Tag Archives: Detroit

Federal court rules lawsuit against Marathon refinery may proceed

Residents will soon have day in court to address nuisance concerns

A US district court has rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought against Marathon Petroleum Corporation, clearing the way for a “Private Nuisance, Strict Liability and Negligence” lawsuit to proceed on behalf of residents of Southwest Detroit. Judge Sean Cox agreed with an earlier circuit court ruling that found there was “sufficient factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss.”

The suit essentially charges Marathon with nuisance claims including, but not limited to, odor issues and a negative impact on residents’ quality of life. The company bought out the homes of many residents in a predominantly white neighborhood, starting in 2011, when it expanded its refinery but but did not make the same offer to a black community that also borders its facility.

Impacted residents have been organized by Michigan United in their fight against the oil giant and are relieved by the news. “Having our lawsuit move forward is very uplifting.” said John Atkins, a lifetime resident in the heavily polluted 48217 zip code. “At least the court is willing to hear our story.”

With the motion to dismiss hurdle now successfully cleared, the next step is a conference with both parties scheduled for February 13, 2018 at 2:30 p.m.

“I’m glad about it,” said Lura Taylor, who lives on the street closest to Marathon. “We are going to push forward and go all the way.  We have God on our side.”

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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Officials, leaders, SNAP recipients outraged at cuts to program

Pending tax reform would deny children affordable, nutritional diet

As Congress rushes to pass a massive tax bill that gives billions to the large corporations and the wealthy, adding more than $1.4 trillion to the federal debt over 10 years in the process, local leaders and parents stood up to sound the alarm on how the tax bill will affect SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)  with massive cuts in funding.

In the Panel Discussion and Open Mic, State Representative Stephanie Chang (6-Detroit) encouraged SNAP recipients to speak about how the loss of SNAP will affect their lives.

Describing her experience while working as a student intern toward her degree as a Dietitian/Nutritionist, Shayna Danto explained, “As a student intern I was working full time but receiving no income, SNAP allowed me to eat. While using my SNAP benefits I  also discovered that the Program provided provisions to make greater use of SNAP while supporting the Detroit farming community. If a SNAP recipient buys food from a local grower the benefits are doubled. This is a double win. The local farming community benefits, and SNAP recipients eat healthy nutritious food.”

Mother of four and cancer survivor, Latasha Greer described her feelings. “ With Congress rushing to pass this cruel and inhumane bill, the reality of the SNAP Program being deeply cut petrifies me. In 2015, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. The treatments to cure my cancer left me so weak and sick that working was completely impossible. Our family of six was left to rely on only one paycheck. This is an impossible situation. We desperately need the SNAP Program to feed our family.”

Close to 70 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, more than one-quarter are in households with seniors or people with disabilities. If a parent loses her job or has a job that pays low wages, SNAP can help her feed her children until she is able to improve her circumstances. 93 percent of federal SNAP spending is for food.

Millions of Americans work in jobs with low wages, unpredictable schedules and no benefits such as paid sick leave, all of which contribute to high turnover and spells of unemployment.  SNAP provides monthly benefits that help fill the gaps for workers with low and inconsistent pay and can help workers weather periods without a job.  Workers who participate in SNAP most commonly work in service occupations, such as cooks or home health aides, or sales occupations, such as cashiers, which are often jobs with low pay and income volatility.

SNAP is heavily focused on the poor. 92 percent of SNAP benefits go to households with incomes at or below the poverty line, and 57 percent go to households at or below half of the poverty line (about $10,210 for a family of three in 2017).

Pontiac Councilman Kermit Williams also expressed outrage at the proposed restrictions to the program that provides important nutritional support for low-wage working families, low-income seniors, and people with disabilities living on fixed incomes.

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.

8 arrested in civil disobedience protesting end of DACA protections

Immigrant youth refuse to return to shadows, citizen allies reject white supremacy

Residents held a heartfelt and tearful rally in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park Tuesday as immigrant youth of Movimiento Cosecha called for solidarity with the 11 million people who are undocumented in the country and described how President Trump’s decision to rescind Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would impact their lives and families. Afterwards, they marched to Michigan avenue and Westnedge street where Eight citizen allies, who identify as white, were were arrested evening for blocking the intersection. The citizen allies used their white privilege in the act of civil disobedience to risk arrest in order to amplify the message of the risk that DACA & undocumented families make everyday to live in the United States.

Christine Lewis, co-Director of West Michigan Michigan United said, “For us as citizens who are white, we want to take up our responsibility to fight white supremacy; and that means taking risks,” Lewis said. “The point of the arrests was to show fellow white folks what it means to take action and invite people in.” It was one of many actions hosted across the state by Michigan United as they pushed for a legislative solution to the crisis Trump has created.

Nelly Fuentes of Moviemento Cosecha Kalamazoo and Pro-Kzoo said “This decision would be the height of cruelty: It’s an attempt to score political points by separating families and disrupting schools and workplaces across the country, it’s vile and the Kalamazoo community will not stand for blatant racist and cruel policy. We stand with all DACA recipients and the 11 million undocumented people living in this country.”

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Earlier at Rep. Dave Trott’s (R-MI 11) district office in Troy, Michigan, several DACA recipients spoke to a crowd of about a hundred gathered to urge the congressman to endorse legislation that would replace the popular program.  “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families and so many people want to see it continue, I don’t know why our President is listening to this tiny racist minority,” said Michigan United immigrant rights organizer and DACA recipient Adonis Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

That afternoon, another hundred protesters gathered outside Western International High School as the first day of classes let out. Many of the college plans of seniors in this predominantly immigrant community could be put on hold if a replacement isn’t found when the protections it offers expire in six months.

Alondra Alvarez, a 17 year old student at the school has many friends in this situation. “I am unafraid and stand up for those who feel they don’t have a say. DACA is something that has helped so many of my peers and it hurts to know my loved ones will be affected by this.”

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State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) also passionately described how DACA has helped young immigrants in Michigan. “Ending DACA without any guarantee of congressional action means these teachers, nurse, engineers students, first responders, members of the military are going to be ripped out of our communities and forced back into the shadows, facing at best an uncertain future and at worst potential deportation to a country they do not know.”

GR DACA heroshotBack across the state, Michigan United also took part in a vigil held in Grand Rapids at Rosa Parks Circle. The crowd of about 300 marched through the downtown until they reached Calder Plaza where they held a rally where several undocumented immigrants were able to speak. “DACA was the only thing we had.” said JP Palacios. “We had five years of progress and hope, only to see it revoked by politicians. It’s not only immoral, it goes against American values.”

Recent polling shows that most Americans support the Obama era executive action that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as minors. “DACA has done so much good for our immigrant youth and families. It has overwhelming support of both, Republicans and Democrats alike. So many people want to see it continue. Its unfortunate that this President is listening to a tiny racist minority, instead of the majority of Americans.” said Flores. “Thank God for checks and balances! The American Hope or Dream act would be better solutions anyway.”

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.

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

Nurses & Seniors Raise Alarm: Medicare Under Attack

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

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

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

Hear and download audio from the press conference here

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

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

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

Michigan community organizations push back against Sessions’ appointment

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

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

Hear and download audio from the press conference

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

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

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