Category Archives: Immigration

Immigrants and native people support DACA at rally in Troy

Urge Rep. Trott to advance DREAM Act in congress to protect youth

Dozens of people, many in traditional dress, gathered outside the district office of Representative David Trott (R-MI 11) Monday morning to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to urge the congressman to help his constituents who will be at risk when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires.

Tim Seneca (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)
Tim Seneca (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

“We come together as family, friends, love ones. All are welcome.” said Tim Seneca, a native American of the Chippewa Potawatomi tribe. “Just as you have thanksgiving all the family comes over. No one is separated. Everyone should be welcome in this country.”

As currently written, the DREAM Act would extend Obama era protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to America in their youth. Since House Speaker Paul Ryan is in no hurry to advance the issue, the group wants Rep. Trott to sign a discharge petition. The maneuver would bypass the Speaker and bring the bill  to the floor for debate and a vote.

Steve Spreitzer (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)
Steve Spreitzer (Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

“This is a small part of immigration reform but it has energy. It has promise.” said Steve Spreitzer of the Michigan Roundtable. “We have to move past the racialization of immigration. The comments made about Mexican people during the campaign can’t be dismissed. We have to stand against that and stand with our neighbors who are dreamers.”

 

 

22424629_1651005658263301_1596496440628575010_oOne of those neighbors, Maria Cervantes was brought here as a child by her grandmother. She has DACA protection now but says she’s afraid for what the future might bring. “You always live with the fear that you could be separated from your family. I’m here to support the DREAM Act because I want to live without fear and to have a better life.”

 

The rally concluded with everyone writing a note on a colored strips of paper explaining why the DREAM Act is important to them. The messages were strung together in a chain and carried to the office which was closed because of the national holiday. Together, Seneca and Cervantes passed it through the mail slot for Trott’s staff to find in the morning.

(Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)(Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)

If you stand with the dreamers, call your representative today and tell them to sign the discharge petition for the DREAM act. If you live in Michigan’s 11th district, you can reach Rep. Trott at 202-225-8171.

 

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.”

May Day Rallies Held in 7 Michigan Cities, 200 Across Nation

Solidarity with immigrants, refugees and workers of all backgrounds

Justice advocates across the state made a great show of strength and solidarity for May Day 2017. Activists, immigrant and refugee families, labor movement leaders, faith leaders and people of widely diverse backgrounds turned out in the hundreds in seven cities throughout Michigan. Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Rochester Hills, Pontiac and Battle Creek were all sites of events that ranged from marchers to meals to uphold the American ideals of family unity, sanctuary for those seeking safety and support for workers. While these values are commonsense, they have been under attack by the Trump administration that’s inspired a big jump in hate crimes. Michigan families are pushing back.

Detroit’s #RiseUP May Day took place in Clark Park and the labor movement showed up in solidarity with immigrant families and workers.  

“SEIU members across the country are standing up for our families and our communities. I’m proud my union fights for healthcare, fair wages, and immigrant communities,” said Henrietta Ivey, home care worker and SEIU member.  “We are holding elected officials accountable — we won’t let the current administration take away the rights we’ve fought so hard for. We will continue to build a society that works for all working families.”

SAM_0703“It’s only when we stand together, native born with immigrant and refugee, people of every gender expression, color and faith that we can beat back bigotry,” said Adonis Flores of Michigan United. “As a gay Latino that has benefited from reforms of the Obama administration, I have gained strength from the constant show of resistance to the Trump administration’s racism.”

Grand Rapid’s Micah organized “A Day Without an Immigrant” that display the power of immigrant families by their stepping away from normal activities for the day.

Gema Lowe of the Micah Center stressed the supportive nature of the Grand Rapids area. “We’ve continually fought for the dignity and respect of every member of our community for years, and the policies that we’ve seen come down from this administration have only energized us. This movement will not stop demonstrating for the rights of the undocumented, the rights of our workers or the rights of any of our neighbors. Today demonstrates our resolve.”

MI Latinx Info Cluster organized Lansing’s May Day event in conjunction with the Movement for Black Lives and ACLU Lansing. It took place on the steps of the State Capitol Building fresh on the heels of Lansing taking the step to stand with immigrant families and declare itself a sanctuary city.

Ed Montemayor, the event’s organizer and Cofounder of MI Latinx Info Cluster, noted that the turnout for Lansing was heartening. “For over 100 days, the capital city has been dealing with the effects of Trump’s blundering, xenophobic policies. Seeing this many participants here on the heels of Lansing openly declaring itself a Sanctuary City gives us hope. We the people are indeed indivisible. Our coordinated actions of resistance will protect families at risk of the administration’s dangerous actions.”

Sergio Martinez, a Michigan United board member and speaker at the event, agreed. “We’re going to continue fighting the awful measures that have been such a burden to our communities, whether in the courts, in local government or in the streets. It’s the least we can do for our immigrant and Muslim neighbors.”

IMG_1178Kalamazoo’s “Day Without an Immigrant” activity held in Bronson Park focused on the needs of children and their families.

Christine Lewis of Michigan United specifically noted the event’s focus on Kalamazoo-area schools. “The ugly policies that we’ve seen from our federal government in the last 100 days specifically affect the children of this city, too. Today Kalamazoo demonstrated that we will stand up in defense of the most vulnerable of this city: children, the undocumented and the workers who make our neighborhoods run. This community is undivided, and we will not stand for this erosion of our rights and dignities.”

