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500 show post-election unity, commit to fight injustice during Trump era

Al Jones | ajones5@mlive.comBy Al Jones
Mlive November 15, 2016

KALAMAZOO, MI – The idea of pushing past the Nov. 8 presidential election in peace and unity was popular enough to attract more than 500 people to Bronson Park on Tuesday evening.

But one week after the general election, the opportunity to rail against the election of Donald Trump and divisive feelings that many say have come with his campaign, was not to be missed by those who spoke.

“I’ve been struggling to find words to say that could inspire or offer support,” said Jay Maddock, executive director of the Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center. “The truth be told, I have no words of comfort to offer you. Let me get real with you. Early Wednesday morning when it became apparent that the candidate that ran a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic campaign was going to be our president-elect, I sat on my couch completely numb.”

He described Trump’s presidency as “a further assault on LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer), people of color, women, Muslim people and already marginalized groups.”

“I had one of my student volunteers give me a big hug,” Matthew Derrick, said of learning about the results of the presidential election last week.

“She hugged me and asked, ‘What’s next?'” said Derrick, who is a Western Michigan University student and Democratic party organizer who helped with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“And she asked if I’m safe,” said Derick, who is gay.

Acting as emcee of what was dubbed “Kalamazoo Against Hate,” Derrick said racism and discrimination he saw during Trump’s campaign “has been happening well before Trump.”

What to do about it?

Amid chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Hey,hey, ho, ho Trump and Pence have got to go,” he and others stressed unity.

Speakers asked people to be vigilant for and stand united against any efforts by the new administration to roll back progress that has been made to claim rights for gays, minorities, women and others.

“I want to continue to make sure that people who come to this community, to this campus, to this area, … know they’re not alone,” Derrick said. “I want to make sure they know that there are people in this community with open arms who are ready to take you in and say, ‘You know what, be proud of who you are.'”

Kendall Campbell, a community organization for Michigan United, asked people to be more aware of what’s going on and to take a bigger part in the civic process. Michigan United is a statewide organization that advocates against injustice and pushes for social and economic empowerment.

Anti-Trump rally at U-M Diag focuses on rights of immigrants

Anti-Trump rally at U-M Diag focuses on rights of immigrants

Tuesday’s protest and march was a “rally to stop Donald Trump’s attacks on immigrants, democracy and equality,” organizers from By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) said, gathering at the U-M Diag before marching down East University Avenue.

“Just be aware of what’s happening,” Campbell said, “because I think if we remain stagnant and not do anything about it, we’re just going to accept anything that they give to us. We have to be aware of what’s going on around us.”

Asked what there is to do with people’s opportunity to make themselves heard — the election — just over, the Kalamazoo resident said, “Learn from it.”

Conservative students criticize U-M response to Donald Trump's election

Conservative students criticize U-M response to Donald Trump’s election

The petition, labeled as #NotMyCampus, was signed by a number of students identifying as conservatives and some who don’t, criticizing remarks made by U-M President Mark Schlissel during a post-election vigil in the Diag on Nov. 9, while others feel they are facing bigotry and marginalization because of the conservative views they hold.

Campbell suggested that people who are not pleased with the outcome of the election should start preparing for the 2020 election.

“There’s not a lot that we can actually expect from this presidency,” he said. “But I think that if we’re aware of what’s happening, in the next one we’ll be more aware that we have a right to vote and what we can actually do with it.”

Christine Lewis, also of Michigan United, said her goal Tuesday as a white woman was to inspire other whites to speak to their families, friends and neighbors who have bigoted views – or who have misconceptions about issues. She said she grew up ignoring things her family members or friends said, and distancing herself for those with racist beliefs.

But she said Tuesday, “Our job now more than ever is to lean in to one another and to call in our friends and our families and our neighbors who may be thinking differently than us. And that’s really hard.”

She said, “I’m suggesting that we, instead of alienating one another, actually turn in to folks who may not be thinking like us and have real conversations with them. Listen to them. Hear where they’re coming from. Acknowledge the pain. And invite them to join us.”

Ed Genesis, a native of Gary, Ind., who now lives in Kalamazoo, spoke about the need to break a cycle that systematically leads more blacks and poor people into prison than into college. He said he is a convicted felon who has benefited from opportunities to turn his life around. But he fears that the new presidential administration will perpetuate a socioeconomic cycle that has seen the number of people sentenced to prison quadruple since the 1980s, while the crime rate soars.

