Immigration protesters flood congresswoman’s office

Sarah Wojcik, C & G News, February 19, 2015

At approximately 9:45 a.m. Feb. 19, Shelby Township police officers were dispatched to U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s office, located south of 28 Mile on Van Dyke Avenue, for a large, unannounced protest.

Protesters fill U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s Shelby Township office Feb. 19 to voice opposition to the congresswoman’s stance on immigration. (Photo courtesy of Erik Shelley)
Protesters fill U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s Shelby Township office Feb. 19 to voice opposition to the congresswoman’s stance on immigration.
(Photo courtesy of Erik Shelley)

The group, later identified as being affiliated with Michigan United and National People’s Action, arrived on four school buses, and more than 150 individuals, holding signs and chanting, crammed into the building.

According to the police report, the office manager stated that two females entered the lobby and requested an application for a flag. When the office manager opened the office door to give the application to them, one of them held the door open and the large group pushed its way into the office from outside.

Upon arrival, officers entered the office area and attempted to make contact with a leader for the organization, but no one acknowledged who that person was at the time.

Police worked their way through the crowd and located the office manager, who said she and the district manager were the only staffers at the office. Police escorted the two women away from the crowd.

Michigan United Director of Movement Politics Bartosz Kumor, of Detroit, told police he would act as spokesman for National People’s Action and said the group wished for immigration reform and came to the office to speak with Miller in an effort to change her position on immigration.

Police said that, for safety concerns of the large group inside the office, they should request an appointment with Miller. Police also advised Kumor of the group’s right to protest off private property and that the owner of the building did not want them impeding traffic flow or hindering business on private property.

Kumor informed the group and they peacefully exited the building in a single file line as they continued to chant.

The group assembled in the office parking lot for approximately five minutes, holding signs up for passing motorists as officers stood by, and then the protesters boarded the buses and left.

Miller provided a statement to the Shelby-Utica News Feb. 19.

“I fully support U.S. citizens’ First Amendment right and have always encouraged my constituents, who are U.S. citizens, to bring their concerns to my attention. The individuals who came to my office today were treated cordially, with respect and I fully understand their position.”

Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide said his initial response was concern for the well-being of the employees.

“(The protesters) kind of went in unannounced and without permission and took over the office,” Shelide said. “We will not tolerate that kind of behavior in the community. Our shift supervisors cleared them out of the office and told them if you want to protest, do it out on the sidewalk.”

Shelide added that members from the Police Department would be sitting down with Miller’s deputy director to talk about security enhancements for the office so that such an incident doesn’t happen again.

Michigan United Media Coordinator Erik Shelley, of Redford, said the group had tried repeatedly to meet with Miller and submitted multiple forms to her office to arrange a meeting.

“It wasn’t like we just sprang up and surprised her. One of our principles is to build up to direct action. We’ve given her every opportunity to meet with us and speak civilly,” Shelley said.

He said the group was in the area to attend a conference on community organization and the group consisted of people from Michigan and from across the country.

Shelley said the group opposed Miller’s work to defund immigration actions that would allow children brought into the United States and their parents to stay without fear of deportation and increase militarization of the border.

Michigan immigration groups say Texas lawsuit is a temporary setback

LANSING, MI – Michigan immigrants without documentation shouldn’t panic in the wake of a recent lawsuit that temporarily blocked pro-immigration orders from President Barack Obama, immigration groups said today.

The executive orders in litigation are the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Judge Andrew S. Hanan filed an order that temporarily halts the immigration policies, according to the Associated Press. The ruling gives 26 states — including Michigan — time to pursue a lawsuit that would permanently block DAPA and the DACA expansion.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced on Dec. 8 he had joined the lawsuit.

“America has always been a beacon of hope. Our country needs an immigration policy that is hopeful, encouraging and lawful. A federal judge agrees that the President’s unilateral action is constitutionally flawed, and now the rule of law will get its day in court,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement today.

Here in Michigan, immigrant groups are working to let families who might be affected know this is not the end of the story.

“The most important thing for immigrant families to know is that they should not panic, this is a temporary setback,” said Theresa Tran, director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan.

She and other immigration activists in Michigan were confident that the executive orders would eventually be ruled legal.

“We have full faith that the legality of DACA and DAPA will be upheld,” said Diego Bonesatti, legal services director for Michigan United.

The U.S. Department of Justice plans to appeal the judge’s ruling. For now the Department of Homeland Security will not be taking applications for the extended DACA program.

“I strongly disagree with Judge Hanen’s decision to temporarily enjoin implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The Department of Justice will appeal that temporary injunction; in the meantime, we recognize we must comply with it,” said United States Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh C. Johnson in a statement.

“Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.”

If the lawsuit turns around and people are able to apply for these programs again Susan Reed, managing attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, said she thinks people would still apply to the programs.

