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.
Vigil held in hope that God touch the heart of CEO to treat residents fairly
Under blustery, grey skies Thursday evening, the faithful gathered outside the Marathon Petroleum Corporation refinery in Southwest Detroit to pray for a release for those who live in the polluted conditions around the plant. As the chimney stacks of the coker belched smoke and flames that filled the night sky, area clergy delivered a message similar to Moses’: Let my people go.
“Opening my windows when it is warm outside is not an option for me,“ said lifetime resident John Atkins. “The refinery air smells horrible. Marathon should buy my home so I can enjoy the rest of my years.“
In 2012, the refinery underwent a $2.2 billion expansion. Marathon purchased the homes in the predominantly white neighborhood of Oakwood Heights. But despite the cries of the people, the corporation has refused to treat their black neighbors as fairly as they did their white neighbors.
Emma Lockridge, the Michigan United environmental justice organizer that spearheaded the vigil, almost didn’t go, having struggled all week with breathing issues. Lockridge went to the doctor with respiratory distress after filming a flaring incident at the refinery.
During the prayers, residents held white crosses that said ‘Exodus’ on the front with the names of friends and family impacted by the air pollution on the back. “We pray Marathon CEO Gary R. Heminger will act in a just manner and purchase our homes,“ Lockridge said. “It would be the righteous thing to do.“
Federal Judge advances contract over objections of city council
U.S. District Judge David Lawson ruled Friday that a 30 year contract with the Great Lakes Water Authority can go forward over the objections of the Flint city council. Many residents are understandably skeptical of the deal and resent the loss of autonomy of their elected officials.
“Forcing decisions onto the city government is exactly how the Flint Water crisis started!” said Michigan United activist Carly Hammond at a press conference Tuesday outside City Hall. “This contract was negotiated with the state’s best interests in mind, not the city of Flint and certainly not the residents.”
Lead leached into Flint’s municipal water supply in 2014 after a state appointed Emergency Manager ordered that the city switch from Detroit water system to the caustic Flint River in order to save money over the objections of the city council. State officials ignored residents complaints for years before the problem was documented. During that time, scores of people were also infected by the Legionella bacteria. Twelve of them died.
“We want the State and Federal Government to release Flint from the grasp of officials who have no incentive to treat the residents of Flint fairly.” Said Megan Kreger. “If we had been able to maintain authority over our own governance, thousands would not have been poisoned, and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars wouldn’t have been allocated to fix pipes.”
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.”
Local non-profit goes door-to-door, hit the pavement, signs up new voters
As part of National Voter Registration day, Michigan United canvassed door-to-door Tuesday in Southwest Detroit. Members of their civic engagement fellowship were looking for people who weren’t yet registered to vote in the predominantly Hispanic community.
Later that afternoon, Michigan United board member, Saydi Sarr led a group of volunteers on a trip to a high traffic location along Grand River Ave. looking for people who don’t typically vote.
Meanwhile, in Mt. Pleasant, MI, home of Central Michigan University, a team signed up college students, many of them voting for the first time in their lives.
At the end of the day, dozens of new voters were registered to kick off the campaign to grow our electorate before the October 11 deadline. Michigan United is committed to elevating the voices of new Americans, people of color and others who are often disengaged from the electoral process.
State just days away from losing $20 million in federal matching funds
Parents and their children stood their ground this afternoon as they demanded that Michigan’s Speaker of the House, Kevin Cotter put childcare funding on the agenda before it’s too late. Michigan stands to lose out on $20.5 million in federal matching funds if they fail to come up with qualifying plan of their own. The deadline is September 30th and Speaker Cotter has not yet responded to calls to address the issue in the days remaining in this session.
Parents took over Speaker Cotter’s office for a colorful demonstration featuring their kids’ stuffed animals and readings from childrens books.
“Our families are really suffering from the high cost of child care. Speaker Cotter is about to let $20 million that could help us slip through his fingers.” said Kiava Stewart, a mother of two from Detroit “Our kids should be his top priority.”
The parents were organized by Michigan United, a progressive, statewide group that recently took part in a national conference on childcare held in Lansing. They pointed to a report issued by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) that shows fewer and fewer children in Michigan are getting child care assistance through federal Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG). Today, only one in five children eligible for child care assistance in Michigan gets any help. Latino, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native children are even less likely to receive child care assistance.
“It’s inconceivable how our lawmakers continue to let this money slip through their fingers year after year when there are so many families who need this help right now.” said Amber York, who is also a mother of two from Detroit. “Time is short. They need to step up right now and show their commitment to improving outcomes our kids.”
Representatives Stephanie Chang and Harvey Santana announced the introduction of a bill Monday to restore drivers licenses for all in Michigan, including undocumented immigrants.
“Everyone deserves the right to drive and have ID. When you can’t get a license, your whole life is smaller. ” said Michigan United member Celia Martinez of Detroit. “Taking the kids to school is a terrifying risk. Getting medical care or even a library card is difficult or impossible. Michigan should welcome immigrants by bringing back drivers licenses for all.”
Licenses were stripped from undocumented drivers in Michigan in 2008.
12 states and Washington DC currently offer licenses to all, including the most recent additions of Illinois and California.
Providing drivers licenses to all would increase safety on our state’s roadways. Properly licensed, immigrant drivers will need to pass a drivers test, get insurance and pay registration fees. Overall, this would reduce accidents and increase tax revenues.
City commission running out of excuses to delay action on anti-discrimination plan
The Kalamazoo city commission has put off discussion of a ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance until they’ve received a report from the city attorney, Clyde J. Robinson. Earlier this week, Robinson met with ‘Fair Chances for All’ (FC4A), the Michigan United group that is pushing the commission to take up the rules preventing employees from inquiring about criminal records before hiring.
Before the next commission meeting Monday, FC4A will hold a press conference to detail what they discovered in their meeting with Robinson. FC4A members will also have another tailgate party leading up to the press conference that will include roasted meats and sidewalk art expressing their hope for their loved ones.
Once inside, FC4A members will keep up the pressure on the commission with a speakout and creative direct action during the public comment period.
WHAT: Press Conference detailing FC4A’s meeting with the Kalamazoo City Attorney and what this will mean for proposed ‘Fair Chances’ hiring ordinance.
Jerrin Yarbrough, Kalamazoo area student
Kendall Campbell, co-founder of Humans Beyond Boxes
Lisa Bloomberg, Kalamazoo resident
Amy Vliek, Director of Admissions WMU School of Social Work
WHEN: Monday May 2, 2016 6:00pm Tailgate & Chalk Up 6:30pm Press Conference 7:00pm City Commission Meeting with Speak Out & ACTION
WHERE: Kalamazoo City Hall, 241 W South St. Kalamazoo, MI 49007