometimes with just making sure they’re eating or getting dressed or bathing. It’s dignity.” said  Rep. Debbie Dingell. “It’s about the dignity of every human being, and as you get older, you can still be a very important contributing member of our community, We need their wisdom, we need their contributions. They need a little help. We shouldn’t destitute somebody because they’re older or not be there for them. We need to understand what Medicaid has become.”

“The Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion helped fund the Healthy Michigan Plan, and if the ACA is replaced, the Healthy Michigan Plan will no longer be sustainable.” said former state Rep. John Freeman. “When you make a significant social change like we did with the ACA, you have to expect backlash, and that’s what’s happened. So if we think that this is important – and we all do – then we have to go out there and protect what we want.”

TAX CUTS FOR THE RICHEST 1% IN MICHIGAN FROM THE TRUMP-GOP TAX PLAN

TAX INCREASES ON THE MIDDLE CLASS IN MICHIGAN FROM THE TRUMP-GOP TAX PLAN

  • 14% of households would get a $1,590 tax increase, on average, in 2018.
  • 13% of households making $42,100 to $67,000 would get a $780 tax increase, on average.
  • 14% of households making $67,000 to $108,300 would get a $1,360 tax increase, on average.

EFFECT ON MICHIGAN OF REPEALING THE STATE AND LOCAL TAX DEDUCTION (SALT)

The Trump-GOP tax plan repeals the SALT deduction. Taxpayers can deduct state and local property taxes, and either income or sales taxes, from their federal taxable income.  SALT helps taxpayers, many of them middle-class, avoid being double taxed at the federal level.

  • For state and county level data on the number of households claiming the SALT deduction, the percentage that are middle-income and the average SALT deduction (see this report from the National Association of Counties http://explorer.naco.org).
  • For congressional district-level data on the percentage of taxpayers claiming the SALT

deduction and the average deduction claimed (see this report from the Government Finance Officers Association).

EFFECT ON MICHIGAN OF REPEALING THE FEDERAL ESTATE TAX

The Trump-GOP tax plan eliminates estate and gift taxes, losing $240 billion over 10 years and boosting the inheritances of the very wealthy. The federal estate tax is paid only by estates worth at least $5.5 million, just 2 out of 1,000 estates, or only 5,500 estates in all of 2017.

MICHIGAN SERVICES & PROGRAMS AT RISK DUE TO TAX CUTS

To pay for massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations, President Trump and GOP leaders have proposed deep cuts to services that working families rely on. The Senate budget resolution would cut over 10 years:

  • $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs
  • $470 billion from Medicare
  • $650 billion from income security programs, which may include cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled individuals, and tax credits for working families.
  • Also at risk are Pell Grants and other financial aid to help students afford college.

In Michigan:

Medicaid serves:

8 arrested in civil disobedience protesting end of DACA protections

Immigrant youth refuse to return to shadows, citizen allies reject white supremacy

Residents held a heartfelt and tearful rally in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park Tuesday as immigrant youth of Movimiento Cosecha called for solidarity with the 11 million people who are undocumented in the country and described how President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would impact their lives and families. Afterwards, they marched to Michigan avenue and Westnedge street where Eight citizen allies, who identify as white, were were arrested evening for blocking the intersection. The citizen allies used their white privilege in the act of civil disobedience to risk arrest in order to amplify the message of the risk that DACA & undocumented families make everyday to live in the United States.

Christine Lewis, co-Director of West Michigan Michigan United said, “For us as citizens who are white, we want to take up our responsibility to fight white supremacy; and that means taking risks,” Lewis said. “The point of the arrests was to show fellow white folks what it means to take action and invite people in.” It was one of many actions hosted across the state by Michigan United as they pushed for a legislative solution to the crisis Trump has created.

Nelly Fuentes of Moviemento Cosecha Kalamazoo and Pro-Kzoo said “This decision would be the height of cruelty: It’s an attempt to score political points by separating families and disrupting schools and workplaces across the country, it’s vile and the Kalamazoo community will not stand for blatant racist and cruel policy. We stand with all DACA recipients and the 11 million undocumented people living in this country.”

DACA Troy heroshot

Earlier at Rep. Dave Trott’s (R-MI 11) district office in Troy, Michigan, several DACA recipients spoke to a crowd of about a hundred gathered to urge the congressman to endorse legislation that would replace the popular program.  “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families and so many people want to see it continue, I don’t know why our President is listening to this tiny racist minority,” said Michigan United immigrant rights organizer and DACA recipient Adonis Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

That afternoon, another hundred protesters gathered outside Western International High School as the first day of classes let out. Many of the college plans of seniors in this predominantly immigrant community could be put on hold if a replacement isn’t found when the protections it offers expire in six months.

Alondra Alvarez, a 17 year old student at the school has many friends in this situation. “I am unafraid and stand up for those who feel they don’t have a say. DACA is something that has helped so many of my peers and it hurts to know my loved ones will be affected by this.”

