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“We Are Here to Stay” Immigrant Families, Advocates Fight Back

Big, diverse coalition stands against destructive executive orders

Civil rights groups, faith leaders and community groups fought to protect immigrant families, refugees and religious freedom in a press conference opposing President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. The event was held Thursday afternoon at the Michigan United Office on Wesson in Southwest Detroit. The diverse coalition of faith based organizations and immigrant rights advocates oppose singling out those of the Muslim faith and the endangerment of refugee families and immigrant communities here at home.

Rev. Paul Perez, United Methodist Church
Rev. Paul Perez, United Methodist Church

“Trump’s executive orders undermines the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Constitution,” said Rev. Paul Perez of United Methodist Church, Detroit Conference. “Our Muslim brothers and sisters, people of Abraham just like Christians and Jews, must not be singled out for ‘extreme vetting,’ whatever that means. We know it can already take two years for refugee families to be removed from danger. How many men, women and children have to drown fleeing war or die in the conflicts before we do the right thing? These hasty, inhumane orders need to be rescinded immediately.”

The groups also noted the dangers the executive orders create at home by driving a wedge between immigrant communities and law enforcement. The orders force local law enforcement to take on federal duties in terms of immigration and thus make immigrant families less likely to engage with those charged with public safety.

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Sergio Martinez, Michigan United

“Safe communities are only possible if all residents feel safe working with law enforcement. Putting the burden of federal immigration law on local police seriously weakens the trust between immigrant families and local police,” said Sergio Martinez of Michigan United. “These executive orders endanger all families and communities.”

The group also opposed the way Trump’s executive orders attack younger immigrants brought here as children who are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). In fact, the moves by Trump threaten all immigrant workers and thus lowers the bar for wages for everyone.

“Trump is targeting young people who know no other country but America,” said  Adonis Flores of Michigan United and a DACA recipient. “DACA showed that immigrant youth have a tremendous amount to contribute to our country, as superb students, professionals, and leaders. We’re not going backwards and we’re not going away.”

(Right click track title to download audio for broadcast)

 

Michigander Testifies on Capitol Hill about Impact of Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act

Michigan United member and MS patient Ann Serafin of Ferndale shares her family’s care story

Michigan United member Ann Serafin joined with members of the national coalition “Caring Across Generations” in a special Senate hearing about why proposed changes and cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act would hurt their lives, and the lives of millions of Americans. The forum was organized by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

For many seniors, middle-class families, young adults, and people with disabilities, these three foundational programs are integral to their health care. Even at their current levels, these programs are not strong enough for the growing senior population, or Elder Boom. Now, as Congress threatens to cut these vital lifelines, Caring Across Generations members and many other Americans who benefit from these programs are coming together to urge Congress to make our care system stronger, not weaker.

Ann Serafin, also a member of Michigan United, made the trip from Ferndale, Michigan, to explain how she was able to address her own health needs on top of managing the care of her mother who had dementia. Diagnosed with MS at age 40, Ann lives at home with her husband, who is her primary caregiver.

“Without Medicare or secondary insurance, the medication I take to keep my MS symptoms in check would cost about $75,000 a year,” she says. “Without Medicare, I would have had to decide: do I eat, or do I get my meds?”

Ann and her husband also financially supported Ann’s mother, who relied on Medicaid for her nursing home care until she passed away last year at the age of 98. “I couldn’t care for her complex care needs; I needed help for my own care,” said Ann. “Even a barebones nursing home would have been too much for us at $6,000 a month. It was only because of Medicaid that she was able to get the help she needed at the end of her life.”

Whether provided at home or in an assisted living facility, quality care can break the budgets of American families. The high costs of care, in addition to serious threats to the limited social safety net programs that support care, mean that more than ever, our caregiving families need more support, not less.

Small business owner Holly Jensen, from Cleveland Heights, OH, also understands the importance of these vital programs. She traveled to Washington to speak about how Medicaid saved her life. Untreated anxiety and mental health issues nearly destroyed her ability to run her business, as well as her connections to her family and her community.

“I had to cancel an important work trip at the last minute. I couldn’t do it. My anxiety was getting out of control, and the worse it got, the more out of control my OCD got. It was a downward spiral from there.” It wasn’t just her business that suffered under the weight of her untreated condition. She withdrew from being an active volunteer in the local arts community.

Through Medicaid, Holly was able to rebuild her business, her relationships, and her life. “This care not only saved my life, but it also gave me back my life. Thanks to Medicaid, I am becoming the professional I want to be again – and the person I want to be again. Without it, I know I would have eventually depended on emergency care, taxpayer-funded rehab, and the legal system. I would have cost taxpayers much more than the expense of my basic care now.”

