Many Michigan undocumented immigrants’ hopes dashed by Supreme Court decision

Advocates for undocumented immigrants say a Supreme Court decision hurts millions of families in the U.S.

In a tie vote, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that blocked the president’s executive order on immigration.

President Obama wanted to stop deportations of undocumented parents with legal resident children.

Attorney Ruby Robinson is with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Robinson says undocumented residents of the U.S. live with tremendous day-to-day insecurity and fear.

“Every day when that (undocumented) parent goes to work or the child goes to school, there is no guarantee that the parent will be in the house when that child returns,” says Robinson.

And he says everyone, not just immigrants, stood to gain from the executive order.

“We don’t want children to grow up in the United States without parents, we don’t want them to be reliant on social services safety nets if a parent is deported. We want families to be together,” he says.

Robinson says there are about 60,ooo undocumented parents in Michigan who would have benefited from the president’s order.

He hopes the case comes before the Supreme Court again next year, after a ninth justice will be appointed.

Interfaith Vigil for Orlando Victims, Families, Survivors

Diverse gathering of LGBTQ, faith leaders, community leaders and elected leaders

Detroit’s LGBTQ community was joined by a variety of clergy, community leaders and an elected leader at Clark Park Monday evening in the wake of the recent tragedy in Orlando. Islamic and Christian clergy spoke and prayed together along with community leaders from ACCESS, Sugar Law Center and State Representative Stephanie Chang. The theme of the event was to promote unity, love and faith based values to counter bigotry, hatred and extremism. 
The prayer vigil will take place at 6 this evening at the Clark Park Band Shell near the west side of the Park. 

 

Rashida Tlaib of Sugar Law Center
Rashida Tlaib of Sugar Law Center

“We must embrace one another across divides of faith, gender identity and color to counter violence and extremism,” said Rashida Tlaib of Sugar Law Center. “We gather here today to pray for the victims of the Orlando mass murder and for their loved ones in this very grim hour and we gather to say we will not succumb to bigotry and hatred no matter the source whether it’s from outside or inside our nation.” 

The prayer vigil in Southwest Detroit featured a wide slate of speakers including Rev. Dr. Jill Zundel, Central United Methodist Church Rev. Jack Eggleston, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Southeast, Rev. Marcia Ledford, Episcopal Church of Detroit, Hassan Sheikh, Michigan Muslim Community Council, Rachid Elabed, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services Adonis Flores, Michigan United, State Representative Stephanie Chang and Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López

 

Rev. Juan Perez Latino Missioner for Episcopal Diocese of Michigan
Rev. Juan Perez Latino Missioner for Episcopal Diocese of Michigan

“As a person of faith and a member of the LGBTQ community it’s very heartening to see people from across the spectrum of faith, color and gender identity stand against the type of intolerance and destruction we saw devastate the Orlando community,” said Rev. Juan Perez Latino Missioner for Episcopal Diocese of Michigan. “The intolerant, no matter their ideology or origin, cannot prevail against us as long as we are unified. Americans that are Muslims, Christians, Americans of Asian, Latino, Arab and African descent, we have power when we stand together and speak out to sustain one another beyond the devastation and work to prevent violence and division with unity.”  

Paid Internship in the English Innovations ESL program

Location: Detroit

Type: $700 stipend; 10 weeks; approximately 6-8 hours/week

Michigan United is a statewide organization of individuals, faith, labor, civil rights, small business, and social service groups working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing.

Michigan United is seeking a dedicated intern to assist adult immigrants increase their English language skills and coordinate volunteers for our English Innovations program.

Limited English proficiency is a significant barrier for many immigrants to fully integrate into life in the U.S. — getting a good job, having educational options, and participating in civic life. Limited English language skills are compounded by the gap in digital literacy in our technologically advancing world. English Innovations® is a blended social learning model that integrates English language learning in a collaborative, supportive classroom environment with online tools that enable self-paced, independent learning. The learning framework emphasizes a community-based approach, highlighting the importance of volunteer and peer support.

Intern Responsibilities:

  • Recruit and coordinate volunteers for the English Innovations classes.
  • Send weekly e-mails to volunteers about upcoming activities and to confirm their attendance.
  • Assist adult immigrant learners one-on-one in class with English language
  • Facilitate small group conversations
  • Help facilitate in-class activities  
  • Conduct follow-up with students to encourage attendance and participation
  • Encourage and motivate learners via email and Skype outside of class
  • *If interested* Teach a basic English class for beginners 1 time per week for 2.5 hours (most likely on Tuesday evenings), that would be a pipeline to the English Innovations program.