“I want people to come away with knowing that we’re not defeated,” Genesis said. “And as long as we fight together, we can continue to win the fight. It’s a never-ending fight that we all have to fight together.”

As an alternative to locking people up, he suggested that people look for different programs and ideas that will help people reach their goals and allow them to become successful.

“I want people to know that we are not going anywhere, immigrants are not going anywhere, especially my undocumented immigrants,” said Nelly Fuentes, who works on immigration issues for Michigan United.

She balks at Trump’s promise to deport all illegal aliens, which would involve  millions of people living in the U.S.

Fuentes said she knows the rule of the land is against them, but she will fight for undocumented immigrants who are leading productive lives here to continue to live here peacefully.

Maddox said he wanted those who attended Tuesday’s gathering to understand “that the results of the election don’t determine the end results in our community. And that the community needs to join together to fight on behalf of one another to ensure that marginalized groups can reach their fullest potential in our society and be allowed to participate in their daily lives free of fear.”

Anti-Trump protesters gather in Kalamazoo

BY FOX17 NOVEMBER 15, 2016

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— Over 100 anti-Donald Trump protesters gathered in Bronson Park in Kalamazoo Tuesday night.  It was a peaceful protest against the President-elect’s plans for his first 100 days in office.

“We cannot dismiss the fact that sometimes the loss of the land needs to be overrided by the loss of ethics and the loss of humanity and that’s why I am here speaking for my community,” said Nellie Fuentes.

Nellie Fuentes works for the non-profit Michigan United, and more specifically deals with immigration. Fuentes said there isn’t a comprehensive immigration plan in President-elect Trump’s first 100 days.

“I think this is truly what democracy looks like,” said Fuentes.

President Barack Obama told people earlier this week that he was surprised by the election results.

“I still don’t feel responsible for what the President-elect says or does, but I do feel a responsibility as President of the United States is to make sure that I facilitate a good transition and I present to him, as well as the American people, my best thinking, my best ideas about how you move the country forward,” said President Obama.

People like Jay Maddock, the executive director of the LGBTQ Resource Center in Kalamazoo, said they’re afraid of what their future might look like in Michigan.

“I think people are afraid of what that means for their day-to-day lives in Michigan along with 26 states you can be fired for being LGBTA and you can be kicked out of your house. I think there is a lot of fear and I think it’s all legitimate,” said Maddock.

On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid spoke out in Washington, and criticized Trump for a string of hate crimes happening across the United States following the election.

“So I say to Donald Trump, take responsibility. Rise to the dignity of the office of President of the United States. Stop hiding behind your Twitter account. And show America that racism, bullying and bigotry have no place in the White House or in America,” said Reid.

In a 60 Minutes interview, Trump said he would tell people to stop using hate and violence against others of different races and that it’s “terrible,” but he is “going to bring the county together.”   It was a sentiment that many at Bronson Park said they just don’t believe.

“I believe they voted for change but what they don’t know is that they voted for hate and oppression,” said Fuentes.

Kalamazoo’s Michigan United is having another event on Dec. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. The location is to be determined. They are having a discussion about policy reform to combat Donald Trump’s 100 day action plan. Specifically, this would be policy reform for Kalamazoo at the local level. For more information head to their website.

Michigan groups vow to fight crackdown on immigrants, minorities

By Detroit Free Press November 15, 2016

Michigan United joins a strong roster of service and faith organizations at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, to begin the work of advocacy under the new paradigm that Tuesday’s election has brought to the community.

A wide range of civil rights, community and religious leaders in metro Detroit announced today they will work to defend the rights of immigrants and minorities under the presidency of Donald Trump through a series of programs and efforts that include legal action, sanctuary houses of worship and possibly civil disobedience.

Speaking in one of Detroit’s oldest Protestant congregations, Central United Methodist Church, the groups also gathered to express solidarity with Latino students at Royal Oak Middle School who were taunted last week by chants of “Build the Wall,” which Trump often used during the campaign.

Alicia Ramon, the mother of the Latina student who recorded the chants, called for an end to racism, saying that Latino, African-American and Asian-American students at Royal Oak Middle School have been subjected to repeated hate incidents over the past year. Minority students have had to deal with racist insults against them, including one once made over the intercom system, she said.