Ann and Holly’s stories reflect the experience of millions of Americans who have benefited from Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Protecting and strengthening these programs is bigger than any political fight – it is about people’s lives. We are at a moment in our country where we need to be moving forwards, not backwards. “I hope that Congress hears us, and does what the majority of us actually want them to do. The Caring Majority is greater than any political divide,” said Ms. Jensen.

“We’re Here to Stay!”

Detroit’s immigrants, Muslims, LGBTQ and Communities of Color honor Dr. King with a message of defiance and unity

Hundreds of people from across Southeast Michigan gathered at UAW Local 600 Saturday afternoon to honor Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr. in a show of unity across lines of color, gender, ethnicity, religion and immigration status. Michigan United joined the United Auto Workers and community based groups in a mass call to action to defend the rights of immigrants, refugees, communities of color and the members of the LGBTQ community. In addition to the King holiday, groups cited the well documented rise in hate crimes in Michigan since the presidential election as inspiration for the event.

“We have no doubt that Reverend King would be pushing us to stand with people who are under attack because of their immigration status, the color of their skin or who they love,” said Michigan United member, Reverend Samuel Johnson of Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church. “Mobilizations like this are crucial to show that the majority of people will not tolerate hate crimes and attacks. The fight to keep immigrant families together is connected to the fight to keep all families safe.”

The Congress of Communities, Chadsey Condon Community Association, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights worked with members of the LGBTQ community to host the event. The intersection of struggles and resistance was at the heart of the gathering.

“Some victories such as marriage equality or the Deferred action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which protects immigrants brought here as children are recent,” said Seydi Sarr, General Secretary of the Senegalese Association. “Some, such as the 1960s civil rights legislation are decades old. We stand to defend them all. We fight to keep immigrant families together here in the US, for refugee families fleeing violence to be safe here. We must defend human and civil rights won for the LGBTQ community and people of color. We can win if we see that all these struggles are connected.”

“No event, not even a presidential election will stop us from standing up and fighting for human and civil rights,” said Sergio Martinez, Michigan United board member. “As Gay man who has benefited from DACA and advances in LGBTQ rights, I refuse to go backward just as Dr. King and those who fought with him resisted the backlash against civil rights laws. Those of us fighting for justice are the majority. Making that clear with gatherings like this will push us toward victory.”

Michigan Residents Tell Rep. Trott “Don’t Take My Health Care”

Families Protest Plans to Repeal Affordable Care Act, Wreck Medicare and Medicaid

Carrying signs saying “Don’t Take My Health Care”, dozens of Michiganders rallied outside of Rep. David Trott’s office in Troy to protest an expected vote early in January to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which would take health coverage away from nearly a million Michigan residents.

“I’m asking Rep. Trott not to take away the health care my family relies on every day,” said Karen Houghton of Huntington Woods.  “This isn’t just politics anymore– repealing Obamacare would strip health care away from millions of real people like my son and put us back at the mercy of private insurance corporations.”

“Taking away Obamacare will also jack up the rates of everyone with insurance, and put the insurance companies back in charge of our health care.” said Houghton who once worked as a hospital administrator.

Hear and download audio from the press conference

The demonstration, organized by Michigan United and co-sponsored by MoveOn.org, came to protest plans in Congress to cut $1 trillion from state funding for Medicaid and replace Medicare with a limited voucher for private insurance. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) has been a leader in the effort to repeal the ACA, slash federal funding to states for Medicaid and privatize Medicare.

“Congress is rushing through a plan that would take away health coverage from 30 million people across the country,” said Julia Galliker of Michigan United. “Repealing the Affordable Care Act is a first step in a campaign to slash state funding for Medicaid and turn Medicare over to Wall Street. Insurance companies would make huge profits while seniors get a skimpy voucher for private health insurance, with huge out-of-pocket costs for seniors and big limits on choice of doctors and hospitals.”

“Without the protections of the ACA, the insurance companies could discriminate against my son and others with pre-existing conditions – denying coverage for any reason and raising rates at will.  Ultimately he could be the unfortunate victim of medical bankruptcy.” Said Houghton, whose son was born with hydrocephalus, a disorder commonly known as “water on the brain”. She credits the protections of the ACA for his progress. “ I am so proud to say that our son has successfully coped with these medical challenges to become a productive member of the workforce and very recently began living independently.”

The protest is one of hundreds being held around the country as members of Congress return from Washington to their districts for the holiday recess.

“This is the beginning of a fight to protect the health care and security of every American family and we are not going to stop as long as politicians like Rep. Trott continue their plan to take away our health care.” said Galliker. “Instead of repealing the ACA, and ruining Medicare and Medicaid, lawmakers should strengthen the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid by lowering our deductibles and standing up to the health insurance and drug corporations.”

