Category Archives: Press Release

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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.

 

New documentary looks at factors leading to criminalization

Pathways to Prison producer, stakeholders name causes for mass incarceration, offer solutions

A one hour special that aired on Detroit Public Television was given a screening Thursday at the Church of the Messiah. Pathways to Prison focus on American prison system and efforts to reform it, both in stemming the flow of new inmates and aiding their reentry into the communities to which the formerly incarcerated return. Afterward, the audience heard from producer, Bill Kuboda and many of the returning residents interviewed in the program such as Yusef Shakur and Tyrone Kemp.

“We need to move past the mindset that prisons are only there to house the guilty.” Said Kemp who is now an advocate for the wrongfully convicted. “We must be open to the prospect that true redemption is possible.”

U.S. imprisons more people than any other country, but America’s “get tough on crime” era may be evolving, as more people realize the greater societal and economic costs. The state of Michigan currently spends nearly two billion dollars a year on their prison system.

But for Nicholas Buckingham, the Michigan United Criminal Justice organizer who moderated the discussion, this is about diverting the next generation from the well worn path that resulted in his incarceration. “Poverty is just one of the factors that many kids deal with that lead to prison, but it’s not the only one. We all have to recognize all the forces acting on them that make their futures less bright and a criminal record more certain.”

 

Representatives, Families, Health Care Providers Speak Out Against Trumpcare Effort

U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (MI-12) today joined State Representatives, families and health care providers to highlight the devastating local impact of Republicans’ latest “Trumpcare” legislation, which the Senate GOP hopes to rush to a vote next week. Michigan stands to lose nearly $10 billion in federal health care funding by 2027 if the Graham-Cassidy bill is signed into law. According to a new report, premiums for those with pre-existing conditions could skyrocket by as much as tens of thousands of dollars.
 

“The American people have overwhelmingly rejected “Trumpcare”, and the newest Graham-Cassidy bill repackages the same damaging proposals and makes them even worse,” said Rep. Dingell. “The stories shared by families and health care providers today emphasize how much is at stake. Not only does this bill end Medicaid as we know it by cutting and capping the program, it also eliminates Healthy Michigan and completely eviscerates protections for people with pre-existing conditions, including autism, asthma and even pregnancy. This is unacceptable. We should be working together on productive, bipartisan action to stabilize the insurance marketplaces and extend affordable health care coverage to more families, not ramming through devastating proposals that take it away,”

“The effects of Graham-Cassidy would be devastating to our patients,” said Linda Atkins, chief executive officer of Western Wayne Family Health Centers. “Over 50% of our patients would become uninsured. That would cause them to begin using the ER for their healthcare, and those are things that we have been working so hard to turn around.”

“It’s because of days like today why it is so important,” said Alexis Wyatt of Brownstown, who was unable to attend the event because her 10-month-old son Alexander had to be rushed to the hospital. Alexander was born with severe illnesses that are still being diagnosed, and Alexis relies on Medicaid for Alexander’s doctor’s visits, emergency room visits, and other treatments. “Alexander is unpredictable. We have many ER visits, hospital admissions, medicines, and health supplies,” she said. “His month medical supplies are $400, and that’s just for his feeding supplies. Without Medicaid, I could not afford that so then how would he eat or get nutrition? Without his feeding tube or constant care, he would likely die.”

“The Graham-Cassidy bill is simply unacceptable when it comes to protecting the health and well-being of our patients, families and communities,” said Laura Appel, senior vice president and chief innovation officer, Michigan Health & Hospital Association. “Michigan hospitals cannot support legislation that will cost our state billions of dollars and eviscerate healthcare coverage and access to care on such a large scale.”

Kari Snyder of Wyandotte, whose mother’s accounting job was outsourced to another company just as she was undergoing a biopsy for breast cancer, said, “my mom didn’t quit or get fired. She just got outsourced. If we are going to give businesses the flexibility to do that, we need to protect their employees. The Graham-Cassidy bill doesn’t do that. If not for pre-existing coverage, my mom might not be alive today.”

Camilleri headshot“Downriver residents are rightfully concerned about recent healthcare proposals that threaten to cut essential benefits and return lifetime caps on insurance coverage,” said State Representative Darrin Camilleri. “I am committed to fighting for these protections at the state level, and today’s conversation is an important reminder of what’s at stake in the debate about health insurance and prescription drug prices in Lansing and Washington.”

“I have deep concerns about the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Specifically, this will spell the end of Medicaid expansion in Michigan, meaning that about 650,000 of our most vulnerable residents —working families, children and seniors — will lose their health coverage,” said State Representative Erika Geiss. “Beyond that, leaving health care protections up to the states means that the popular and effective provisions of the ACA — such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26, among many others — are at risk.”

