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.”

JOB POSTING: ​Detroit Movement Politics Fellowship

Deadline Extended: Candidates are encouraged to apply immediately. Applications are due by August 23, 2017

Michigan United is a statewide coalition of civil rights, labor, faith, business, and social service organizations working together for racial and economic justice through community organizing. We are currently focused on campaigns to:

  •  Promote just, fair, comprehensive immigration reform
  •  Dismantle mass incarceration
  •  Create a system of universal childhood and elder care
  •  End predatory lending
  •  Create affordable, dignified housing opportunities for all
  •  Halt climate change and transition to a just, green economy
Position Description

Movement Politics fellowships are full-time positions, with the possibility of part-time positions. The Movement Politics Fellowship is a 2.5 month long project. It is an organizing and leadership development program for emerging community leaders in Metro-Detroit.

Under the mentorship and supervision of Michigan United staff, Fellows will be tasked with working as a team to conduct extensive outreach into the community to register, educate and mobilize voters for the coming 2017 municipal elections in Detroit. Fellows will also identify potential supporters for Michigan United’s key campaigns.

The primary method Fellows will use to reach voters is door-to-door canvassing.

Fellows demonstrating an interest in organizing, may be asked to transition into part time organizer/part time canvass leads. These Organizing Fellows will will be their own team by recruiting and organizing leaders. Fellow’s leaders will assist in reaching their weekly goals.

Fellows will participate in an ongoing training program to learn how to motivate others toward action, to learn the history of and challenges facing the social justice movement, and to develop a systems-based analysis of the power structures at the local, state, and federal level.

The Movement Politics Fellowship is a recruitment and training program for rising organizers who are passionate leaders of all social justice movements; especially economic equity, immigrant rights, workers rights. Fellowship graduates will be connected with other professional development opportunities, job opportunities, academic support, and join a growing alumni network.

Requirements and Expectations:

Fellows must:

  •  Be effective working with a culturally, religiously, and economically diverse group of partners, members, and staff
  •  Be responsible, timely, and committed to professionalism
  •  Be an effective communicator who is comfortable working with the public, talking to strangers, and asking people to take action
  •  Be able to stand and walk for extended periods of time
  •  Be motivated to make change
  •  Language Proficiency: Some positions will require Spanish fluency.
Compensation and Directions to Apply:

This is a full-time salaried position and hours will fluctuate. Full-time fellows will receive compensation starting at $480 per week, with a stepped increase to $640 per week by the completion of the Fellowship, and gas allowances, as applicable. It is possible to award a monthly rate as a scholarship for current college students. Returning fellows’ salary will be commensurate with prior fellowship experience. Applicants should have some basic familiarity with social justice issues and a passion for social justice work.

Applicants should have basic understanding of field work and enthusiasm for leadership development.

Applicants should be prepared for a fast-paced work environment that requires a high-level of autonomy. Women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons are strongly encouraged to apply.

The current term for Fellows ends on November 10, 2017. Please send resume, cover letter, and 2-3 references to ken@miunited.org and bartosz@miunited.org.

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.”

 

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

Group to file formal FOIA request, health department complaint

Rai Lanier didn’t notice she was in a handicapped parking space as she waited in her car for a carry-out order. But rather than asking her to move, St. Clair Shores police not only gave her a ticket but ran a background check, finding an old ticket on a car she no longer owned. She was subsequently arrested and things just got worse from there.

Lanier will describe her experience in greater detail Thursday at a press conference held outside the St. Clair Shore police department. The organization she works for, Michigan United will deliver a formal Freedom of Information Act request asking for statistics regarding the racial makeup of police interaction and actions taken. They will also file a complaint with the Macomb County Health Department due to the deplorable conditions Lanier was subjected to during her unnecessary stay.

WHAT:
Press conference: Racial profiling, unnecessary escalation by SCSPD

WHO:
Rai Lanier, Ticketed, arrested, frisked and detained for parking violation
Elder Leslie Mathews, Criminal Justice Reform organizer, Michigan United

WHEN:
3 PM, Thursday, June 29, 2017

WHERE:
St. Clair Shores Police department
27665 Jefferson Ave, St Clair Shores, MI 48081

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.