Qualifications & Requirements:

  • Complete volunteer application
  • Interest in immigrant communities and sincere desire to support others in achieving their goals
  • Ability to establish a relationship based on respect, with sensitivity to persons of different backgrounds
  • Attend a 2-hour pre-service orientation
  • Basic knowledge of technology (internet, email etc.) and digital literacy
  • Be highly enthusiastic, creative, and able to motivate others
  • Spanish language fluency is a definite plus, but not required
  • Previous tutoring or teaching experience a plus

Time Commitment:

  • Approximate time commitment of 6-8 hours per week for the remaining 10-week duration of class cycle (until August 3rd).
  • Potential for regular, weekly communication with select students outside of the classroom via Skype, email, or other methods

Benefits:

  • Be part of a movement to transform the field of English Language Learning
  • Build and strengthen your facilitation, teaching and leadership skills while providing support to adult immigrant learners
  • Gain experience in community-based organizations working to advance immigrant integration across the country.

Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply.

How To Apply:

Please send a resume and cover letter to Lilia Rivera at lilia@miunited.org and Meredith Loomis Quinlan at meredith@miunited.org.

Indicate English Innovations Intern in the subject line.

Please direct any questions to Lilia Rivera at 248.410.4606.

Deadline: Candidates are encouraged to apply immediately.

Application deadline is June 17th, 2016 or until positions are filled.

Michigan Legislature caves to community pressure, passes funding for Flint Water Crisis

House leadership does a 180 in the face of public pressure for immediate action

By a vote of 71-37, the Michigan House voted in favor of HB 5294, a $165 million supplemental appropriation for the Flint Water Crisis. The move comes after months of work by Michigan United and other member organizations in the Flint Rising coalition to make sure lawmakers acted before this session came to a close.

“After 2 years of national pressure, the legislature is finally taking responsibility and sending some real long-term help to the people of Flint. This is a big step in the right direction, though only a down-payment on the years of support that the children and families of Flint will need,” said Quincy Murphy, Flint resident and Michigan United organizer.

Even putting the bill up for a vote was a complete reversal for the house leadership. Just last month during their annual Capitol Day trip, Michigan United members from Flint were told in a meeting with House Speaker, Kevin Cotter’s office that there was no interest in funding the recovery from the water crisis this fiscal year, choosing instead to put it off until October. After that meeting though, the group formed a bucket brigade, passing safe water out of the capitol building to a waiting barrel outside and symbolically taking it back to Flint. Two days later, coalition partners dropped off petitions from constituents asking their lawmakers to act quickly.  Cotter then said the house wouldn’t take up the senate bill, but they would do “something”.

Rep. Michael McCready (Left) meets with Michigan United members Quincy Murphy (Center) and Abel DelGado (Right) Photo Credit: Erik Shelley, Michigan United
Rep. Michael McCready (Left) meets with Michigan United members Quincy Murphy (Center) and Abel DelGado (Right) Photo Credit: Erik Shelley, Michigan United

But without any sign of what “something” might be, organizers kept up the pressure. They directed phone calls into the offices of house leadership, urging them to take action quickly. They showed up at their public events, like Rep. Michael McCready’s coffee hour in West Bloomfield, to push for the the supplemental funding and demonstrate public support for it. Ultimately, the lawmakers were forced to see that if they did nothing before the recess, it was going to be a long, hot summer.

“I think it’s important to realize that as significant as this win is, this is just the beginning.” Murphy said. “$165 million dollars is progress , but pales in comparison to the scope of the problem in Flint. We’re going to follow this money and make sure it gets to the people who need it this summer then we’re going to keep pushing the Snyder administration to fix what they broke.”

A number of groups have worked together on this issue, including the Flint Concerned Pastors, the Water Warriors, Democracy Defense League, Michigan Faith in Action and Progress Michigan.

Michigan United welcomes CFPB small dollar lending rules

Pledges to continue to fight to protect families from predatory lenders

lOOPHOLES
Click this image to tell the CFPB to institute strong rules for payday lenders during the public comment period.

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) released their long-awaited proposed rules Thursday on small-dollar lending and officially opened the period for public comment. Michigan United, together with other members of National People’s Action across the country, took action and are speaking up, welcoming the rule and pledging to continue working to make sure the protections are as strong as possible.

