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Progressive coalition announces candidate forum for 13th Congressional District

Hopefuls to appear June 9th at New Providence Baptist Church in Detroit

The congressional seat held by Rep. John Conyers, Jr. is open for the first time in over 50 years and his successor will be at the candidate forum hosted by Michigan United, SEIU Local 1, SEIU Healthcare, Nation Outside, Detroit Action Commonwealth, ABISA, The Women’s March of Michigan and the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity later this month. Candidates who have agreed to appear so far include state senators Ian Conyers & Coleman Young Jr., former state representative Rashida Tlaib, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones and Westland Mayor Bill Wild.

Participants will be faced with issues that constituents deal with every day in the 13th district including environmental protection with the Marathon refinery near Melvindale, Immigration reform and aggressive enforcement in Hamtramck and Southwest Detroit, Criminal Justice Reform and the impact it has on the job prospects of residents in Highland Park and protecting and expanding access to healthcare which affects everyone everywhere.

The People’s Candidate Forum for the 13th congressional district will be held at 2PM June 9th, 2018 in Detroit’s New Providence Baptist Church, 18211 Plymouth Rd., Detroit, Michigan 48228. Admission to the event is free but seating is limited so guests should register in advance to reserve a seat.

Cindy Garcia outraged over misrepresentation of reaction to husband’s deportation

Wife says loss of Jorge does not make America safer

The wife of Jorge Garcia, the man infamously deported on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, says a statement made during a recent CNN interview has been twisted around to make it appear as though she is somehow not upset that her family has been torn apart. Cindy Garcia said in her comment that she could not be mad at Trump for protecting Americans, but did so to contrast the fact that her husband has never posed a threat to anyone. Her true point was that Jorge had not broken a single law since he was brought to the United States at the age of 10.

“President Trump was not doing his job when he deported my husband. He was pandering to racists. I do NOT forgive President Trump for what he’s done to my family and I could not possibly be more angry with him right now!” Garcia now says. “Let me be clear. The president is not making America safer. He is a liar. What he IS doing is tearing families apart, families like mine. He’s taking good parents away from American children like mine.”

In the meantime, the Garcia family is working with the American consulate in Mexico to get a waiver of Jorge’s deportation and of the 10 year waiting period to reunite the family.

Pilgrimage to keep immigrant families together stops at ISKCON temple

Families of Cile Precetaj and Ded Rranxburgaj fight deportation to Albania

A 90 mile march from Detroit to Lansing in support of immigrant families in Michigan faced with deportation concluded its second day with a dinner at the ISKCON Temple in Farmington Tuesday. On Monday, the “Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together” left Central United Methodist Church where Ded Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary rather than be taken from his wife, Flora and two sons, Eric and Lorenc. Ded is the primary caregiver for Flora who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and relies on a wheelchair. He hasn’t been able to leave the church even when his Flora had to be taken to the hospital.

“This pilgrimage is about educating people about the broken immigration system and specifically shining the light on the Rranxburgaj family and their plight.” Said Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “People have no idea how immoral the system is that would separate a caregiver from his wife who has MS for 11 years. We will end at Lansing where we will meet with legislators to change the systems that oppress!”

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When the pilgrims arrived in Farmington, they met Mikey, Megan and Martina, the children of Cile Precetaj, an Albanian woman awaiting deportation in St. Claire County jail. Her kids had a message for Rebecca Adducci, the regional director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): “Please don’t destroy our futures. Give our mom back.”

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The Birmingham Temple has also been a comfort to immigrant families in distress. “For almost nine months our congregation has been helping a Syrian refugee family whose father was deported leaving mom and four young children behind.” Said Rabbi Jeffrey Falick. “Our original goal was to help them navigate their way to becoming Americans. This goal took a sad turn when this administration cruelly withdrew the family’s temporary protected status which allowed mom to work while they applied for asylum. This left the family with no income whatsoever. Since then our congregation has raised almost $10,000 which, together with funding from ACCESS and its donors, has kept the family alive. This sad story is all too typical of what is now happening in our country to people who sought nothing more than relief from the horrors of war.”