Criminal Justice Advocates hold Prosecutor Kym Worthy Accountable (UPDATED w/video)

Lack of restorative justice and excessive prosecutions tearing community apart

A coalition of criminal justice reform organizations says that Wayne County Prosecutor, Kym Worthy’s tough on crime posture has been tough on the community. Rather than seek justice, they say Worthy has been going after the low hanging fruit to pad her conviction numbers. Victims of false and excessive prosecutions stood with organizers with Michigan United and Just Leadership USA to hold Worthy accountable for her practices and call for reform in her office.

30 years ago, when Bishop Herman Starks was 17, he wasn’t in school because he was recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered in the rough neighborhood where he grew up. When an acquaintance of his decided to rob and possibly kill someone, Starks intervened. Even though the victim testified that Starks saved his life, the prosecutor’s office at the time chose to charge him with the crime anyway, hoping to compel him to turn in the perpetrator. Instead of disclosing the robber’s name and risk getting shot again, Starks took his chances with a justice system that he didn’t understand and a public defender who was no help.

Now, Starks says Worthy is continuing this practice of intimidation and he wants her to change before another young life has to spend the next 15 years needlessly behind bars. “Let’s have a conversation about what needs to be done. You need to do better. You need to act like you have some compassion in your heart. You need to act like you love where you came from.” Starks said. “We on the beat to make sure that our young brothers stop being incarcerated, stop being punished for things they didn’t do. That school to prison pipeline needs to end and needs to end now!”

One such young man who narrowly avoided the pipeline was Marcus Allen Weldon, also known as the “Santa Claus Shooter”. A heating/cooling repair man moonlighting as Santa Claus at a company party in 2014, Weldon was defending a stranded woman from two hostile men when one of them appeared to draw a gun. Weldon was carrying a lawfully registered weapon and shot one of the two assailants in self-defense. Police, he said, did a sloppy job of investigating and Worthy seemed more interested in getting a conviction than getting to the truth. Weldon was found not guilty after more than a year of house arrest and $50,000 of legal expenses, including unencrypting the video tape that exonerated him. But his fate was not so certain when he entered the courtroom. “Stories like DaVonte Sanford, (he) was released right during the time I was walking into trial. I thought to myself, that could have easily been me.” Weldon said. “I have an 8 year old daughter and facing 30 years, you figure I would have missed her entire life.”

The group blames overreaching prosecutorial practices like these for creating hardships , job losses, and destabilizing communities and families. Instead, they want Worthy to be dedicated to creating safe communities that use methods other than mass incarceration. They point to the growing use of restorative justice practices which seek to confront the root causes of crime without dooming a young people to a life of joblessness.

Hold Prosecutor Kym Worthy Accountable from Michigan United on Vimeo.

Members of WOMEN group protest outside of congressman’s office ahead of CHOICE Act vote

Protesters swarmed a local congressman’s office Thursday carrying a big green check along with petitions.

After the James Comey hearing, the other big story out of Washington is the passing of the CHOICE Act.

With the help of a yes vote by Midland Congressman John Moolenaar, the legislation passed late Thursday afternoon in the House.

But not before some of Moolenaar’s constituents protested outside his Midland office.

The protesters are upset with the CHOICE Act, that would roll back regulations created after the 2007 financial crisis.

The House of Representatives voted yes, largely along party lines, with Republicans driving the legislation.

Members of the Women of Michigan Action Network, delivered petitions by voters who are against the CHOICE Act to Congressman Moolenaar’s office Thursday.

They claim he’s for it because he’s been given $200,000 from big banks and other Wall Street companies it would benefit.

Moolenaar didn’t respond to requests for a comment.

But a Northwood University professor, himself a former home lender, feels the home act will benefit consumers.

But opponents feel the CHOICE Act will strip the authority of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It would also make things easier for payday loan companies.

According to several news outlets, the bill will face a much tougher challenge in the Senate, where it would need Democratic support to pass.

Congressman Moolenaar released this statement on the passing of the Financial CHOICE Act:

The Financial Choice Act benefits everyday Americans by reining in Washington bureaucrats and freeing up money to invest in hometown projects. Wall Street banks that benefited during the Obama Administration oppose today’s bill because they enjoy advantages the status quo provides them over Michigan community banks and credit unions.”