Small dollar payday, auto title, and installment lenders regularly charge more than 300% interest and trap millions of families in debt each year. While some states have imposed interest rate caps and other regulations to protect consumers, the new proposed rule from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would be the first federal protections for small dollar borrowers.

Payday Loans and Other Debt Trap Loans Take a Toll on Michigan’s Economy.

Siphoning money out of poor communities and communities of color takes a serious toll on the economy. Money that could be spent building up local businesses or investing in communities is instead directed to never-ending fees. The negative consequences are measurable.

 

  • Payday lending in Michigan results in jobs lost and millions of dollars drained from the economy, according to a 2013 report.
  • In Michigan, 600 payday lending storefronts each issue about 3,000 loans a year. The overwhelming majority of these loans are used by the borrower to repay their prior loan.
  • Payday lenders in Michigan collected more than $103 million in payday fees in 2015 alone.

 

“We are thrilled the CFPB has finally taken action to stop the deception and abuse that run rampant in the predatory payday lending industry,” said Debbi Adams, an Economic Justice Leader with Michgian United “As the comment period opens, our members are ready to have their say and call on the CFPB to live up to its mission and protect consumers by issuing the strongest rule possible so that we can put a stop to the debt trap here in Michigan.”

“It’s such a relief to see something being done to keep these loan sharks in check.” said Perry Green, a a debt trap survivor from Detroit with Michigan United. “Between my student loans and other bills, my paycheck wasn’t stretching from month to month. A payday loan seemed like an option when I couldn’t make rent this one time because they have stores on every corner.” Green was too embarrassed to ask friends or family for another loan but ultimately had too in order to get out of the cycle of debt as he soon found himself taking out one payday loan after another to pay off the last. “I wish we had stronger rules then.  It might have saved me and my family a lot of heartache and money.”

Michigan United is joining National People’s Action in calling for a strong and broad small dollar lending rule that fulfills three basic criteria to protect American families.

  • First, the rule should require income and expense underwriting practices on all loans to ensure American consumers can affordably payback the loan.
  • Second, the rule should put a stop to the constant loan rollovers and refinances that are endemic in the industry and are hallmarks of the debt trap.
  • Finally, the rule should prevent lenders from being able to take money directly from a consumer’s bank account or hold unlimited title to their car.

“We’re clear on what we the CFPB needs to do to fulfil their mission of protecting consumers. They need to write a rule that shuts down the debt trap,” said Liz Ryan Murray, Policy Director for National People’s Action. “Time after time, we’ve seen this industry worm their way through loopholes much smaller than these. That’s why we need a rule that’s stronger than this proposal. Millions of people across the country are depending on the CFPB to get this right and we’re going to make sure the Bureau hears from them.”

Michigan United will work with other members of National People’s Action across the country to generate tens of thousands of comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from borrowers, faith and community leaders, and people of conscience calling on the CFPB to ensure the final rule contains these commonsense safeguards.

Payday loans target those with no cash

A trap of payday loan fees has some consumers borrowing money again and again. Federal regulators want to stop lenders from making some payday loans and limit how often people can take out such loans.

Detroit Free Press, June 4, 2016
 , Personal Finance Columnist 

Maybe, it’s time to admit that Dad did know best.

After talking to both sides in the battle over payday lending rules, I cannot help but go back to my father’s regulatory regime. Two words dictated his approach to managing his finances: “Pay cash.”

No one, not even the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is ever going to roll out that simple a rule. It would never fly as a national mandate. But it sure could help you do the math when deciding if you need to stretch a few more months out of an old TV, a clunker of a car or not-so-great tires. Do you then reconsider how much you’d borrow for a longer-term loan? Re-evaluate whether you’d attend a private college or hold down costs by going to community college a year or two and then heading to a state university?

Yes, it’s old school. And cash only sounds way too simplistic, especially when people who took out payday loans say they felt so stressed out that they didn’t have other options. But as a child, I watched my father carry a wad of cash into a store when he bought new furniture and appliances. I also saw him repair a ton of things — including watching him patch a tire — to stretch his dollar.

And frankly, going cash only is one way many consumers dig out of credit-card fiascoes. If you don’t have the cash in hand or if you know you need cash for a big bill, you just don’t buy some things. Or you shop around until you find something cheaper.

The reality is no one should ever opt to borrow money from a loan shark, even if the shark is swimming under the cover of a trade association or financial institution. But upwards of 12 million people are estimated to take out payday loans in a year, loans for $300 or $500 that can have an annual percentage rate of 391%. Roughly 16,000 lenders run storefront outfits at shopping centers and the like, as well as online.