“I believe people will still apply because the current situation for some families is so untenable,” Reed said.

Emily Lawler is a Capitol/Lansing business reporter for MLive. You can reach her at, subscribe to her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @emilyjanelawler.

Mayor Mike Duggan wants to strip citizen oversight of police department, commission head says

Gus Burns |
By Gus Burns, MLive, January 21, 2015 
DETROIT, MI – Some members of the Detroit Police Commission, including Chairman Willie Bell, believe there’s a coordinated effort underway to strip the citizen-led police oversight body of its power.

The Detroit Police Commission, which under the 2012-revised Charter is authorized to discipline officers, conduct chief searches, review and approve the annual budget, policies and procedures of the Department, much like City Council, lost its powers when Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr took office in March of 2013.

In his third to last order as the emergency manager, Orr restored power to Mayor Duggan and Detroit City Council, but only a portion of the Detroit Police Commission’s power.

No longer must Duggan or Craig receive Commission approval for budgets, disciplinary action or policy and procedure changes.

And that is how it will remain, at least until Dec. 10, when Orr’s order expires and the City Council is able to reinstate the Detroit Police Commission power.

Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church hosted a Michigan United-organized panel that discussed citizen involvement in police oversight. Gus Burns, MLive Detroit

Willie Bell, a 30-plus-year police officer who retired from the Detroit Police Department in 2003, was elected chairman of the Police Commission last year. He spoke of a meeting in October with Duggan during a Michigan United-organizer panel discussion about police oversight at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit Tuesday night.

“What really frightened me was the mayor, Mayor Duggan … ” Bell said, “he indicated, primarily, he wanted us to be a review board. He thought there was too much power given to the Board of Police Commission that’s been around since 1974.”

Unless there is another voter-approved Charter amendment, it appears the Commission will at some point regain its power, but Bell wants to ensure it happens as soon as possible.

“It’s the strongest model of police oversight in the country … “Bell said. “That’s what concerned me, the mayor took an oath, he raised his hand to say he would uphold the Charter …

“You’re going to tell me that you’re going to just ignore the City Charter … that you want us to be a review board?”

MLive Detroit did not receive comment from Duggan or his representatives regarding Bell’s claim that the mayor wants to remove Commission oversight even after December.

“The Police Commission today has the ability and responsibility to play a vigorous role in investigating citizen complaints regarding police conduct,” Detroit Corporate Counsel Butch Hollowell said in an email statement to MLive Detroit Wednesday. “It is an important citizen oversight body, even with the limited powers they have due to the standing Emergency Manager order.

“Many aspects of city government remain under EM order, at least until December 10th, which is the first anniversary of the city’s exit from bankruptcy. The Police Commission is no different in that regard.

“During the next year, the Police Commission should be focused on working with the administration, City Council, law enforcement and key community stake holders to determine national best practices for police commissions to ensure the safety and rights of our residents,” Hollowell said.

The Detroit Police Commission, created in 1974 under Mayor Coleman D. Young, is, as Bell said, one of the most powerful police department citizen oversight bodies in the nation.

Because of this, the Police Department is forced to be transparent and receive approval in a public setting before making important Department decisions.

The oversight, however, creates additional bureaucratic red tape and the possibility for infighting to slow down or impede the chief’s ability to manage the department and resources.

Riders of bus service in southwest Detroit stopped by immigration officials

Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom, January 20, 2015

For the last week, a bus that stops in southwest Detroit has been stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The riders are asked for identification, and those that cannot produce the proper paperwork are detained.

Michigan United, a civil rights group, is calling these actions by CBP intimidation, harassment, and even racial profiling.

These stops affect more than just the riders of the bus, Alyssa Hernandez of Michigan United said. The bus runs past the local church, school, and grocery store, and residents are afraid.

“People are afraid to send their kids to school, so the turn out rate last week was a little bit lower on a couple of days for the school, because people didn’t want to send their kids,” said Hernandez.

The bus is from the Tornado Bus Company, which travels from Mexico to several cities within the U.S.

We’re waiting on comment from Customs and Border Protection.

-Paige Pfleger, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Panel to discuss Detroit police accountability, restoration of police commission

DETROIT, MI – A panel plans to discuss the state of police accountability in Detroit and the need for restoring the power of the Detroit Police Commission Tuesday.

The event is being held at Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, 13651 Dequindre in Detroit, beginning at 7 p.m.

The panel includes several Detroit Police Commission members, ACLU attorney Mark Fancher, Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry L. Clayton and others.

A major focus of the event is to discuss the Detroit Police Commission, which was stripped of its powers under emergency management but has yet to have them restored.

The City Charter calls for a Board of Commissioners made up of seven elected and four appointed members, whose job it is to review and approve Detroit Police Department policy, disciplinary action, budgets, hiring of the chief and promotions.