Doctors, patients speak out to protect the Affordable Care Act

Repeal threatens health care for more than million in Michigan

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but what will this mean to the more than one million people in Michigan who benefit from the program known as “Obamacare”.  Doctors and patients alike are concerned with the impact of such a precipitous loss of coverage.

“The most important costs that we should consider are human.” said Dr. Anthony Spearman who practices internal medicine at Providence-St. John in Detroit. I am scared because the protections of people with pre-existing conditions could be eliminated, leaving millions of people who need it without insurance.” Rather than jeopardizing the health care program, Spearman believes politicians should take the successful model of the Affordable Care Act and work to address its issues and expand it.

Click here to hear and download audio from the tele-press conference

More than 393,000 people in the state of Michigan are currently enrolled in the individual government-run marketplace. Another 615,462 people are currently enrolled in the Healthy Michigan plan.

One of them is Herman Starks.  He says the uproar around the issue before the President has even been inaugurated is unprecedented but expects public resistance will be too. “I want to reach out to Trump voters. We have a lot to talk about. I’m sure we’ll all be having a robust conversations over the holidays.” said Starks. “We have common ground, and we have to start our fight from that common ground. We will fight tooth and nail, and with all our strength to save access to affordable health care. And we need everyone with us.”

Nurses & Seniors Raise Alarm: Medicare Under Attack

Speaker Ryan Revealed Plan Last Week to Gut Life-Saving Program

The President of the Michigan Nurses Association joined with seniors and local faith leaders on Tuesday to raise the alarm about a new proposal to scrap Medicare.

President-Elect Trump campaigned on repealing Obamacare, but leaving Medicare and Social Security alone. But last week, Speaker Ryan unveiled a plan to privatize Medicare, ending the guaranteed health care program for seniors. President-Elect Trump has changed his position, voicing support for “modernization.” This is widely understood as a euphemism for privatization.

Hear and download audio from the press conference here

“For over 50 years the Medicare program has provided health care that would otherwise be out of reach for many seniors. It has prevented countless families from facing bankruptcy, and it allows millions of working people to retire with dignity,” said Armelagos. “But the most important costs that we should consider are human. I can tell you that bedside nurses are terrified and outraged because they understand that privatization means a lower quality of care, and in many cases no access to care at all. “

Elmarie Dixon, a Detroit senior, called on all state leaders to step up and defend Medicare. “Medicare is a promise to me and to everyone else. Our lives and our health matter more than insurance company profits.” Dixon believes in the program so wholeheartedly that she thinks it should be expanded, not privatized. “We should let people buy into Medicare. We should create medicare for long-term care for our elders. We owe it to each to do better.”

Dixon and Armelagos were joined at Metro Zion AME Church by over 50 seniors and clergy.

Michigan community organizations push back against Sessions’ appointment

Too racist to be Federal judge, certainly too  racist to be Attorney General

Detroit city council members stood with Michigan civil rights organizations to oppose President elect, Donald Trump’s appointment of Jeff Sessions as US Attorney General. Janee Ayers, one of the city’s two at large representatives, and Brenda Jones, the council President joined the chorus of voices calling for a more moderate choice. “We’re talking about is a dangerous person.” Said Ayers. “The Civil rights act, sanctuary cities, criminal justice reform. These are all things that any one of us could have to deal with at any given time… We are all human beings who have had somebody come before us who fought so we could have inalienable rights. Now those rights are under attack.”

Hear and download audio from the press conference

Sessions, the Junior US Senator from Alabama, has been a staunch opponent of immigrant rights. His bid for a Federal Judgeship ended amid controversy over reported racist statements. He’s also referred to groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American”. Add to this President elect, Donald Trump has called for unconstitutional policing tactics such as “stop and frisk”, the use of “waterboarding and much worse” and that American citizens could be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and held without charge.

“Donald Trump staged a very divisive campaign to be elected President” said Bishop Herman Starks of Michigan United’s Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change. “If he hopes to heal the nation, he’s going about it all wrong.”

Starks focused on the effect Sessions would have on voting rights going forward. As Alabama Attorney General, Sessions pursued bogus voter fraud cases against African Americans. “In the post- Voting Rights era, this is not the person to put in charge of protecting minority rights.” said Starks “The next AG must have a respect for civil rights and equal protection under the law.”