IMG_7319Farmington and Farmington Hills State Representative Christine Grieg (D-37) was inspired by the activism and encouraged the pilgrims to carry on. “Our community can lead the way to change. By showing the solidarity that we have here tonight, by taking it to the streets, by taking it to the polls, we can change the direction of the state and of the country.” Rep Grieg said.

The pilgrimage will begin again Wednesday as the group continues up Grand River Ave. towards New Hudson where they will next share stories over a potluck dinner in James F. Atchison Memorial Park.

Ded Rranxburgaj Sends Off Pilgrimage to Keep Families Together

Faith leaders march to Lansing, visit wife, Flora in hospital

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Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian immigrant, waved goodbye from Central United Methodist Church, where he has taken sanctuary from deportation, as Rev. Jill Zundel and other faith leaders began a nine-day march to Lansing on his behalf to ask the director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to grant Ded a Stay of Removal and stop separating families.

Rranxburgaj had been allowed to stay in the United States to take care of his wife, Flora, who has multiple sclerosis (MS), under immigration policies prior to the presidency of Donald Trump. As Trump enacted changes, Rranxburgaj was forced to take sanctuary at the church with his wife, Flora, and two sons.

Flora had planned to start the pilgrimage along with the family’s advocates but was hospitalized after becoming ill over the Mother’s Day weekend due to her MS. The first stop of the pilgrimage was visiting Flora at the hospital, where she is recovering.

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“It is so terrible that my wife is sick in the hospital, and I cannot be there with her. Every time she had to go to emergency over the past 11 years, I always went with her. But now, I cannot leave this church, and that is very hard,” said Rranxburgaj.

“This is the second time we have called 911 since they took sanctuary in January. Because ICE will deport Ded if he leaves the church, he cannot visit his wife in the hospital, so we must visit her for him. And that is what this pilgrimage to keep families together is about. Ded can’t march to Lansing for himself, so we must march for him,” said Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor of Central United Methodist Church, where Rranxburgaj has taken sanctuary. “They have taken away his freedom, and Flora’s dignity, so we must act for them.”

Dozens of supporters left the church to begin the 90-mile march to Lansing with signs in support of the Rranxburgaj family and ending deportations.

“I don’t know what I would do if my husband was deported. Who would take care of me? Who would take me to the hospital? I don’t know why ICE is doing this to me, to my family,” said Flora Rranxburgaj.

Supporters will make stops each day to tell the family’s story and show support for other immigrant families separated by deportation.

Immigrant Families & Advocates Press for Rights at May Day Rally

Coalition demands rights for all working families

Clark Park was the gathering site for a large coalition of groups calling for immigration reform on May Day, International Workers Day. Michigan United was part of the coalition that insists the rights of working families are crucial regardless of ethnicity, immigration status or national origin. Flora Rranxburgaj who has multiple sclerosis (MS) spoke at the rally. Flora is the wife of Ded Rranxburgaj who is her sole caretaker and the family’s breadwinner. Ded is also in sanctuary at Central United Methodist church as protection against his being deported and depriving his wife of care and their two teen sons of their father. Flora and the pastor at the church where Ded is in Sanctuary both spoke out about the role of local Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“I have been sick with MS for 11 years, and my husband takes care of me every day, said Flora whose immigrant husband is in sanctuary. “ICE is trying to split us apart and we are asking the director, Rebecca Adducci, for help. So far, she is still trying to split us apart. It is not right. This should not happen to any family.”

The Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor at the church that granted the family sanctuary, also spoke out about the necessity of keeping the family together. Rev. Zundel also made note of an upcoming march to fight for the rights of all endangered immigrant families.

“When our church saw that families were being separated by deportation, we decided to stand up and be leaders for unity!” said Rev. Zundel. “We have fought hard for the Rranxburgaj family, but so far ICE is still trying to tear them apart. We know that can’t happen, for Flora’s sake, so we will keep fighting.  We also know that they aren’t the only ones being torn apart by ICE, so we will keep fighting until we can keep all families together! On Monday, May 14, we will begin a march across Michigan to Lansing, a march to keep families together. Please join us!”

