Tag Archives: undocumented

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)

Hundreds of Letters to ICE: Save Rranxburgaj Family

Colorful copies of written pleas tied to ICE fence in face of agency’s silence

Supporters of an Albanian American family currently in sanctuary in a Detroit church delivered more than 700 letters to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office on Jefferson. The letters ask that ICE officials grant a Stay of Removal to Ded Rranxburgaj (RAHNS-bur-guy), the sole caregiver to his wife, Flora who is stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. The illness has confined Flora to a wheelchair. Copies of the letters on colored paper were left on the agency’s fence in the face of ICE’s stony silence in response to the hundreds of people asking that the Rranxburgaj family to be spared.

“We’ve received letters from children as young as 6, and people as old as 92,” said Caitlin Homrich-Knieling, organizer at Michigan United, “We’ve received letters from people from all over the world, from Christians, Muslims, and Jews. From brain surgeons, teachers, and high schools students. It’s been incredible seeing how everyone supports this family, and wants them to stay together.”

Among the letters were pleas for the Director of the Detroit ICE Field Office, Rebecca Adducci, to “open her heart” and “do what’s right,” quotes from the Statue of Liberty, and personal stories from people whose loved ones have MS.

 “Like Flora, my son Josh has MS,” said the letter from Pastor Alan Casillas, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Imlay City, “MS is a terrible disease that steals away a person’s mobility. As a father who has a son with MS, I cannot imagine being deported and leaving my son to fend for himself or leaving him in the care of others. I can only imagine how scary the thought of being deported must be on Ded, Flora, Lorenc, and Eric.”

Photo courtesy Cherie Horrigan-Happy
Photo courtesy Cherie Horrigan-Happy

“Rebecca Adducci must give Ded a stay of removal, it’s the only moral thing to do.” said Rev. Jill Zundell, Pastor of Central United Methodist Church. “It has been 8 weeks that the family has been living in sanctuary, and it has been very, very hard on them. Every day that passes, Ded wonders if ICE is going to force him to abandon his wife and sons. But they deserve, like any American family, to be free and to have peace. Especially in their time of need, while Flora’s MS is getting worse. What ICE is doing, continuing to threaten Ded’s deportation, isn’t right. The Field Director of ICE, Rebecca Adducci, has the opportunity right now to be the light in their time of darkness by giving Ded a Stay of Removal. If she doesn’t, ICE is heartless.”

An immigrant facing deportation, Ded Rranxburgaj declared sanctuary at Central United Methodist Church, along with his wife, in January. 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. Flora, fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis 11 years ago, and Ded has cared for her ever since.

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Church offers sanctuary to immigrant, vows to shelter woman from deportation

Community rallies to keep family together

Members of the First Congregational church in Kalamazoo stood with their pastor and other community leaders to announce they would offer sanctuary in their church to Saheeda Perveen Nadeem on the day she was supposed to be deported to Pakistan. Saheeda will live in the church until her advocates can arrange a stay of removal from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Saheeda‘s 20 year old son, Samad will be protected under the DACA program until 2019, but If she is deported, he will have to move to a country he’s never been to before or she will have to find a way to support herself without any help from family.

“My mother is a very integral part of the Kalamazoo community. Through her ongoing work with some of the most vulnerable members of this community she has shown that not only does she consider this her home, but she contributes to it many times over.” said Samad. “This deportation would not only be a great personal loss but a crippling blow to Kalamazoo as a whole.”

Saheeda left Pakistan as a teenager to find work in Kuwait. She came to America with her husband and two young children. Since then, Saheeda has divorced. Her daughter , Lareb died in a tragic car accident and is buried in a Kalamazoo graveyard that she visits every day. Saheeda has worked as a full time caregiver at Community Living Options and Bethany Christian Services.

“ICE may exercise its discretion to continue to allow Ms. Nadeem to remain in the United States as they have since 2012.” said the family’s immigration attorney, Bradley Maze. “She continues to be a law-abiding, productive and valued member of the community, so there is no reason why ICE should suddenly determine that she no longer merits the exercise of discretion moving forward. This is inhumane, bad policy which is detrimental to the wider community.”

“We have no doubt what Jesus would have us do.” said Rev. Nathan Dannison, Senior Minister of the First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. “In the 1850s our congregation boldly defied the Fugitive Slave Act and sheltered Americans fleeing the terrorism of slavery. Today, we will honor this history by continuing to stand on the side of the Gospel, on the right side of history, with the children of God.”

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.

Grand Rapids immigrant rights advocates respond to SOTU address

A clean Dream Act must be the focus

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.”

Michigan Senators stand with immigrant youth, vote against budget without DREAM Act

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.

Michigan activists among 25 arrested in Washington DC for a clean Dream Act

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.”

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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