“Racism, bigotry is unacceptable in our country, in our state, in our schools” said Ryan Bates, who leads Michigan United, an advocacy group. “This country is beautiful because we are a multicultural democracy. No one should come first. No one should come last because of what color they are, when your family came here, or how they pray.”

Bates also called for resistance to Trump’s plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.

“Mass deportations and roundups that can break apart families are inhumane, un-American, a moral monstrosity and an economic calamity,” Bates said. “And we are going to fight it every inch of the way.”

“We are going to resist the deportations. We are going to fight for our communities.”

►Related: Trump presidency sparks anxiety among minorities in Michigan
►Related: Protesters in Royal Oak march against Trump and bigotry
►Related: Canton police officer suspended for allegedly using racial slur

About 100 people joined Bates on stage at the Detroit church near Comerica Park, which is known for its history of activism. They included advocates with the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, ACCESS (formerly the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), the UAW, and the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The gathering came amid an upswing in hate crimes since Trump’s election victory. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been more than 200 hate incidents since then. In Michigan, there are reports on social media and from advocates of Muslim Americans and Indian Americans being attacked, including a Muslim woman in Ann Arbor last week police said was threatened by a man who said he would set her on fire unless she took off her hijab. On Monday, the FBI released statistics that showed that hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. jumped 67%, to their highest amount since 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks happened.

Cindy Estrada, a vice president with the UAW, called for fighting bias, and also fighting for economic justice, saying the election results are a sign many are unhappy with the economic status quo. She said she’s heard about some students getting excited that Trump’s win will lead to deportation of immigrants.

“There is so much fear among children,” said Estrada.

Estrada said labor and other organizers need to transform the fear into action.

“How do we take that anger and sadness and fear and really turn it into action,” Estrada said. “This is an opportunity for us to engage again, and to make sure we change this country so that all children have a home … are welcome.”

At the same time, Estrada expressed sympathy for Trump voters.

“There are so many people out there that voted for Donald Trump because they’re tired of the status quo,” Estrada said. “And we just got to talk to those people, and educate them and help them understand … focus on the real issues and not turn against each other.”

“We have to hold our leaders accountable,” Estrada said, praising Bernie Sanders. “The system we live in right now, it doesn’t work for our country. .. When  1% owns 50% of our cumulative wealth, we need to take our country back.”

But, she added, “we don’t have to fight hate with hate … it’s about fighting hate with love.”

►Related: Black EMU students face expulsion for sit-in over racist graffiti
►Related: Hundreds show up at EMU rally to protest racism
►Related: Reward doubled after more racist graffiti found at Eastern Michigan

 Ramon, the mother of the student who recorded the “Build the wall” chants, said “hate and racism should not be tolerated and should not be accepted.” Ramon said the chants last week were the latest in a string of racist incidents at the Royal Oak school targeting minority students. “Our kids deserve to feel safe, and it’s our responsibility and our obligation to make sure that they are,” she said.
Ramon said she wants to work with “the school in helping to create a dialogue and a change, so that this message can go to communities across America … we can make a change and be that change we need to see in our communities.”

In an e-mail sent late Friday to the Free Press about the chants, Royal Oak District Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said that “staff responded when the incident occurred.  Adults not pictured in the video directed the group of students, who were saying ‘Build the wall,’ to stop.”

The Rev. Ed Rowe, previous pastor at Central United, and current cochair of Methodist Federation for Social Action, called upon houses of worship to be sanctuaries that can accept undocumented immigrants who need protection from deportation.

“Open up the sanctuary,” Rowe said, for those “whose very lives are in danger.”

“Resist evil and oppression,” Rowe said of Trump’s proposals.

Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant who spoke in the church, said he was initially nervous about Trump’s win, but is heartened by the support of many in Detroit.

Nadia Tonova, the director of the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), a project of ACCESS, said that Arab Americans will not “hide in the shadows” under a Trump presidency.

“This is our country, too. … We are fully Americans.”

Bates also spoke up for those who might get their health insurance benefits cut under plans to rescind the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. He said his newborn baby was born premature, which many times used to lead to health insurance companies cutting health benefits.

“We fought like hell for him for four months in the hospital,” said Bates, his baby on stage held by his wife. “We’re going to fight like hell for years in the halls of Congress.”