Dingell was also joined by State Representative Cara Clemente and Farah Erzouki, public health coordinator at ACCESS, to discuss the impact of the Graham-Cassidy bill on the state of Michigan.

Analysts estimate that by 2027, 32 million Americans could lose their health coverage under the Graham-Cassidy bill. The legislation ends the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which has extended health care to 695,000 Michiganders through the Healthy Michigan program; and ends premium tax credits, and cost-sharing reduction payments, all of which help millions of Americans afford health care. The legislation also permanently cuts and caps the Medicaid program—the largest health insurance program in the nation—which covers more than 74 million Americans, including more than 33 million children.

In Michigan:

  • 695,000 people have gained health coverage since the ACA was implemented.
  • Roughly 1.6 million people in Michigan have pre-existing health conditions, and could have their coverage rescinded if the ACA is repealed.
  • Michigan received $3.08 billion in federal Medicaid dollars to implement the Healthy Michigan plan. This revenue could be lost if the ACA is repealed.
  • A recent University of Michigan study found that Medicaid expansion in Michigan has boosted our economy and our budget and will continue to do so for the next five years. According to the study, the Healthy Michigan plan has generated more than 30,000 new jobs each year – one-third of them being in healthcare and 85 percent in the private sector. These jobs resulted in approximately $2.3 billion more in personal spending power for Michigan residents.

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.”

21369267_1617773558253178_4605358815655886730_n

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.”

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.”

Parents of premature & special needs children speak out against proposed healthcare bill

Repeal of ACA threatens those with pre-existing conditions, reliant on medicaid

Representative Debbie Dingell met with several children born prematurely or with special needs and their parents for a roundtable discussion of how proposed healthcare reform would affect them. Children with special needs like these will find themselves squarely in the crosshairs if the cuts to medicaid and removal of protections under the Affordable Care Act are signed into law.

“As a parent advocate and peer counselor for our hospital’s NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), I see moms and babies every day that rely on the financial and program resources available through our health care plans.” said Vickie Korsak of  the Michigan March of Dimes  “Lack of access and coverage is nothing less of devastating to the the lives and futures of our sickest and most fragile.  The debate over lifetime limits, the definition of pre-existing conditions and the funding of Medicaid strikes terror in every parent who has had a baby born premature, ill or with a genetic condition.”

The BatesRyan Bates, the director of Michigan United and the father of a child born 14 weeks early, said, “Congress is debating taking health care away from vulnerable children so that the most fortunate among us can have a tax cut. That’s just wrong. This is generous country where we take care of each other.”

The group was joined by David Sanchez and his son Benicio, who gets autism treatment through a Medicaid funded program, and a representative of the Michigan Nurses Association.

Michigan United launches Universal Family Care at Downriver women’s rights event

Michigan Women join thousands across the country to push new economic agenda for all women

Michigan United began to roll out it’s Universal Family Care campaign at the Riverview Public Library Monday night.  US Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI12) and State Representatives Darrin Camilleri, (D-23 Brownstown) and Cara Clemente (D-14 Lincoln Park) came out to show their support for the plan to help families care for their children, seniors, the disabled, and caregivers.

Terri Voepel-Lewis“A few years ago, mom was diagnosed with cancer and had to move in with me. So that I could keep working, we had to use mom’s savings to pay for in home care.” said Terri Voepel-Lewis, a downriver resident who provided end of life care for her mother. ”That quickly ran low, as the cost of in home care for 8 hrs a day cost thousands over her short illness. Mom died before we had to consider other sources of care. No one should have to worry about how to care for their parents at the end of life”.

Universal Family Care would be very helpful families like the Lewis’. The campaign seeks to provide Universal Home Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities, and would have allowed Terri’s mom to receive the resources from the state to afford the care her mom needed during her illness.

Additional components of Universal Family Care include: Universal Childcare, Support for stay-at-home Parents, Workforce Standards, (those include reimbursement rates to workers set high enough to provide a living wage), and Paid Family Leave. The program covers all types of care, to support families and people of all abilities to work and live well at every stage of life.

Universal Family Care is about being there for loved ones. Care needs to be centered on families that are allowed the ability to make good care choices. Without a program that helps provide clear information about affordable choices, Michigan families cannot get the care they need and want.

