Tag Archives: civil rights

Citizenship question on census unconstitutional, ill-advised

Proposed change would drive immigrants into shadows and would weaken our democracy

The Trump administration wants to include a question on the 2020 census that will ask who is a US citizen in your home? What immigrant in their right mind would reveal their citizenship status after watching for two years as ICE tore innocent parents away from their families despite living peacefully in America for decades? Even many citizens living in mixed status families with undocumented parents, siblings and spouses won’t answer this question. Such a question would make reduced immigrant participation in the next census a complete certainty.

Even when slaves were only considered 3/5th of a person, Article I section 2 still instructed that they be counted along with all other persons regardless of citizenship. “This appears to be an attempt to skirt around the Constitution which mandates the ‘enumeration’ of all ‘persons’ as distinct from only ‘citizens’.” said Diego Bonesatti, the Michigan United Legal Services Director.  “This is why a dozen states, including New York and California, are suing to stop the the Department of Commerce from putting this question into Census 2020.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, without a hint of irony, that the move was being made to defend the voting rights act when clearly it would only exacerbate the effects of gerrymandering by further diluting the voting power in communities of color. Any gains Trump and his party may make politically will come at the cost of “flying blind”, making important policy decisions based on faulty and incomplete information for the next 10 years.

“This is clearly yet another way of fabricating a situation to deliberately keep people underwater.” said Michigan United board member Seydi Saar. “The effect will be to make sure marginalized people are underrepresented. As a result, at-risk communities of color will be short changed the important resources they need.”

That is why we at Michigan United believe a democracy functions best when it recognizes all people. Intimidating and erasing immigrants isn’t just immoral, it’s bad policy. The constitution calls for an accurate snapshot of the nation so that all of our decisions might be just. As the Bible reminds us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18)

Rep. Luis Gutierrez holds town hall with Dreamers in Southwest Detroit

Congressman takes stand for DACA recipients, immigrant families under attack

US Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL4) made several stops around Detroit Friday ahead of his keynote address at the People’s Governor Forum. First he went to the Central United Methodist church to meet the Rranxburaj family who has taken sanctuary there to avoid deportation. Next, he went to the Arab American museum in Dearborn where he discussed the fight against a Muslim ban with an audience from the predominantly Muslim community. His last stop was a El Nacimiento restaurant where he held a town hall meeting and sat on a panel with DACA recipients to talk about how the debate over the Dream Act would impact their lives and the lives of their families.

“You know what the ransom is. It’s not the wall. They offered him $25 billion dollars for the wall. He wants to end legal immigration to the United States of America.” Rep. Gutierrez told the audience in an opening statement. “They want us to pick and choose among ourselves… That is going to be unacceptable because we are going to stand and fight for this immigration system we have in the United States.”

Gutierrez said President’s Trump’s promise to “Make America great again” only serves to send America back into its dark past. “He wants to see women back in the kitchen; He’d like to see gay people go back in the closet. He’d like to see black people in the back of the bus and us, Latinos, ‘Just shut up. Don’t even exist. You’re nothing. You don’t get a vote.’ That’s what we’re confronting.”

IMG_8738Gutierrez sat with Xochitl Cossyleon and Maria Ibarra, two area DACA recipients, to field questions about the state of the Dream Act, proposed legislation that would make protections for immigrant youth permanent.

IMG_8730Ibarra sees an intersection between immigration and the criminal justice system. She wants to break down barriers between immigrant communities and other communities of color. “Divide and conquer is an actual tactic that works. So we have to be strategic and build relationships and understand that our fights and our plights are connected.”

IMG_8722Cossyleon feels it is important to continue to hold Democrats feet to the fire on the Dream Act. “You need to support us when it counts with your votes.” said Cossyleon. “If we can’t count on Democrats who say they are with us, then turn flakey when we need them the most, then what are we going to do?”

Immigration officials work through MLK holiday to break up family

Jorge Garcia deported, bids goodbye to wife, children

The battle to keep the Garcia family together ended early Monday morning at Detroit Metropolitan airport as Jorge Garcia complied with an deportation order. This, despite the national holiday commemorating civil rights icon, Martin Luther King Jr. and movement on congress for immigration reform to codify Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Recent comments about Haitians on the anniversary of the earthquake that struck the island have compelled the President to respond to charges of racism during the King holiday.