At least 250 events took place in more than 200 cities. Together, they called for an end to the Trump Administration’s ramped up deportations, an end to the Muslim ban, and no money for the border wall. Instead, organizers expressed support for an inclusive democracy.

New Christian, Muslim Coalition Launches with March

Coalition to focus on American traditions of diversity and religious freedom
Faith leaders and congregants from local Christian and Muslim communities took to the streets Sunday in a display of unity to uplift basic human dignity and counter recent attacks on refugees, Muslims and immigrants. “Neighbors Building Bridges” launched its campaign for interfaith and intercultural understanding with a march that began in Southwest Detroit at St. Gabriel’s Church, included the American Muslim Society in East Dearborn and ended at UAW Local 600.

Mario Hernandez hero“The Muslims of East Dearborn and the Christians of Southwest Detroit are neighbors who face many of the same challenges since the presidential election,” said Mario Hernandez, an immigrant parent fighting to stop his deportation. “But, working together with like-minded allies, we can strengthen our communities and work to overcome the racism and xenophobia that are ever present. We are people of faith who want to keep immigrant families like mine together and we see our adherence to faith as a way to combat bigotry and prejudice.”

The group, made of many people from different faiths and backgrounds, sees itself as being rooted in the great American traditions of diversity and religious freedom.

“When we look at the diversity of the people who make up our communities, we should be reminded that this nation was founded by immigrants many of whom were seeking the right to worship without persecution,” said Khalid Turaani, President of the American Muslim Leadership Council. “We are following the examples set in our respective faith traditions of welcoming the stranger and providing a place of refuge for those in need. It just so happens those are core American values as well. We want to be clear that refugees, immigrants and people of all faiths are welcome here.”
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Photo courtesy Chloe Michaels

Faith-Based Communities Grant Sanctuary to Endangered Immigrant Families

Announce major unity march between Latino Christian and Arab-American, Muslim communities
Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith leaders stepped forward at a press conference today to say they will be on the frontlines of protection for immigrant families threatened with deportation. The event at Central United Methodist Church featured faith leaders of six Metro area congregations taking action against the increased raids and targeting of immigrant families by the Trump administration.
“We believe that breaking families apart is wrong. Donald Trump’s indiscriminate raids and deportations are a moral outrage, and we cannot be silent,” said Rev. Jill Zundell, pastor of Central United Methodist Church in Detroit. “We will give comfort to the afflicted and shelter to those who suffer. No one will live in fear while under the protection of our church.”
Some faith leaders cited not only the increased raids but the overall rise in hate crimes and Trump’s second attempt at a Muslim Ban as creating a xenophobic atmosphere that has to be fought.
17310200_1431008380263031_2431266359802486085_o“These dreadful policies are against the spirit of America’s most sacred beliefs and cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged,” said Imam Almasmari of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. “Moreover, the attacks on immigrants and refugees, Muslims, and recent violence against the Jewish community all branch from the same hateful root. We support sanctuary both to help families, but also to stand up for the America we believe in: a strong, vibrant, multi-cultural democracy where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.”
Organizers also announced a major unity march between the Latino Christian community of Southwest Detroit and the Arab-American and Muslim community of Dearborn. The march will convene at St. Gabriel’s Church on Vernor Highway on April 2nd at 3:30 PM.

 

‘Sanctuary churches’ pledge to house scared immigrants

Michigan United partnering with churches in several cities to create safe havens

by
MARCH 14, 2017

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan organization is working to protect immigrants who fear deportation by housing them in churches.

Michigan United has partnered with a dozen or so Calhoun and Kalamazoo County churches — some in secret — that have agreed to act as safe havens for people concerned they may be at risk of deportation.

“We’re here today to say with a united voice that we stand with the immigrant and refugee families here in Kalamazoo,” Pastor Nathan Dannison said Tuesday at a press conference at First Congregational Church in downtown Kalamazoo.

Organizers of the so-called “resistance” effort handed out a 2011 memo in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it would not perform planned operations or arrests at churches or other sensitive sites barring extraordinary circumstances.

Leaders told stories of undocumented immigrants who are afraid to go outside, afraid their families will be torn apart because of President Donald Trump’s stricter stance on immigration.

“They won’t even go to Wal-Mart. They’re just terrified to go to the store,” Milwood United Methodist Church Pastor Kim Clark said.

But is the fear of ICE coming to people’s homes justified?

“I have heard that it has happened in Michigan. I have not particularly heard that it has happened in Kalamazoo,” Michigan United volunteer Nelly Fuentes said. “ICE is in Kalamazoo regularly picking up people with warrants. I have not heard anything about massive raids.”

And while Pastor Clark said he had heard anecdotes of ICE arrests, he said he didn’t know any families that had experienced one.

Regardless, Fuentes said the Trump administration has increased “hatred against people who are brown.”

“We just keep getting pounded and pounded with this administration,” she added.

She said immigrants come to the U.S. fleeing terrible conditions.

“People are leaving their homes because they absolutely have to. They must otherwise they will perish,” she said. “I am grateful that this (the sanctuary church effort) is here but it should not be needed.”

Michigan United is a statewide group that advocates for immigration reform, among other things. It says it will help anyone from the West Michigan area and hopes to get some grand Rapids-area churches on board. It is also organizing similar efforts in other cities, including Detroit.

Those looking to benefit from the sanctuary churches can contact Michigan United online.