Imam Mohammad Elahi, religious leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom of Dearborn Heights, called for an end to extremism, ending the program with a prayer.

Immigration groups unite over deportation fears

By Guy Gordon
WDIV Detroit November 14, 2016

Organizations gather to condemn racist attacks

DETROIT – Nearly 20 civil rights and Faith based organizations are coming together to condemn recent racist attacks on immigrants and vowing to act on behalf of undocumented immigrants.

The organizations involved said they’ve fielded calls from residents fearing backlash following last week’s presidential election and worried about what they believe will be mass deportations in the future.

Sergio Martinez is one of an estimated 100,00-150,000 immigrants in Michigan illegally. He fears his days as a Detroiter are numbered.

“We are not about violence,” Martinez said. “I’m not about looting, but we will do everything we can to protect our families.”

President-elect Donald Trump vowed to bring stronger immigration enforcement, starting with people who are in the country illegally and who have criminal records.

“Gang members, drug dealers, a lot of these people, 2 maybe 3 million people,” Trump said. “We are getting them out of our country.”

Immigrants rights organizations doubt it is only a purge on criminals.

“We reject the notion you can slice and dice the community into good immigrants and bad immigrants,” Randy Bates, of Michigan United, said.

They are seeking congregations willing to provide sanctuary to immigrant families in threat of deportation, and volunteer attorneys to defend them.

“We are getting calls, emails from lawyers, law students, college students, nuns, imams, pastors and hundreds of others who are saying this is not what America is about, and we are here to help you,” Ruby Robinson, of the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center, said.

An incident in a Royal Oak Middle School lunch room and an attack on an Ann Arbor woman over the weekend are leaving legal immigrants fearful.

“There’s no place for racism, especially in our schools,” Alicia Ramone said.

Immigrants hope Trump will put his words of reconciliation over the weekend into action, but they are taking action of their own. They are planning a “know your rights” town hall for the immigrant community this weekend.

Anyone who is concerned about being in danger of deportation, wants to learn their rights or find out more about the recruitment of attorneys can click here to learn more.

 

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Mom of 12-year-old who recorded lunchroom ‘build the wall’ chant speaks out

By Dana Afana
Mlive November 14, 2016

Alicia Ramone, mother of the 12-year-old girl who recorded a viral video of students chanting “build the wall” at Royal Oak Middle School last week, called for unity and civility at a Detroit gathering of community organizers Monday.

“We can change this if we stand united and work with the people around us,” she told the gathering of about 70 at Central United Methodist Church in Downtown Detroit.

Ramone said her daughter began recording the incident after seeing her friend in tears as students at her lunch table stood up, banged their fists against a table and chanted.

Royal Oak Middle School students chant 'build the wall' in cafeteria

Royal Oak Middle School students chant ‘build the wall’ in cafeteria

Chants of “build the wall” yelled by students at Royal Oak Middle School were captured on video Wednesday.

The chant gradually grew larger and louder, she said.

“I don’t believe this incident speaks for the community at large, but last week during lunch, my daughter witnessed something that I never thought my daughter would see,” said Ramone, whose Hispanic family has lived in Royal Oak since 1994.

“It’s an injustice that I dedicated a big part of my life to try to make it a better place and here, 47 years later, she’s encountering the same.”

The chant was in reference to President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. And it came as reports of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim incidents spiked around the country in the days following Trump’s election.

DeWitt Junior High students formed wall to block minorities

DeWitt Junior High students formed wall to block minorities

Students reportedly formed a wall to block minority students from getting into the school Wednesday morning.

Trump, in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, told supporters who have engaged in acts of hate to “stop it.”

“I am so saddened to hear that,” he said. “And I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it– if it helps. I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.

Michigan United, an immigrant-rights group that has long criticized and demonstrated against immigration policies and deportations under President Barack Obama’s administration, gathered several community organizations for the Monday press conference in Detroit to stand against the recent spike in incidents of intimidation targeting minorities.

“I think it’s extremely important to not show fear, to not act like the last 15 years of work we’ve done for this movement, that we acknowledge it’s not going anywhere,” said Sergio Martinez, an activist who identified himself as a gay, undocumented immigrant.

“Those wins are still wins for our community and we need to protect that. How, is we meet with our officials and everybody we’ve met with for this movement and reach out to Republicans to who don’t necessarily agree with Trump’s rhetoric and proposals for immigration.”