The Detroit Police Commission formed under Mayor Coleman Young in 1974 and continues to meet every Sunday, despite being powerless over the police department or Chief James Craig at this time.

The Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change is an organization formed by Detroit clergy that had been vocal about their desire for Duggan to restore the Detroit Police Commission powers.

Duggan has not said when he would be willing to do so.

Leaders of faith community call on city to restore police Board of Commissioners

Detroit’s bankruptcy agreement reduced civilian oversight to advisory role

Detroit – Gathering today in Pleasant Grove Missionary Baptist Church, a coalition of Detroit pastors signed a letter asking the city council and mayor to restore the authority of the city’s Board of police commissioners. “Because the mechanisms that hold police officers accountable to the people they were meant to serve are being chipped away before our eyes,” the letter read, “the Michigan United Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change, Michigan Concerned Clergy and their undersigned supporters want the city of Detroit to restore the authority of the police board of commissioners at the earliest opportunity, the anniversary of the bankruptcy agreement on December 15th, 2015.”

The board once had oversight control over police operations, discipline and budget, but the terms of the city’s bankruptcy agreement turn all of this power over to the mayor and chief of police, relegating the board to a non-binding, supervisory role. “Currently, there is no real civilian oversight of the police.” said Willie Bell, chairman of the board of commissioners. “The mayor doesn’t think that’s important but we’re hoping he’ll see the light.”

Besides the letter the pastors signed, the group is also circulating a petition of the members of their respective congregations asking for the same thing. “The coalition is showing leadership.” said Rev. Harvey Presberry. “It’s all well and good that we sign this letter today, but now we need to show the Mayor and the council that this is what the people of Detroit want and need right now.”

“Community, communication, cooperation and commitment are vital to an effective police force.” said Rev. Louis Forsythe. “Restoring the board of commissioners is key to that.” Because of the immutable orders in the agreement, nothing short of a Supreme Court ruling could change them for one year from the finalization of the bankruptcy. So in the meantime, the pastors want assurances the city will restore civilian oversight to the police force. Spaces were left blank for council members and the mayor to add their names.


Pastors: Restore power to Detroit police commissioners

Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press, January 13, 2015

Concerned about the reduced civilian oversight of the Detroit Police Department, pastors and the chair of the department’s board of commissioners asked the city on Tuesday to restore the board’s powers as soon as possible.

Under the city’s bankruptcy agreement reached last year, power was restored to many city officials, but not the Detroit Police Board of Commissioners, whose seven elected and four appointed officials have power under the city charter to govern policing. That power had been curtailed under the state-imposed emergency management of the city, limiting the board to more of an advisory role.

“How can a city this large have no police oversight?” said Elder Leslie Mathews, a Detroit minister who attended a news conference Tuesday at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church with the advocacy group Michigan United. “Democracy is not back in Detroit until the police commissioners have their power back, too.”

The pastors said they are sending a letter to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan saying, “We believe the city of Detroit must have democratically elected, civilian control of police oversight At a time when people across the city and around the country are calling out for more accountability of law enforcement, we are seeing the exact opposite in Detroit.”

The pastors noted that police abuse is a topic nationally after the Ferguson, Mo., shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the choke-hold death in New York City of Eric Garner last year.

Spokespeople for Duggan and Detroit Police Chief James Craig did not comment Tuesday.

Craig has said previously that his department has good relations with the communities it serves and he rejects any comparison to Ferguson.

The police board was created in 1974 under Mayor Coleman Young in response to abuses by Detroit police against African Americans.

The chair of the commission, William Bell, 70, a retired Detroit police officer, said he is concerned that the stripping of the board’s power is hurting democracy, civil rights and community relations.

The stripping of the board’s powers comes at a time when growing numbers of recent graduates from the Detroit police academy are white men, which has the potential to cause frictions in a city that is 84% African-American, local pastors said.

“It’s a step in the wrong direction,” said the Rev. Louis Forsythe, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, which hosted the news conference. “It’s a step backwards. When you have a police department that’s self-governing, without any oversight, it always raises questions.”

Before the city went under state control in early 2013, the board of commissioners hired the police department’s director of personnel, had authority in terms of the budget, disciplinary actions, promotions and the handling of civilian complaints.

The coalition is calling for the powers of the board to be restored as early as the law will allow, which, according to its letter to Duggan, is Dec.15, one year after the bankruptcy agreement took effect.

“Currently, there is no real civilian oversight of the police,” Bell said. “The mayor doesn’t think that’s important, but we’re hoping he’ll see the light.”

Contact Niraj Warikoo: or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo.

Groups gather in Detroit to honor, demand justice for Missouri teen Michael Brown


From the Detroit News

On a day where many in the nation watched mourners at the funeral of a teen shot to death by a Missouri police officer earlier this month, community groups in Detroit held their own prayer vigil to honor the victim.