Jorge has been a Detroit resident for 30 years since his family brought him here at the age of 10. He was just 2 years too old to qualify for DACA, but has been a exemplary member of his community on a rollercoaster like odyssey to stay here. President Trump has asked for, and received a bipartisan plan to protect “Dreamers” protected by DACA and for comprehensive immigration reform that might help Jorge. Trump’s rejection of a clean Dream Act could scuttle hopes for passage of the federal budget, resulting in a painful government shutdown.

Garcia 3Jorge’s wife, Cindy was told he wouldn’t be allowed to return home for a decade. Still, she keeps hope alive that they will not be separated that long. “We’re going to pray and get him back fast, faster than this paperwork that gave him a 10 year bar.”

Cindy thanked every who got up before dawn to give much needed support, friends, activists and her union brothers and sisters. “I don’t see the justice in this.” said AJ Freer of UAW 600. “For a man who cares deeply and supports his family, obeys the law, pays taxes and has a history of helping others, I think ICE and the Federal Government of the United States acted cruelly to this family.” Bruised but unbowed, Freer vowed “Now we fight to get him back.”

Immigrant rights advocates speak out for laborers killed in fire

Tragedy in Novi only highlights injustice nationwide

District Judge Marianne Battani’s decision last Thursday not to hold a Novi man responsible for the deaths of five young men has immigrant rights advocates outraged. The Mexican laborers, aged 16-23, were living in Roger Tam’s basement when a fire broke out, killing them all. Judge Battani sentenced Tam to 9 months in jail for hiring the men but refused to punish him for the circumstances leading to their deaths. At a press conference Tuesday outside the Levin Federal Courthouse, representatives of LaSED, NAACP, the Congress of Communities and Michigan United pointed to the incident and outcome as evidence of a system that forces millions to live and work in abject conditions while not holding accountable those responsible.

Mary Carmen headshot 3“Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.” said Mary Carmen Munoz of LaSED. “Undocumented immigrants are being exploited and abused all across the country and the perpetrators are not being held accountable. “

SAM_1645The coalition is calling for safe working and living conditions, and a livable wage for all workers whether they are immigrant, American or undocumented. ““How sad is it that the lives of these five young people could be marginalized?” Said Donnell R. White, Executive Director of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP. “Today, we call on our justices and elected officials to move legislation to prevent this from happening again and to hold those responsible to the letter of the law when it does. Today we are united as one community and one voice.”

“We will not accept hateful and divisive politics that spread fear and lies about our immigrant families.” Said Consuela Lopez, Congress of Communities. “We want real protections for all workers Americans and immigrants alike.”

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Michigan United applauds nomination of Lawrence Garcia as Detroit’s next Corporation Counsel

Michigan United is pleased to learn that local attorney Lawrence Garcia has been nominated for the important post of corporation counsel.

Garcia has been an important voice in the Latino community for many years. He has shown great leadership as past president of the Michigan Hispanic Bar Association and has been an advocate on important civil rights issues. Garcia has spoken out for just immigration reform and against abuses such as immigration raids at schools. He and his firm have often volunteered as civil rights monitors at the polls in Southwest Detroit, ensuring that all members of the community are able to exercise their right to vote.  He also has the strong legal background and good values that this position demands.

Mayor Duggan has made a wise choice and Lawrence Garcia will make an able public servant.

New Christian, Muslim Coalition Launches with March

Coalition to focus on American traditions of diversity and religious freedom
Faith leaders and congregants from local Christian and Muslim communities took to the streets Sunday in a display of unity to uplift basic human dignity and counter recent attacks on refugees, Muslims and immigrants. “Neighbors Building Bridges” launched its campaign for interfaith and intercultural understanding with a march that began in Southwest Detroit at St. Gabriel’s Church, included the American Muslim Society in East Dearborn and ended at UAW Local 600.