The Riverview event was part of the “We Won’t Wait’s” week of action that has spawned similar events across the country. Another event will be held Friday, July 7th at the Oloman Cafe at 10215 Joseph Campau Ave, Hamtramck from 6 PM – 8 PM. Lending their voices to speak up for Michigan families and to join Michigan United as they Launch Universal Family Care in Hamtramck will be the Director of Community Engagement for Council Member At-Large for Janeé Ayers, Justin Johnson and State Representative Stephanie Chang (D-6  Detroit).

Arrest over improper parking raises questions of racial profiling in St. Clair Shores

Michigan United files FOIA request, health complaint

The arrest of a black woman who was waiting in the wrong place has raised questions of racial profiling by St. Clair Shores police department. Michigan United filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act to determine if people of color are more closely scrutinized, and subsequently arrested and fined, than white people. Amber York, a spokesperson for the multiracial, social justice organization said “In March 2015, the Department of Justice clearly established that the pattern of arrests and citations in Ferguson, Missouri was driven by revenue production–not public safety. We have good reason to believe that’s the same thing that’s happening here in St. Clair Shores, Michigan.”

19467768_1547670258596842_8196495075438082539_oEarlier this month, Rai Lanier was waiting for a carryout order and didn’t notice that she was in a handicap parking space next to the one for restaurant customers. Despite the car still being in gear, she was given a parking ticket instead of a warning. The officer then went a step further and also did a background check on Lanier, finding old ticket on a car she no longer owns then placing her under arrest.

“It was like a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from.” said Lanier on the steps of the police station. “One minute I’m waiting for my food, the next minute I’m being frisked and searched in front of a bunch of men. I was too stunned to even be angry at the time.”

Lanier said she was made to wait in conditions that were unsanitary. “Besides the toilet being in the middle of the jail cell and the toilet paper soaked, it looked like someone literally smeared feces on the wall.” said Lanier. “They didn’t just make me feel like a criminal for a parking ticket, they made me feel sub-human.”

Besides the FOIA request, Michigan United has also filed a complaint with the city of St. Clair Shores for the unsanitary condition of the city’s jail cells.

Several members of Michigan United showed their support at the Thursday press conference. “As a white woman, I have been let off many times, with only a verbal warning or friendly reminder, for things like an expired license plate or an overdue parking ticket,” said Laura de Palma. ”Our criminal justice system is racist, unjust, and unfair. I am speaking out against the explicit targeting and harassment by law enforcement of people of color.”

Lanier said she began to suspect that she was being treated differently because of her race when her boyfriend, who is white, showed up to bail her out. “The St. Clair Shores officer told me, in no uncertain terms that it would be over $500 for me to get out of their jail and another $1,800 to get out of Troy where the old ticket was.” Lanier said. “But once Seth showed up, Troy didn’t want me anymore and the bail was magically cut in half. I can’t help but think what it would have cost if my mother came to get me.”

Elder Leslie Mathews, 19250564_1547697478594120_8237719269015878904_othe faith coordinator for Michigan United who is working towards criminal justice reform, said “We have never truly been allowed to fully integrate into the American society. We can become doctors, lawyers, professional athletes, even the President of the United States, but as long as our skin is black or brown, we face intense scrutiny by law enforcement. Calling the police nowadays for help can get you killed. Having faulty car equipment can escalate into loss of life as well. Being parked in a handicapped space can get you arrested and thrown into jail. Just being black in America seems to be a crime.”

 

Education advocates host first annual Kalamazoo schools year end celebration

Food, entertainment and an opportunity for “kids to be kids”

About 100 students and their parents were greeted by community leaders, volunteers and members of Social Economic & Educational (SEE) Change and Justyce Against Bullying in Schools (JABS) at the Kalamazoo Metropolitan Branch NAACP for their 1st Annual Expect Respect And Safe Education (ERASE) End of School Year Celebration. Participants took part in activities such as face painting, table crafts, hula hooping and  a water balloon challenge.

“As we continue to pursue equity and justice for our youth to ensure they are successful and Promise ready,” said Dr. Strick Strickland, Kalamazoo NAACP’s interim President, “we must strive as a community to celebrate the accomplishments of all of our youth completing a year of school. NAACP is proud to support SEE Change and stands in JABS corner as Sponsor of JABS Awareness Month”

“Every year, students in Kalamazoo Public Schools are denied their right to education because of ineffective and harmful school discipline policies.” said Elisheva T Johnson of Michigan United. “When they fail to recognize and address the trauma caused by unjust, biased, and broken social systems, our kids are effectively ‘pushed out’ of public education. That needs to end.”

Community member and environmentalist, Chris Wahmhoff also answered questions as many of the curious youth enjoyed time playing with baby ducks. “For Michigan, for us, I think Environmental Justice is one of the most important struggles we face” Wahmhoff said.