About 75 people gathered Monday evening in front of the McNamara Building in Detroit for the event called “To Ferguson from Detroit with Love” after Michael Brown was eulogized in St. Louis before more than 4,500 people.

The black 18-year-old was unarmed when he was shot to death by a white police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

The local gathering was intended to show that Detroit cares and understands, said Elder Leslie Matthews from Triumphant Life Christian Church.

“Not only do we feel your pain, we’re asking, we’re demanding, and we’re going to walk, talk by whatever means necessary to get justice for Michael Brown,” Matthews said. “He doesn’t have a life anymore, but he can and he will get justice.”

Among those represented were other members of the clergy and organizations including Michigan United, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and United Here. The attendees were diverse in religious background and race.

Several pastors led the group in prayer during the event, which lasted a little more than an hour. The vigil also included songs and a dance performance.

Some held signs that read “Justice for Michael Brown” and “Ferguson our prayers are with you.”

Sarah Terrien, 27, of Hamtramck said the shooting was unfair and confusing.

“We need to stand together to show support,” she said. “It could happen here. It could happen anywhere.”
(313) 222-2311

April 28, 2014 #risingvoices

This weekend 70 Michigan United members and volunteers attended the National People’s Action 2014 Conference in Washington, DC. The conference focused on skills building and training and wrapped up on Monday with a series of actions on General Electric and Georgia-Pacific. More than 1,500 people took the streets and chanted together their messages directly at the large corporations that need to pay their #fairshare of taxes instead of off-shoring that much needed revenue. That tax revenue would pay for roads and schools. We know that the deficit narrative is a false one and that the truth is that we have a revenue issue. We then marched down to the White House to support an NPA and National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) action to stop unnecessary deportations. 13 women, half of them undocumented, were arrested in front of the White House when they took a stand and said #not1more. The action was solemn and was marked by the constant beat of a drum that beat 1,100 times to signify the 1,100 deportations that take place each day.

The day concluded with two congressional meetings with Representative Upton and Representative Peters. Michigan United had requested a meeting with Rep. Peters’ legislative staffer. The group decided that we would not being leaving Washington, DC without showing our numbers and asking Rep. Peters for a meeting with him in Michigan and also asking to be at the table when a meeting with DHS Secretary Johnson takes place in Michigan. Fifty-five people signed a letter and did a very respectful letter drop-off. Members were able to secure an on the spot meeting with Representative Peters’ staff, David Weinberg, Miriam Cuevas and Josue T. were able to talk about issues that affect Dreamers and undocumented workers in Oakland County courts. Sam Johnson talked about corporate tax loopholes. With a show of hands, we demonstrated that everyone in the room were voters, registers voters, recruits volunteers, and also helped to get out the vote.  The meeting highlighted Michigan United priorities and campaigns and also provided us the opportunity to make our requests face to face.

The action was pulled off with short-notice and members were fatigued after walking more than 5 miles earlier that day, but they still wanted to mobilize to get our voices heard!  When debriefing the meeting, members stated that they felt heard and respected!  Never underestimate the power of a team with the want and the will to be heard!  Are we M-I United?  Yes, we ARE!

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Push To Raise Minimum Wage Gains Momentum, New Goal $10.10

WWJ Newsradio 950AM,

DETROIT- There’s been a change in a proposal to raise the minimum wage.

They received so much support for a wage increase from $7.40 an hour to $9.50 an hour, they decided to try for even more.

Frank Houston, treasurer of the Raise Michigan ballot committee and the director of the Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan , spoke with WWJ’s Tom Jordon about the initiative.

“So I think there was a desire to push the wage level a little bit higher to give more folks a chance to get into the middle-class, even the lower middle-class,” said Houston.

The “Raise Michigan” campaign has announced a new number for minimum wage: $10.10 an hour.

The new proposal would be implemented over a several year period, reaching $10.10 by January of 2017 if it’s approved.

The Michigan Board of Canvassers will review the petition Wednesday.

Republicans have said hiking the minimum wage would hurt employers’ ability to hire people. The restaurant industry says it already operates on thin margins and argues sharply higher wages would lead to steeper prices.

“If Michigan increases the cost of employing entry-level workers, lower-skilled workers will see less job opportunities because employers will be forced to hire higher-skilled job applicants to fill multiple roles or cut jobs to absorb the costs associated with the increase,” said Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

The group said businesses already are grappling with costs associated with the federal health care law and that government should focus  on helping people get jobs, not make it more expensive to hire them.

“People who work hard, shouldn’t have to wait for out of touch politicians to act and do the right thing – and raise the minimum wage,” said Rebecca Hatley-Watkins, 23, of Kalamazoo, who is married, the mother of one and a Michigan United member. “If you work full-time you shouldn’t live in poverty.”