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State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) also passionately described how DACA has helped young immigrants in Michigan. “Ending DACA without any guarantee of congressional action means these teachers, nurse, engineers students, first responders, members of the military are going to be ripped out of our communities and forced back into the shadows, facing at best an uncertain future and at worst potential deportation to a country they do not know.”

GR DACA heroshotBack across the state, Michigan United also took part in a vigil held in Grand Rapids at Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd of about 300 marched through the downtown until they reached Calder Plaza where they held a rally where several undocumented immigrants were able to speak. “DACA was the only thing we had.” said JP Palacios. “We had five years of progress and hope, only to see it revoked by politicians. It’s not only immoral, it goes against American values.”

Recent polling shows that most Americans support the Obama era executive action that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as minors. “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families. It has overwhelming support of both, Republicans and Democrats alike. So many people want to see it continue. Its unfortunate that this President is listening to a tiny racist minority, instead of the majority of Americans.” said Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

Tell congress to protect DACA/TPS now!

CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVES AND SENATORS.

  1. CLICK HERE to find your US Representative
  2. Call the switchboard
  3. Ask you congresspeople to protect DACA & TPS.
Here’s a sample script to guide your conversation:
“Hi, my name is (Your name) and I’m calling from (Your city and state) and my zip code is ####. I am a person of faith. I’m deeply concerned about the reports that President Trump could end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and Temporary Protection Status (TPS) this week. I support these programs and strongly oppose any attempt to terminate or alter them. I urge the (Name of Senator/Representative) to do everything in his/her power to protect immigrant youth and families from deportation and support their right to work , live and study in this country. There are three things I’m hoping your office will do right now.”
  • “Can the Senator/Representative appeal directly to the President to keep this program in place, issue a public statement in support for DACA and TPS recipients, and support a clean passage of S.1615/H.R.3440, the HOPE and DREAM Acts of 2017?”
  • Oppose and vote against budget that funds deportations, private prisons and the border wall by making cuts to health care, education and the real needs of Americans.”
  • “Oppose and vote against the RAISE Act that will make it more difficult if not impossible for immigrant families to ever be reunited.”
“Thank you!”

Trump’s pardon of Arpaio an attack on civil rights of all Americans

While unprecedented in modern presidential history, the pardon of former Maricopa county sheriff, Joe Arpaio continues a trend in the Trump administration of threatening our civil rights. During a Presidential debate in Detroit, he said he was willing to violate the Geneva conventions against torture. Soon after his appointment, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions said the Department of Justice would not pursue civil rights cases against police departments. Then on Friday, as a level 4 hurricane bore down on our nation, President Trump took the opportunity to unleash a flood of bad decisions, among them, the pardon of Joe Arpaio. Since his conviction would not have even resulted in any prison time, this action would do little else besides appeal to the most racist and extremist in his base for political purposes.

We at Michigan United condemn in the strongest terms the decision to extend clemency to Arpaio because it sends a clear and dangerous message to all law enforcement officials that the Trump administration will not protect the civil rights of Americans and it will overrule any effort to uphold them. We are very concerned with the precedent this action will set and the impact it will have on our futures and in our communities. We believe everyone in America, regardless of race, religion or documentation status, should be equally alarmed.

Adonis Flores
Immigrant rights Coordinator, Michigan United

Happy DACAversary!

Immigrants celebrate DACA’s 5th anniversary at Rep. Trott’s office in Troy

Protection for children could be preserved by passage of the HOPE, DREAM Acts.

Dozens of people came out to Rep. David Trott’s district office early Tuesday morning and braved the rain to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. DACA, as it’s also called, is the executive program that protects undocumented immigrant youth from deportation. The birthday party was a small part of a larger national day of action marking the anniversary of DACA’s implementation. Since 2012, this program allowed those who arrived in America at a young age to come out of the shadows, get a work permit, have protection from deportations  and better contribute to their communities.

“When DACA came along, it blessed me with the right to get a work permit a driver’s license and most importantly, peace of mind,” said DACA recipient Juan Gonzalez. “I went from being a busboy in a restaurant to an underwriter in a financial institution.”

However, DACA now finds itself under attack by states who are trying to have the program revoked in the courts. If they succeed, DACA could be scuttled within a month, leaving the people it protected suddenly vulnerable. The Michigan United group is calling on Rep. Trott to support the HOPE and DREAM acts which would codify the program into law, easing the worries of both Republicans and Democrats who support DACA.

“All children have the right to hope. All children have the right to dream.” Said AJ Freer, Vice-President of UAW local 600. “I’m asking my representative, Dave Trott to stand with us. In light of recent domestic terrorism, we now face a crossroads where we have a huge opportunity to put human rights and civil rights first. These are bipartisan bills. I’m asking him to stand with us and hear us out.”

Freer was among the constituents who went to Rep. Trott’s district office to formally request a meeting to tell their stories and urge him to support the HOPE and DREAM Acts. “This is a tremendous opportunity. This is not a partisan issue.” Freer said. “This is a human rights issue.”