Members of the West Michigan Coalition for Immigration Reform gathered the day after President Trump’s State of the Union address to react to the proposed policies he presented. Trump wants to make aid for immigrant youth known as “Dreamers” to be dependent on increased border security and reduced legal migration. Advocates who spoke Wednesday at the Iglasia Misionaera de Cristo church disagree.
“We want a clean Dream Act, separate from the rest of President Trump’s immigration reforms.” said Rev. Justo Gonzalez. “As a man of faith, I stand on the side of justice. While we applaud the president’s path to citizenship for these young people, we are concerned that it will be done on the backs of other immigrants.”
While the President’s proposal increases the number of eligible participants under the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program from about 800 thousand to 1.8 million, the path to citizenship would take more than a decade to complete. At the same time, opportunities for family reunification would be reduced by preventing American citizens and Legal Permanent Residents from sponsoring their parents and adult children to get family visas, despite the long arduous process that often takes years or decades. In addition Trump is seeking to end the diversity visa lottery that offers a limited number of visas from countries that don’t normally immigrate to the U.S.
“We need to stop being afraid of speaking out.” said Daniel Corecheo, one of the many DACA recipient in danger of losing protections before the program expires completely in March. “We have been afraid to speak out up until now. We have been afraid of losing the little that we have, but if we don’t stand up now, we will lose everything.”
Trump’s rejection of bipartisan compromise results in shutdown
Both of Michigan’s US Senators have sided with immigrant youth in the federal budget battle. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, after much pressure and consideration, have decided not to support a budget resolution that does not include protections for “Dreamers”, undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children by their parents. The DREAM Act, an amendment that would codify protections offered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, is popular among the overwhelming majority of Americans, but sadly, not with Republican leadership in the House, Senate nor the Oval Office.
Despite having publicly said “Bring me a deal. I’ll sign it. I’ll take the heat.”, President Trump has twice rejected bipartisan deals brought to him. This is because he has deferred to extremists in his party who would not accept the DREAM Act under any circumstances. As a result, the GOP has decided they would rather shut down than government than accept any compromise
It wasn’t until hours before the deadline for the government shutdown that Sens. Peters and Stabenow conceded how futile negotiations had become. What would another month extension change for the extremists who won’t accept a bipartisan compromise?
We at Michigan United commend Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Gary Peters for choosing to stand with immigrant youth and their families and against racist policy. We look forward to the day that our nation’s leaders come to their senses and we can agree to reopen the government and restore protections for immigrant youth.
Groups from across nation converged on five most racist opponents
The fight to include legislation to protect immigrant youth reached a fever pitch Thursday as 25 people decided to be arrested rather than quietly allow Dreamers to slip back into the shadows to live in fear of deportation again. Member organizations of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) sent activists to the offices of the five most racist opponents of the Dream Act, legislation that would codify Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals (DACA).
A 20 person strong delegation went into the office of Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) to insist he end his opposition to the widely popular, bipartisan DREAM ACT. When they were told a meeting could not be arranged at that time, the delegation began a sit-in protest. Capitol police moved them into the hallway where they began chanting outside Sen. Cotton’s door. When they were told to disperse, five people held their ground and continued to speak out until they were arrested.
Arkansas resident, Gabriel Lopez along with four allies from Michigan United and Cosecha, Rosa Fraga, Lorena Aguyo-Marquez, Patrick Wigent and Kathleen Underwood were taken into custody but soon released and fined. Although his staff claimed they couldn’t schedule a meeting before the five were arrested, Sen. Cotton agreed to meet with DACA recipients from Arkansas by the time they got out.
“I’m doing this because Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders fought for my rights and now it’s my duty to fight for the civil rights of others like the Dreamers.” said Fraga. “If we don’t get a clean Dream Act here, a lot of young immigrants are going to lose out on jobs and educational opportunities before March.” She said of the final day of the DACA program. “But even though it’s really popular, our congresspeople don’t seem to want to give it to us. That’s why we’re here. To stand up for the people and give voice to the voiceless.”
“Republicans control Congress and the white house it’s their responsibility to govern and represent their constituents.” said Aguayo-Marquez “The overwhelming majority of Americans, over 80%, support a DREAM Act bill, including more than 60% of Trump voters. It’s time for Congress to do the right thing and pass a clean DREAM Act. Everyday that goes by more families that would qualify get separated, like the Garcia family. Congress must stop caving in to the demands of the most extreme white supremacists and actually do what the Majority of Americans want, which is to pass a clean DREAM Act and pass a budget to keep the government open. That’s why I am risking arrest.”
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.
Jorge’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.”
Come with us to Washington DC as we march for the DREAM Act and urge Congress to include it in the budget on December 6th. The budget must pass by December, 8 in order to avoid a government shutdown. Therefore, we must make sure that the budget includes a clean DREAM Act. This march is our last chance to ensure that a clean DREAM Act is included in the budget.
Buses depart the afternoon of Tuesday, December, 5 and return on the morning of Thursday December, 7. We have delegations leaving from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Detroit. Click here to save your seat on the bus
Urge Rep. Trott to advance DREAM Act in congress to protect youth
Dozens of people, many in traditional dress, gathered outside the district office of Representative David Trott (R-MI 11) Monday morning to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to urge the congressman to help his constituents who will be at risk when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires.
“We come together as family, friends, love ones. All are welcome.” said Tim Seneca, a native American of the Chippewa Potawatomi tribe. “Just as you have thanksgiving all the family comes over. No one is separated. Everyone should be welcome in this country.”
As currently written, the DREAM Act would extend Obama era protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants who were brought to America in their youth. Since House Speaker Paul Ryan is in no hurry to advance the issue, the group wants Rep. Trott to sign a discharge petition. The maneuver would bypass the Speaker and bring the bill to the floor for debate and a vote.