Rep. Hoadley, Sen. O’Brien honored as 2018 Care Champions

State Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) and State Sen. Margaret O’Brien (R-Kalamazoo) were announced as Care Champion awardees by Caring Across Generations, a national care giving advocacy campaign.

Rep. Hoadley was recognized for being the chief sponsor of the Long-Term Care Study Bill (HB 4674) which would do a rigorous needs assessment of long-term care in Michigan, so that we have the research necessary to make informed decisions around long-term care in a state whose population is aging rapidly. The bill has bipartisan support and over forty co-sponsors, including Rep. Hoadley, who gave testimony on it during a hearing in the Health Policy Committee in the fall of 2017.

Senator O’Brien was recognized due to her support for in-home caregivers and families providing care, such as care for children, elderly parents or disabled family members. In particular, her bill, SB 749, passed in the Senate in 2018 to allow, beginning in tax year 2018, a Michigan income tax credit for dependent care that mirrors the one offered at the federal level.

“More and more families are struggling with how to care for our loved ones while making ends meet, but our policies are lagging far behind the reality of what Americans need,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations. “Luckily, we have care champions like Rep. Hoadley and Senator O’Brien, who are showing us what is possible when principled leadership is coupled with bold policy solutions. We need more elected officials like Rep. Hoadley and  Senator O’Brien to call for making our care infrastructure strong enough for the 21st century.”

“For years, Rep. Hoadley and Senator O-Brien have been legislators we can count on to support the Caring Majority. We’re pleased to be able to honor Rep. Hoadley and Senator O’Brien for their work, and look forward to continuing to work together to ensure that all of us who need care and all of us who provide that care get the support we need,” said Ryan Bates, Executive Director of Michigan United, a partner of Caring Across Generations in Michigan.

“I am excited and honored to accept this award on behalf of all of the folks who are doing work to protect the Caring Majority,” says Rep. Hoadley. “The Long-Term Care Study Bill is both the right thing to do for our citizens and taxpayers of Michigan. I hope we can continue to build momentum to sign this bill into law.”

People of Flint demand continued water distribution

State shows it values corporate profits over public safety

Residents, outraged by the announced end of water distribution in Flint and insulted by the Nestle water giveaway days earlier, spoke out Monday to tell how the decision would affect them and present solutions to guarantee everyone can get water they can trust. They reject the idea that every house has safe water because a small sample was under the threshold for lead when thousands of homes still have lead service lines. “And Lead is not the only problem.” Said Michigan United organizer, LaShaya Darisaw. “Legionella bacteria was responsible for a dozen Flint deaths. We need to test for bacteria and other contaminants in all homes before we even consider ending water distribution.”

SAM_1801Tony Paciorek is one Flint resident who depends on water distribution for his daily needs. “It takes 3 bottles of water to make my coffee. 4 if I want oatmeal.” Paciorek said he’d have to pay about $2.67 a gallon for the bottled water after Nestle marks up the price 70,000%. “This is a clear example of how the economy is rigged in favor of the wealthy and their corporations. Those who can least afford it pay the most for water while companies like Nestle practically get it for free.”

Michigan United is calling for a boycott of all Nestle products until everyone in Flint has safe water. Nestle produces Perrier, Poland Springs, Pure Life & Pellegrino bottled waters and other drinks such as Nescafe, Nesquik and Nestea. They also make dog foods like Alpo, baby food like Gerber and adult foods like Hot Pockets and Haagen Dazs.

SAM_1817Monica Galloway, one of several Flint city councilmembers to oppose ending water distribution stood with those affected. “For Governor Rick Snyder to end water distribution in Flint is injustice that clearly demonstrates that inequity and inequality still exist in America.” said Galloway. “This is not about a handout from the State this is about the state righting a wrong.”

Besides continued water distribution and reversing the Nestle deal, Michigan United is calling for a state budget that includes money designated for water testing, Medicaid expansion to cover everyone who has lived or worked in Flint since 2014, and an end to the Emergency Manager Law that led to the water crisis.

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?”