Mario Hernandez hero“The Muslims of East Dearborn and the Christians of Southwest Detroit are neighbors who face many of the same challenges since the presidential election,” said Mario Hernandez, an immigrant parent fighting to stop his deportation. “But, working together with like-minded allies, we can strengthen our communities and work to overcome the racism and xenophobia that are ever present. We are people of faith who want to keep immigrant families like mine together and we see our adherence to faith as a way to combat bigotry and prejudice.”

The group, made of many people from different faiths and backgrounds, sees itself as being rooted in the great American traditions of diversity and religious freedom.

“When we look at the diversity of the people who make up our communities, we should be reminded that this nation was founded by immigrants many of whom were seeking the right to worship without persecution,” said Khalid Turaani, President of the American Muslim Leadership Council. “We are following the examples set in our respective faith traditions of welcoming the stranger and providing a place of refuge for those in need. It just so happens those are core American values as well. We want to be clear that refugees, immigrants and people of all faiths are welcome here.”
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Photo courtesy Chloe Michaels

Act now to protect the vote!

Tell Gov. Snyder to veto suppression laws

As we learned in grade school, our democracy works best when everyone has a voice. Somehow, many of our lawmakers never learned this lesson.

During their lame duck session, our state legislature has rushed through house bills 6066, 6067 & 6068, known to many as the Voter Suppression Legislation of 2016. Supposedly these bills would prevent in-person voting fraud, despite the fact that out of a billion votes cast  since the turn of the century, there have only been 31 cases of voter fraud NATIONWIDE. On the other hand, one study found that 11% of Americans don’t have identification that would allow them to vote under the proposed legislation. And those most at risk of disenfranchisement are the most vulnerable: the poor, seniors, new voters, people of color and people with disabilities.

If lawmakers really cared about voting, they would make it easier, not harder, by allowing automatic voter registration and early voting. If they were really concerned about restoring confidence in the system, they would replace outdated balloting technology. But instead, the outgoing session is trying to rig the system for partisan political gain.

Click here to tell Gov. Snyder to veto these bills

There’s still time to stop voter suppression. Governor Snyder can do the right thing and veto these anti-democratic bills. But this won’t happen without a powerful public outcry. CLICK HERE to sign the petition to stop these voter suppression bills.  When you do, you will send an email directly to the Governor that you can personalize to tell him why protecting the right to vote is so important to you.

And just like voting, petitions work best when everyone has a chance to voice their opinion. Please forward this email to all of your friends in Michigan. Time is short, but if just two of your friends forward it on to their friends, we can build the momentum needed to protect the right for everyone in the state to vote.

 Drive home the message with a phone call

Join our virtual phone bank on Facebook. Can you call once? Mark yourself as interested. Can you call three times? Mark yourself as attending. Are you awesome and want to call six or more times? Post on the page about how awesome you are.

CLICK HERE to RSVP and invite your friends on Facebook. Let’s keep up the pressure, keep the Governor’s phones ringing and his inbox filled until we know that everyone’s right to vote has been protected.

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.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to do about it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michigan United Goes Door to Door Seeking Racial, Economic Justice

Voters engaged on crucial issues months before historic election

Dozens of Michigan United members in Detroit and Kalamazoo spent Saturday morning directly engaging voters on two of the most crucial issues of the upcoming presidential election: racial and economic justice. It  was part of a “National Doorstep Convention” for racial and economic justice. The outreach effort was prompted by extremist rhetoric from the presidential campaign and violence against people of color and other marginalized communities.

“Bigotry is real. Mexicans and Muslims have been vilified on the campaign trail and people of color have been poisoned and imprisoned for profit. We can’t stand by and watch this happen,” said Shaina Smith. “We have a moral obligation to engage with people to confront these issues, to work toward a society where we are all safe and welcome. That is what this canvass is about.”

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Canvassers had no scripts just a general outline. This allowed them to have more open conversations about what is really on the minds of voters.

“We want to have honest conversations about what it means to live in a country with people of all colors, ethnicities, nationalities and religions. We are going door to door to put those issues out in the open” said LaTifah VanHorn.  “Communities of color face more environmental hazards like the expansion the US Ecology hazardous waste site on Detroit’s Eastside. Black and brown people are disproportionately locked up and then even after serving time, returning citizens are prevented from getting work. The reality of struggles on the ground and the divisive campaign rhetoric means we all need to step up.”