Constituents Critical of Rep. Lawrence’s Support of Discriminatory Legislation

Bill Would Let Car Dealerships Overcharge African Americans, Hispanics

The U.S. House of Representatives, with the support of Rep. Brenda Lawrence, passed legislation Monday that would make it easier for dealerships to continue the common practice of overcharging African Americans and Latinos for their car loans.

SAM_6480“Just when you think Congress could not possibly sink any lower, they manage to do it, spending time and effort on protecting the right to discriminate when they could be, say, funding the government, or fighting terrorists.” said Deacon Charles Thomas of Michigan United. “I can’t come up with a single, acceptable reason she would vote in favor of this legislation. I would be very interested to hear why she decided to support a bill that discriminates against the very people she is supposed to represent.“

The “Reforming CFPB Indirect Auto Financing Guidance Act” actually aims to eliminate guidance issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in 2013 that was designed to combat a long-standing pattern of charging African Americans and Hispanics more for car loans than white customers with similar credit histories.

The CFPB’s guidance encourages banks to get rid of an incentive system in which dealerships made more money if they marked up interest rates on car loans. This practice routinely led to African American and Hispanic borrowers getting loans that were worse than their white counterparts, even if they had similar credit histories. Worth noting is that the CFPB said banks could continue the markup practice if they took steps to ensure that they would not regularly overcharge borrowers based on race or national origin.

While discrimination in lending is already illegal, it can be difficult to detect and stop without the efforts of agencies like the CFPB and the Department of Justice.

In recent years, the CFPB and the Department of Justice took actions resulting in more than $140 million in fines and restitution to African Americans and Hispanics who were charged higher interest rates than whites, despite having similar credit risks.

Public outcry gives woman and her 3 year old son reprieve from deportation into civil war

Extension offers hope as Supreme Court rules on President’s immigration action

20140505_114747 (1)A Kalamazoo woman facing a deportation to war torn Nigeria breathed a sigh of relief Monday as immigration officials decided to extend her order of supervision until May 4, 2016. The hearing in Detroit was the last chance for Rejoice Musa and Frederick, her 3 year old, American-born son. She had exhausted every other appeal to stay in the country, but this time came with the names of hundreds of people who signed a petition over the weekend and the support of Michigan Senators Peters and Stabenow. Now Musa will wait with millions of other undocumented parents in the US as the Supreme Court rules on the President’s action to help immigrants in her position.

“This extension will get Rejoice and Frederick out of the fire, but they have a long way to go before they’re out of the woods.” said Diego Bonesatti, Immigration Legal Services Coordinator with Michigan United. “This family’s situation clearly illustrates why the Supreme Court needs to act now and take up the DAPA case. 5 million immigrant parents could be separated from their families or sent into dangerous situations if the Court does not affirm the Obama Administration’s new program.”

Musa came to America on an F1 student visa in 2010, but lost her legal status in 2013 after she found out she was pregnant and had to suspend her studies to give birth to her son. Meanwhile, the ISIS-affiliated terrorist group Boko Haram plunged Nigeria into civil war and infamously kidnapped large groups of school girls.  Even though Musa’s Western education would surely have made her a target, her request for asylum was denied on the grounds that, although Boko Haram controlled the Northern part of the country, she could still move to the southern area.

“They don’t understand.  It’s not that simple. Boko Haram is everywhere.” Musa said. “My brother has been injured in the fighting over there.  My mother is afraid to go out of the house. And as a single mother, it would be very dangerous for me.”

1430594326756 (1)Despite her legal battles and raising a child alone, Musa still graduated with honors from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation and has been accepted into the WMU post-graduate Engineering program. She is currently employed with the Stryker Corporation.

When President Obama issued Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) last year, Musa was told by immigration officials not to worry. But when a lawsuit was filed by a number of state Attorneys General, including Michigan AG, Bill Schuette, the program was put on hold and Musa’s deportation proceedings restarted. The Supreme Court is now deciding whether to take up the DAPA case while the lives of people like Rejoice and Frederick hang in the balance.