Perry Green, 30, said he ended up spending $1,000 in fees and interest after taking out a $300 payday loan at a storefront in Detroit. Green, who now lives in Chicago and spoke last week at a press conference headed by the activist group Michigan United, said his first loan turned into a three-year debt trap after he kept taking one loan out after another to cover bills and fees. He took out the loan to cover his rent because he thought it was his only option.

Payback time for predatory payday loan practices

Nothing is easier, he argues, than offering new consumer protections by saying most people can no longer get credit, which he claims is what the CFPB essentially is trying to do.

Of course, Shaul also argues that consumers ultimately could find riskier credit — if payday lenders are forced out of business by new federal rules — by turning even more frequently to illegal offshore lenders and other more dangerous sharks.

The American Bankers Association, which represents big and small banks, found fault with the proposed CFPB rules, too.

The CFPB proposal, along with earlier regulatory actions, would make it “challenging for banks to meet the needs of the estimated 50 million consumers who access a variety of bank and non-bank small-dollar lending products each year,” the ABA said in its statement.

While the CFPB has frequently expressed interest in expanding the role for banks in the small-dollar loan market, the ABA said the proposal fails to do so in a meaningful way and will significantly limit the availability of small-dollar credit.

Some might have liked to see the CFPB simply clamp down on the triple-digit rates and sky-high fees charged by short-term, small-dollar lenders. But federal regulators do not have the authority to set interest rates. Individual states can decide if they want to limit fees and rates on payday loan and other small-dollar loan products.

“States can and should maintain strong rate caps and adopt new ones as the first line of defense against abusive lending,” said Tom Feltner, director of financial services for the Consumer Federation of America.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, which has conducted research on small-dollar loans, has an interactive online map outlining what states are doing in the payday loan regulation space.

Michigan, for example, sees 5% of the state’s population use payday loans. According to Pew’s research, Michigan is ranked as a permissive state, which means that the state has interest rates that allow payday loans to exist in the state. Pew notes that the annual percentage rate typically exceeds 300% for borrowers in Michigan.

“The CFPB’s real power to lower prices is to bring lower-cost providers, like banks and credit unions, into the market,” said Alex Horowitz, senior officer with the small-dollar loans project at Pew.

Pew researchers favored including a proposal to require that longer-term loan payments do not take up more than 5% of a borrower’s income. Pew said the 5% payment option, which was in the 2015 proposal from the CFPB, would provide the product safety standards that banks need to offer small-dollar loans at six times lower prices than payday lenders.

Given all the powerhouses with financial interests and opinions on small-dollar loans, we’re likely to hear more as the plan is open to public comment through Sept. 14. Consumer advocates, such as Michigan United, are urging consumers to voice their complaints about payday loans with the CFPB.

Yet, don’t bet on anyone mandating cash-only purchases — or for that matter, completing eliminating debt traps. It’s just not that simple. Or is it?

Contact Susan Tompor: stompor@freepress.com or 313-222-8876. Follow her on Twitter @Tompor. 

Pastors, Payday loan victims to react to release of long-awaited lending rules

Community Leaders and Advocates to Demand Strong Protections against the Debt Trap

GRAPHICMichigan United will host a telephone press conference today to respond to long-awaited proposed payday lending rules expected to be released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The rules will be the first-ever federal regulations on the predatory small-dollar loan industry.

Michigan United is calling on the CFPB to rein in an industry that traps 12 million Americans in a devastating cycle of debt each year. This predatory industry has stripped communities of more than $10 billion since March 2015, when the bureau started the process to write rules for the industry.

During the phone conference, you will hear from the victims of the payday lending and some of Detroit’s leaders of faith as they offer their initial analysis of whether the rules are strong enough to rein in an industry known for their deceptive and abusive practices –and whether they need to be improved to truly shut down the predatory debt trap. Michigan United will continue to fight for the strong rules families deserve.

Community members will have 90 days to make sure their voices are heard.

WHAT:

Press Conference via telephone to discuss CFPB’s new payday lending rules.

WHO:

  • Perry Green, Payday loan borrower
  • Bishop Herman Starks, Christ T.R.U.T.H. International Ministries of Deliverance
  • Rev. Maurice Rudds, Greater Mt. Tabor Baptist Church
  • Debbi Adams, Michigan United Economic Justice Leader

WHEN:

3PM, June 2, 2016

WHERE:

Dial (712) 775-7035 and enter code 788747

STOP the Deportation of Tonin Brushtulli

Call Detroit ICE Field Director, Rebecca Adducci 313-568-6036

Tonin Brushtulli is a loving husband and father. He is the sole caregiver for his wife, Katrina who has gastroparesis, a rare medical condition that has no treatment and his stepson Ilir, a disabled U.S. veteran. Tonin has been the father he never had, giving him and his mother the love and support that they need in these trying times.