Man tells U-M student to remove hijab or he'd set her on fire in Ann Arbor

Man tells U-M student to remove hijab or he’d set her on fire in Ann Arbor

A man told a University of Michigan student to remove her hijab or he’d set her on fire, police say.

Ramone said her daughter sent her the video with crying emoticons and the message: “I’m scared.”

She said her daughter was bombarded with criticism and accused of dividing people with the footage she recorded, but that she also was praised for showcasing what minorities often endure.

“This wasn’t about immigration or a platform or a policy, but this was about racism,” Ramone said. “Our kids deserve to be safe and we as parents owe it to them to make sure we work with the schools, because we’re all together in this and we make that difference.”

Rather than gathering only adults to draft solutions for the future of the community,

Ramone said her daughter’s school has been gathering feedback from both adults and students on solutions to the tensions exposed by the lunchroom chant.

Martinez said he plans to continue to help immigrants obtain valid identification to work and travel without concerns of deportation, and to register Hispanic U.S. citizens to vote.

“To think overnight that this president can really undo everything or try to work hard to undue everything we worked hard to accomplish,” Martinez said. “My main focus is to refresh those relationships with everyone we’ve met in the past five years and make sure that we stay as a welcoming city that isn’t going to stand up for this.”

Community groups unite after string of racial incidents post-election

By: Hannah Saunders
Fox 2 Detroit November 14, 2016

The community is rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.

Activists and community minority groups are rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.

“Last week a Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, he told her ‘Take off your hijab or I’ll let you on fire,'”said Ryan Bates, Michigan United.

One man, South Asian, found a swastika on his door and the words “Trump: make America great again.”

Community groups unite after string of racial incidents post-election

Then there was the video taken last week in the Royal Oak Middle School cafeteria, a group of students chanting “build the wall”  The mother of the Hispanic student who took the now viral video, say the students who started the chant, passed notes to the Hispanic students, letting them know what time the chanting would start.

“She sent me the text message with the video and crying emojis saying ‘I’m scared,’ said Alicia Ramon.

Michigan United, the UAW, access and others joined together Monday for the press conference.  More than a dozen civil rights and faith groups stood together at Central United Methodist church, vowing to work together against racism, and keep families safe for years to come.

Among those facing prejudice and tension, Michigan United estimates there are between 100,000-150,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan alone.

“The biggest thing I want for my community immediately is to let them know that they should not be scared,” said Sergio Martinez of Michigan United. “If they are scared, we meet at churches so they can discuss their rights.”

All these people share the common goal to stop the tension before there’s more violence.

Ramon, at first, was scared for her daughter’s safety, when she posted the video.

“She felt like she was maybe not doing the right thing,” Ramon said. “She was afraid when she did it. But she knew she had to do that and she had to show people what was going on.”

Michigan United and other groups plan on holding more events like this until the tension eases.

Residents in Southwest Detroit neighborhood struggle to escape pollution

By Lauren Podell
WDIV Detroit, November 10, 2016

Residents live near Marathon oil refinery

DETROIT – A woman living near the Marathon oil refinery has been working for years to bring attention to what she and her neighbors are forced to go through.

Emma Lockridge said she has wanted to move out of her home for years, but pollution has wiped out her house’s value, leaving her with no choice but to stay. She’s hoping pictures of the pollution will raise awareness of the issue.

Lockridge’s neighborhood has thick smoke in the air. Protestors trying to get their voices heard, and there is pollution everywhere. She said she feels trapped on Deacon Street in southwest Detroit, a community also known as “The Hole,” thanks to its proximity to the Marathon petroleum plant.

“We can’t stay. We can’t leave,” Lockridge said.

She said the people who lived in Oakwood Heights on the other side of the refinery were able to leave after Marathon bought them out. Oakwood Heights is now a green space and garden. It acts as a 100-acre buffer between the refinery and neighborhoods, but it doesn’t include Lockridge’s.

“Well, we don’t currently have any other plans,” she said.

With no buyout plan in site, Lockridge hopes pictures of pollution will show how desperate the residents are for help.

Marathon officials said recent tests show they are only responsible for 2 percent of the emissions in that industrial area, and that over several years, they’ve reduced emissions by 70 percent.

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.

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. 

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.”