Save Rejoice Musa & her son from Boko Haram

Click here to stop ICE from rushing the deportation of Rejoice Musa before the Supreme Court rules on DAPA.

Nigerian born Rejoice Musa is exactly the type of person President Obama was trying to help when he took action to stop the deportations of innocent people. She is highly educated and productive. Having earned an degree in Aviation from Western Michigan University with honors, she soon found work with the Stryker Corporation. She was recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration for having “…met or exceeded the high educational, licensing and medical standards established by the FAA.” And she accomplished all this while raising her 3 year old, American born son alone. It should go without saying that a no point did she ever run afoul of the law.

In 2014, Rejoice lost her bid for asylum, but when President Obama issued his executive order, immigration officials told her she would not have to face deportation after all.  Relieved that she could go on with her life, Rejoice was preparing to pursue her Masters’ Degree in Engineering when an injunction was issued putting the executive order on hold.  Now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is hurrying to get Rejoice out of the country before the Supreme Court can make a ruling that could potentially save the life of her family.

You see, Rejoice has no relatives in the America with whom she could leave her son. Rather than abandon him, they will have to return to Nigeria to face the stigma of being a single parent family together. While such ostracism is not unusual in this traditionally conservative culture, it has been exacerbated by Boko Haram, a terrorist group that has plunged her country into civil war and infamously targeted educated women, particularly ones with a Western education.

If Rejoice is deported, it would be a senseless tragedy. But you can act right now to avoid it.

Add your name to this petition asking Senator Gary Peters and DHS Director, Jeh Johnson to intervene. Peters can author a bill on her behalf to halt her deportation. Johnson can tell Field Director, Rebecca Adducci to offer prosecutorial discretion and stay the order at least until the Supreme Court rules on the president’s executive order.

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Statement on 5th Circuit Court Decision on President Obama’s Immigration Programs

Decision Ends Months of Politically-Motivated Stalling, Immigrant Families Headed to Supreme Court

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+) on Monday, allowing the case to move forward to the Supreme Court. The decision ends 4 months of politically motivated stalling by the court.

Despite granting the case “fast-track” status, the two Republican-appointed judges on the panel delayed the decision in an attempt to prevent the Department of Justice from having enough time to appeal before the next election. Immigrants rights advocates even organized a nine day fast in front of the court to call attention to this blatant politicization of the judiciary and advocate for a ruling.

Judge Carolyn King’s stinging dissent highlighted both the injustice of the delay, and the faulty legal logic behind the decision. In essence, she argued that disagreeing with the content or results of a policy is not sufficient grounds for a constitutional challenge.

The release of Monday’s ruling represents a victory for immigrant communities whose families have been suffering in legal limbo for months. The content of Monday’s decision was expected, given the hostile composition of the panel, and sets the stage for an end-game in the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice has already affirmed their intent to file an appeal as soon as possible.

Immigrant families should clearly understand the impact of this decision. Monday’s ruling does not end the possibility of DAPA or DACA+, but rather moves us closer to a final resolution of the issue in the Supreme Court.

All systems GO! for Michigan United Convention Saturday in Detroit!

Activists and elected officials converge in Detroit for annual event Saturday!

Members and supporters of Michigan United will meet in Southwest Detroit for their annual convention October 10th at 11 AM. We will hold workshops to discuss our work on issues including immigration, ending mass incarceration, the environment and housing.IMG_4546

The payday loan problem is another of the many issues Michigan United has addressed in the past year to help our neighbors. Convention goers will also have the opportunity to photograph themselves helping a payday loan victim out of their “pit of dispair”. It is actually a 2 dimensional trompe l’oeil that creates the illusion that a hell mouth has opened up in our parking lot. This street theater illustrates the hazard short term, high interest loans present to working families.