Gutierrez, Dingell and Lawrence visit immigrant family in sanctuary

Representatives call for stay of removal to keep Rranxburgaj family together

Three members of Congress visited an immigrant facing deportation, Ded Rranxburgaj, and his wife, Flora Rranxburgaj, this afternoon at Central United Methodist Church, where the Rranxburgaj family has taken sanctuary from deportation. They were joined by Cindy Garcia. The Congresspeople and Garcia met with the family and church leaders, publicly asking ICE to give Ded a Stay of Removal.

“The Rranxburgaj family’s story shows us just how broken this immigration system is,” said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL4). “Ded Rranxburgaj has tried to get legal permanent status and he is an asset to his community and his family and should be able to get status here.  But instead, our immigration bureaucracy and deportation machine are undermining American families and communities.  ICE should grant him a Stay of Removal, at the very least. His family needs him.”

“We need to have comprehensive immigration reform,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI12) who represents the Downriver Detroit area where the Rranxburgaj family has lived for the past 14 years. “This is a family that is being torn apart. Flora’s Multiple Sclerosis requires that someone provide intensive care for her every single day, and that person is Ded. He has been trying to gain legal status for years, and we must have processes that deal with very human situations like this. I am committed to working with Congressman Gutiérrez and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

“The immigration system that we have here in the United States is broken. We must take action where needed to build a system that truly defines our country as a nation of immigrants,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI14). “Ded is a man who has lived here for 17 years, worked hard, paid his taxes, cared for his family, and does not represent a threat to society. Families like the Rranxburgaj’s need to have an avenue to get legal permanent status. Until we find a comprehensive fix, ICE must grant Ded a Stay of Removal.”

“We have been here for 45 days, and every day is terrifying,”  said Ded Rranxburgaj.  “Just two weeks ago, my wife Flora had a medical emergency and we had to call 911. An ambulance took her to the hospital and she had to go to the hospital with volunteers, since the boys were at school.  I had to stay here. That was really difficult.  I can’t imagine how ICE expects me to abandon her here. She would be alone, struggling. This is what MS is and my wife needs me. My family needs me. I vowed before God to take care of her in sickness and in health, and I will not abandon her.”

“I am very appreciative of all the people from the church who have taken care of us and who have written letters to ICE, asking them to not rip our family apart,” said Flora Rranxburgaj. “It would be a death sentence for me if they deport my husband. I need him and it is too horrible to think about if they deport him.”

“I am glad that Representatives Lawrence, Dingell, and Gutierrez have stepped up to support this family,” said Rev. Jill Zundel, pastor of the church. “I wish we’d see this sort of leadership from all of Michigan’s elected officials. This family and our church are being leaders in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform, and any representative who wants a solution to our broken immigration system should be looking to Ded and Flora’s courage and vision for guidance.”

“Deportation is never a solution. It only creates more problems,” said Cindy Garcia, whose husband’s deportation on MLK Day, January 16th, creating waves of disgust across the U.S.  “When they deported my husband, it devastated me and my children, and that is having a ripple effect in our community. ICE is targeting people who should not be deported, good family-oriented people who are needed in their communities. The Rranxburgaj family needs to stay together, and so do all immigrant families. There should be a pathway for people like us to apply for citizenship, and that pathway doesn’t exist right now.” Garcia is using her situation to create a non-profit to assist families who are being torn apart by deportation.

“The Albanian Community stands behind the Rranxburgaj family, and we appreciate the support of Central United Methodist Church and Congresspeople Gutierrez, Lawrence, and Dingell,” said Father Ndue Gjergji, priest of Our Lady of Albanians Catholic Church in Southfield. “We hope that ICE can see how terrible it would be to tear this family apart, and choose to keep them together instead.”

The Rranxburgaj family, originally from Albania, has been living in the United States for 17 years. During those years, Ded has worked tirelessly at a local restaurant and in construction to support his family. His older son, Lorenc, attends the University of Michigan Dearborn, and his younger son, Eric, attends Southgate High School. His wife, Flora, fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis 11 years ago, and Ded takes care of her. They have been living in the church for 45 days, since they declared sanctuary on January 17th, 2018.