But Tonin is scheduled to be deported to Albania on June 15th, days after Memorial day and just before Father’s Day. If he’s torn from his family, neither his wife or son will have anyone to take care of them once he’s gone. The only chance their family has is for ICE Director, Rebecca Adducci to use her discretion and stop his deportation to keep the family together.

They need your help now! Call Detroit Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director, Rebecca Adducci. Ask her to “Use her prosecutorial discretion to STOP the Deportation of Tonin Brushtulli.” They will want to know his Alien Number.  It is 098 518 649.

This veteran’s family deserves Adducci’s respect and gratitude. Tell her to honor Ilir’s sacrifice to this country and let them stay together.

Kalamazoo City Commission passes ‘Fair Chances’ ordinance

Michigan United group celebrates new hope for returning residents and their families

The Kalamazoo City Commission voted unanimously Monday night to give residents who paid their debt to society a fair chance to get back on their feet. As of June 1st, 2016, companies that receive tax benefits from the city, as well as companies seeking Browstone Redevelopment qualification will no longer be allowed to ask about criminal backgrounds on employment applications under the new ‘Fair Chances’ anti-discrimination hiring ordinance. Employers will still be allowed to do criminal background checks after the decision to hire the applicant has been made under certain circumstances.

The Michigan United group, Fair Chance for All (FC4A), has been pushing for this rule since the last election. Several Commissioners ran with support of the plan as a key plank in their platform. After the polls closed, FC4A kept up the pressure, speaking at Commission meetings and even meeting with the City Attorney and Assistant City Manager to see the policy through to the end.

“This policy has been an important mark of growth for more than just me, personally. I’m glad that the fair chance policy is finally being recognized for what it is, a necessary change in our community.” said FC4A leader Jerrin Yarbrough “For my family, for all Kalamazoo families. It has been an amazing process to work alongside the City Commission to make this win possible for our community.”

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The Fair Chances ordinance is part of a growing trend across the nation for criminal justice reform to end mass incarceration, protect families and rebuild struggling communities. “With ‘Fair Chance’, you have the winning model. Now, let’s take tonight’s win and leverage it,” said City Commissioner Erin Knott. “I would like to see this grow from here, there are other cities, other counties. Let’s make this happen.”

Bucket brigade tries to convince state lawmakers to pay to fix Flint’s water system

Activists came to the state Capitol today to dramatize the need for tens of millions of dollars to fix Flint’s damaged water system.

A line of people passed little buckets of water from a faucet inside the Capitol building to a 20-gallon drum outside.

Ryan Bates with Michigan United says they wanted to show what it’s like to live in Flint without tap water people can trust.

Bates says state lawmakers should be doing more to help.

“There’s a bill in front of them that they can vote on today that would appropriate $123 million that could provide health care, infrastructure money for Flint,” says Bates. “They could do it, but they’re chicken.”

State lawmakers may vote in the next few weeks on sending more money to Flint.

Money for Flint is tied up in budget talks in Lansing. Those talks have become more complicated with word state revenues are below projections.

Michigan revenues are more than $300 million lower over this fiscal year and next than projected, forcing Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers to scale back the spending plan that’s been in the works for months.

The Snyder administration and legislative economists agreed to revised numbers Tuesday, a key step before the next state budget is finalized in the coming weeks.

State Budget Director John Roberts says spending levels should still rise, but not as much as anticipated in the governor’s proposal. Roberts says the administration remains committed to addressing Flint’s water crisis, though it’s possible some of money could be appropriated in the fiscal year starting in October instead of this year.

Activist Melissa Mays worries Flint’s money will be among the budget items on the table.

“I think very important things are going to get cut,” says Mays.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver is urging state lawmakers not to reduce planning funding for the city’s water crisis.

“I would certainly hope that these potential budget cuts do not come at the expense of Flint residents. The people of Flint have suffered enough due to this man-made water disaster. It would be down right wrong to neglect the citizens of Flint yet again by not providing the funding needed to ensure that residents have safe drinking water, new pipes and the food, early childhood education and health care they need to mitigate and treat the effects of lead exposure.”