Dozens of elected officials have also been invited to join us. Already confirmed to attend include: US Representative Debbie Dingell; Michigan State Representatives Stephanie Chang, Harvey Santana, Martin Howrylack, Peter Lucido, Rosemary Robinson, Alberta Tinsley Talabi and Wendell Byrd; Michigan State Senators Burt Johnson, Hoon Yung Hopgood, Coleman Young,  and Steve Bieda; and Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and County Commissioner, Jewel Ware.

Michigan Legislators Introduce Youth Justice Reforms

State takes steps to keep kids out of prison

A bipartisan group of Michigan legislators introduced a package of bills Tuesday to keep 17 year old offenders from automatically going into the adult corrections system. In the past decade, more than 20,000 youths under the age of 18 have been sentenced as adults in Michigan. Most were convicted for nonviolent offenses and had no prior juvenile record. The proposed legislation was introduced in conjunction with the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency (MCCD).

11145180_953178574712683_4176913000838121574_o“I was caught up in the adult system at age seventeen. I made a bad decision and ended up with felony on my record. The consequences of having that felony very nearly led me to take my own life.”  said Elisheva Johnson, a Youth Justice Organizer with Michigan United who works with the MCCD on advancing the Youth Behind Bars package. “In Michigan, we can prosecute children of any age as adults if the court sees fit. There is no reason that teens, kids who often come from bad situations in the first place, should be put in adult facilities where there is no fitting rehabilitation for them.  Worse yet, there’s a much greater chance of abuse and suicide. This package is definitely a step in the right direction. We want to thank the legislators for stepping up.”

Michigan is currently one of nine states that automatically prosecutes 17 year olds as adults, even though they are not considered adults for any other legal reason. The package also includes bills that require public monitoring and oversight of youth under the jurisdiction of the MDOC who entered for an offense committed prior to turning 18, ensure age-appropriate programming and outdoor exercise for youth under 21-years-old in administrative segregation, and establish a family advisory board within the MDOC to ensure effective partnerships with families and victims.

FSLO-1352902333-111333“This certainly has to be done.” said Pastor Joan Herbon of Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Portage. “It just makes sense knowing that children’s brains aren’t even fully developed until their mid-twenties. Children are children. It’s so much better for the children and for our communities to give them the help and rehabilitation they need in the juvenile system that is equipped for them, instead of throwing them into an adult facility that will just teach them to be better criminals. These children are our children and we are all responsible for them.”


Congress takes on criminal justice reform

Passage would be first step on a long road to racial and economic justice

Bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing the nation’s mushrooming prison population was introduced in Washington DC.  The “Criminal Justice Reform and Corrections Act of 2015” would reduce mandatory sentences such as “Three strikes” rules and 10 year minimums for nonviolent felonies.

MajcykD_jpg_160x160_q85_jpg_160x160_q85“Senator Schumer stated that this is in part about not ‘wasting lives.’ Senator Schumer is absolutely correct and this is long overdue.” says Majyck D, a Kalamazoo radio personality and advocate for criminal justice reform. “To say, too many lives, especially of people of color, have been wasted by our sentencing laws, is an understatement. “

Majyck D is currently working with Michigan United, a statewide social justice organization, on a campaign to pass a series of bills around youth justice in Michigan, including removing 17 year old children from adult facilities and raising the age of adult responsibility from 17 to 18 years old. “This is a solid and necessary move forward. But this isn’t a panacea.” says  Majyck D. “We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

barryA lot of that work involves thinking outside the box: both the cells the convicts live in and the boxes they must check when they get out. “In order for our nation to rise as a beacon of justice, resources to dissuade criminal activity in the first place, to build actual rehabilitation while incarcerated, to educate offenders, families and communities on successful reintegration are absolutely necessary.” says Pastor Barry Petrucci, Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church.

Petrucci thinks a great start for that reintegration would be a national policy to ‘Ban the Box’. Often,  applicants for jobs must check a box indicating if they have a felony of any kind on their record.  “Ban the Box” legislation would prohibit criminal background checks as a requirement for most jobs. This, proponents say, would make it easier for residents returning from prison to find gainful employment and less likely they will re-offend.

Demand Justice of all Stripes Saturday, October 3rd!