Civil Rights, Faith Groups Stand Together Against Post-Election Hate Incidents

Detail Plans to Resist Deportations

More than a dozen civil rights and faith groups stood together at Central United Methodist Church Monday to condemn a recent spate of racist incidents and to declare their intention to work together to protect their families and communities in the coming years.
sam_8680“The election is over, but that doesn’t mean we have to quietly accept the policies of a Trump Administration,” said Sergio Martinez, Michigan United board member. “We’re not going to give an inch to mass deportations. Our community is organized like never before to defend our families. We’re going to resist Donald Trump’s immigration plans, and we need your help.”
Speakers outlined specific plans for family defense:
  • Michigan United will host a town hall and know-your-rights meeting on Saturday, November 19th, at Noon, at their offices, 4405 Wesson in Detroit. Legal support will be on hand for immigrant families wondering about their options.
  • The Michigan Immigrants Rights Center is calling for pro-bono attorneys to volunteer to defend immigrant families in deportation. Volunteer attorneys will be trained in the basics of immigration law. Contact Susan Reed—susanree@michiganimmigrant.org
  • Volunteers who are not attorneys but would like to learn how to get credentialed to represent immigrants in deportation cases can join our Family Defense team. Contact Susan Reed or Michigan United legal director Diego Bonesatti, diego@miunited.org
  • Congregations who are interested in learning how to provide sanctuary to immigrant families in imminent threat of deportation, contact Rev. Jack Eggleston of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, j.eggleston@semisynod.com
  • Survivors of anti-Muslim hate crimes or bias incidents can report them to the Council on American Islamic Relations, www.cairmichigan.org248.529.2247
  • To help promote tolerance, diversity and educate your community, contact Take on Hate at ACCESS, Asha Noor, anoor@accesscommunity.org or Welcoming Michigan, Christine Sauve, csauve@michiganimmigrant.org
Participants in the event included Michigan United, the Michigan Immigrants’ Rights Center, Asian Pacific Islander Americans – Vote Michigan, ACCESS, ACLU – Michigan, National Lawyers Guild, Methodist Coalition for Social Action, Council on American Islamic Relations – Michigan, Latino Family Services, the Muslim Community Council, the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit, the National Lawyers Guild, Voces Community Center, and State Representative Stephanie Chang.

“PICTURING POLLUTION: From The Hole” to Highlight Toxic Pollution Poisoning Detroit’s Boynton Community

Photo exhibit documents exposure to dangerous emissions from Marathon Petroleum refinery

The photography exhibit  “PICTURING POLLUTION: From The Hole” by environmental justice activist Emma Lockridge graphically illustrates the horror of living near Marathon Petroleum Corporation, a tar sands refining facility.   Public viewing begins 10AM Sunday, November 13  during and after service then again from 4PM to 8PM  on Monday at Trinity-St Mark’s United Church of Christ, 9315 Fort St. W., Detroit 48209.

Referred to as “The Hole” by locals because it dead ends the 48217 Boynton subdivision, it is an area overwhelmed by pollution with housing values that border on worthless due to its proximity to the refinery.  

Residents are still troubled by a homeowner buyout package offered to the predominantly white Oakwood Heights subdivision by the refinery that did not include the black community.

Marathon said “it’s the right thing to do” when it offered buyout packages to Oakwood Heights residents stating they lived on “an island” surrounded by polluters, but has steadfastly refused to consider a conversation with black residents stuck on the same toxic turf.

sam_8603The photo exhibit “PICTURING POLLUTION: From the Hole” is designed to draw attention to the dire air quality situation impacting 48217 residents and garner support for an exodus.   Lockridge was invited to show her photographs by Rev. George Bozanich of Trinity St Mark’s United Church of Christ after she did a presentation in his church at an environmental forum.  The exhibit is co-sponsored by Michigan United where Lockridge is an interim environmental justice organizer.

Civil rights groups come together to examine “Cost of Racism” at Marygrove college

Seminar, public forum confront racism ingrained in American culture

In the wake of more shootings of black people by police, escalating derision aimed at immigrants, and talk of banning Muslims from entering the US at all, there is no more important topic than racism in America and the cost we all must pay for it. “The melting pot of America has been tainted with racism and no one can eat from it.” said Elder Leslie Mathews of the Michigan United Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change, one of the hosts of “The Cost of Racism” seminar at Marygrove college. The conversation was lead by Bree Carlson, Deputy to the Executive Directors of People’s Action and anti-racism advocate.

Often when we think of racism, we think of racial slurs and racially motivated violence. As bad as this is, it is only the personal racism that lies on the surface that we can see. Carlson says that in a hierarchical system, institutions regularly and predictably exclude, under-serve, and exploit people of color. It is this institutional racism that results in the deplorable outcomes we see in education, housing, and criminal justice. And it is the cumulative racism of all these institutions that result in systemic racism, a problem so pervasive and ubiquitous that it is virtually invisible.

“But racism is not an end unto itself. It serves a purpose.” Carlson later told participants in the public forum. Ever since the time of the colonies, racism has been a tool to keep the working and poor people divided against each other,. “Racism has been the Achilles heel of the United States.” Said Carlson. “Until we are willing to face our demons, as a country, we will continue to fall victim to the manipulation of greedy and unscrupulous figures.”