“This is a small part of immigration reform but it has energy. It has promise.” said Steve Spreitzer of the Michigan Roundtable. “We have to move past the racialization of immigration. The comments made about Mexican people during the campaign can’t be dismissed. We have to stand against that and stand with our neighbors who are dreamers.”
One of those neighbors, Maria Cervantes was brought here as a child by her grandmother. She has DACA protection now but says she’s afraid for what the future might bring. “You always live with the fear that you could be separated from your family. I’m here to support the DREAM Act because I want to live without fear and to have a better life.”
The rally concluded with everyone writing a note on a colored strips of paper explaining why the DREAM Act is important to them. The messages were strung together in a chain and carried to the office which was closed because of the national holiday. Together, Seneca and Cervantes passed it through the mail slot for Trott’s staff to find in the morning.
(Photo courtesy Natalie Gallager)
If you stand with the dreamers, call your representative today and tell them to sign the discharge petition for the DREAM act. If you live in Michigan’s 11th district, you can reach Rep. Trott at 202-225-8171.
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.
Immigrant rights Coordinator, Michigan United
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
Michigan United joins a strong roster of service and faith organizations at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, to begin the work of advocacy under the new paradigm that Tuesday’s election has brought to the community.
A wide range of civil rights, community and religious leaders in metro Detroit announced today they will work to defend the rights of immigrants and minorities under the presidency of Donald Trump through a series of programs and efforts that include legal action, sanctuary houses of worship and possibly civil disobedience.
Speaking in one of Detroit’s oldest Protestant congregations, Central United Methodist Church, the groups also gathered to express solidarity with Latino students at Royal Oak Middle School who were taunted last week by chants of “Build the Wall,” which Trump often used during the campaign.
Alicia Ramon, the mother of the Latina student who recorded the chants, called for an end to racism, saying that Latino, African-American and Asian-American students at Royal Oak Middle School have been subjected to repeated hate incidents over the past year. Minority students have had to deal with racist insults against them, including one once made over the intercom system, she said.
“Racism, bigotry is unacceptable in our country, in our state, in our schools” said Ryan Bates, who leads Michigan United, an advocacy group. “This country is beautiful because we are a multicultural democracy. No one should come first. No one should come last because of what color they are, when your family came here, or how they pray.”
Bates also called for resistance to Trump’s plans to deport millions of undocumented immigrants.
“Mass deportations and roundups that can break apart families are inhumane, un-American, a moral monstrosity and an economic calamity,” Bates said. “And we are going to fight it every inch of the way.”
“We are going to resist the deportations. We are going to fight for our communities.”
About 100 people joined Bates on stage at the Detroit church near Comerica Park, which is known for its history of activism. They included advocates with the ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, ACCESS (formerly the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services), the UAW, and the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Cindy Estrada, a vice president with the UAW, called for fighting bias, and also fighting for economic justice, saying the election results are a sign many are unhappy with the economic status quo. She said she’s heard about some students getting excited that Trump’s win will lead to deportation of immigrants.
“There is so much fear among children,” said Estrada.
Estrada said labor and other organizers need to transform the fear into action.
“How do we take that anger and sadness and fear and really turn it into action,” Estrada said. “This is an opportunity for us to engage again, and to make sure we change this country so that all children have a home … are welcome.”
At the same time, Estrada expressed sympathy for Trump voters.
“There are so many people out there that voted for Donald Trump because they’re tired of the status quo,” Estrada said. “And we just got to talk to those people, and educate them and help them understand … focus on the real issues and not turn against each other.”
“We have to hold our leaders accountable,” Estrada said, praising Bernie Sanders. “The system we live in right now, it doesn’t work for our country. .. When 1% owns 50% of our cumulative wealth, we need to take our country back.”
But, she added, “we don’t have to fight hate with hate … it’s about fighting hate with love.”
Ramon, the mother of the student who recorded the “Build the wall” chants, said “hate and racism should not be tolerated and should not be accepted.” Ramon said the chants last week were the latest in a string of racist incidents at the Royal Oak school targeting minority students. “Our kids deserve to feel safe, and it’s our responsibility and our obligation to make sure that they are,” she said.
Ramon said she wants to work with “the school in helping to create a dialogue and a change, so that this message can go to communities across America … we can make a change and be that change we need to see in our communities.”
In an e-mail sent late Friday to the Free Press about the chants, Royal Oak District Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said that “staff responded when the incident occurred. Adults not pictured in the video directed the group of students, who were saying ‘Build the wall,’ to stop.”
Protesters in Royal Oak march against Trump and bigotry
The Rev. Ed Rowe, previous pastor at Central United, and current cochair of Methodist Federation for Social Action, called upon houses of worship to be sanctuaries that can accept undocumented immigrants who need protection from deportation.
“Open up the sanctuary,” Rowe said, for those “whose very lives are in danger.”
“Resist evil and oppression,” Rowe said of Trump’s proposals.
Sergio Martinez, an undocumented immigrant who spoke in the church, said he was initially nervous about Trump’s win, but is heartened by the support of many in Detroit.
Nadia Tonova, the director of the National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC), a project of ACCESS, said that Arab Americans will not “hide in the shadows” under a Trump presidency.
“This is our country, too. … We are fully Americans.”
Bates also spoke up for those who might get their health insurance benefits cut under plans to rescind the Affordable Care Act, often known as Obamacare. He said his newborn baby was born premature, which many times used to lead to health insurance companies cutting health benefits.
“We fought like hell for him for four months in the hospital,” said Bates, his baby on stage held by his wife. “We’re going to fight like hell for years in the halls of Congress.”
Imam Mohammad Elahi, religious leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom of Dearborn Heights, called for an end to extremism, ending the program with a prayer.