Join the Detroit March 4 Justice

Click here to register TODAY!

Detroit didn’t just put the world on wheels. The Motor City created a living wage and made social justice a reality for workers across America. Today we are losing ground in a globalized Wall Street economy where justice takes a back seat to profits.  We are no longer just fighting for a living wage but for clean air, access to drinking water, and freedom from pollution that is disrupting our climate and threatening our way of life.


On October 3, we’re standing up and fighting back against injustice. We’re calling on all people who care about justice to come together in support of a common vision for our future. Environmental justice, worker justice, racial justice, water justice, housing justice, food justice, human rights, access to democracy, and many more issues are all connected. Together we can build power and send a clear message about our future. Why choose Detroit? That’s because many of the issues we face about across the United States and Canada are playing out in the Motor City.

When we march, it’s the beginning of a larger movement that unites us toward achieving our shared goals of reviving democracy and strengthening communities through collaborative action. It begins in Detroit but it continues everywhere.

Sign up now!

Kalamazoo Voter Forum Draws Crowd of Over 100 Residents



Candidates Talk Jobs, Youth, Prosperity, Housing, and Police Discrimination

A diverse audience of more than 100 people filled the Kalamazoo Public Library to hear from fifteen candidates for Kalamazoo Mayor and City Commission last night. The forum was hosted by Michigan United and the League of Women Voters. Majyck D, a well-known radio personality from Kalamazoo’s 95.5 FM “The Touch”, served as moderator.

The questions spanned a variety of issues including support for this November’s housing millage in Kalamazoo County and job opportunities for people with criminal records.

Every candidate, excluding Vice Mayor David Anderson, stated support for a policy to remove the criminal history question and delay background checks for businesses that receive tax abatements from the City of Kalamazoo.

“I absolutely support a policy that will do this,” said candidate Erin Knott, “People’s past mistakes aren’t the sum total of who they are, and if we are serious about economic stability, we have to get people back to work.”

Candidate Eric Cunningham, a sitting commissioner, referred to his own struggle to find a job with a felony record, and that he had to go through over 2000 interviews until he was given an opportunity.

All commissioners also supported the county wide millage on the ballot this November to support families with school age children who are homeless.

Commissioners answered questions posed about economic stability, the housing millage, being responsive and transparent to the community, racial profiling in law enforcement, and supporting youth.  However, none of the candidates for commissioner chose to respond to a question asking how they would make Kalamazoo more welcoming to immigrants.

Detroit City Council passes resolution to restore the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners



Detroit City council voted unanimously  today to restore the powers of the Board of Police Commissioners as originally described in the city charter. The board’s authority was reduced to an advisory role as part of the bankruptcy agreement. The resolution was authored by Council member Mary Sheffield. The vote comes after nine months of community organizing and campaigning by Michigan United.


“We are deeply satisfied to see the city council heed the will of the people to restore the full powers of our police commission.” Said Deacon Thomas of the Michigan United Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change at a press conference shortly before the vote. “Over many months, clergy and community came together to demand democracy, oversight and public accountability for our police.”

Clergy members began to work together at Michigan United to restore the board of police commissioners early this year with a petition drive amongst their parishioners.  They then met with each city council member and gathered most of their signatures on a letter that was the inspiration for Sheffield’s resolution.

Before the council voted, there was a period of public comment. “We need to restore the powers of the police commissioners for the protection of the people.” said Rev. Harvey Presberry of Michigan United Pastoral Alliance for Change. “They provide another level of accountability. Police are less likely to abuse people they are going to have to answer to.”

“This is important.” Said Ron Scott, spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and advocate of the Board of Police Commissioners. “For young people, especially young African Americans, to have faith in the system, we have to make sure that this resolution continues.”

Mayor Duggan’s Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley pledged on his behalf to support the reinstatement of the commissioners.

Councilwoman Sheffield acknowledged the work of Michigan United. “This has really opened up the lines of communications between the council, the board and the mayor’s office.” Sheffield said. “I don’t think that would have happened without you moving this issue forward.”