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.”
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.
DETROIT – Nearly 20 civil rights and Faith based organizations are coming together to condemn recent racist attacks on immigrants and vowing to act on behalf of undocumented immigrants.
The organizations involved said they’ve fielded calls from residents fearing backlash following last week’s presidential election and worried about what they believe will be mass deportations in the future.
Sergio Martinez is one of an estimated 100,00-150,000 immigrants in Michigan illegally. He fears his days as a Detroiter are numbered.
“We are not about violence,” Martinez said. “I’m not about looting, but we will do everything we can to protect our families.”
President-elect Donald Trump vowed to bring stronger immigration enforcement, starting with people who are in the country illegally and who have criminal records.
“Gang members, drug dealers, a lot of these people, 2 maybe 3 million people,” Trump said. “We are getting them out of our country.”
Immigrants rights organizations doubt it is only a purge on criminals.
“We reject the notion you can slice and dice the community into good immigrants and bad immigrants,” Randy Bates, of Michigan United, said.
They are seeking congregations willing to provide sanctuary to immigrant families in threat of deportation, and volunteer attorneys to defend them.
“We are getting calls, emails from lawyers, law students, college students, nuns, imams, pastors and hundreds of others who are saying this is not what America is about, and we are here to help you,” Ruby Robinson, of the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center, said.
“There’s no place for racism, especially in our schools,” Alicia Ramone said.
Immigrants hope Trump will put his words of reconciliation over the weekend into action, but they are taking action of their own. They are planning a “know your rights” town hall for the immigrant community this weekend.
Anyone who is concerned about being in danger of deportation, wants to learn their rights or find out more about the recruitment of attorneys can click here to learn more.
The community is rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.
Activists and community minority groups are rising up against a string of racist incidents, happening days following the presidential election.
“Last week a Muslim woman at the University of Michigan was approached by a white man, he told her ‘Take off your hijab or I’ll let you on fire,'”said Ryan Bates, Michigan United.
One man, South Asian, found a swastika on his door and the words “Trump: make America great again.”
Community groups unite after string of racial incidents post-election
Then there was the video taken last week in the Royal Oak Middle School cafeteria, a group of students chanting “build the wall” The mother of the Hispanic student who took the now viral video, say the students who started the chant, passed notes to the Hispanic students, letting them know what time the chanting would start.
“She sent me the text message with the video and crying emojis saying ‘I’m scared,’ said Alicia Ramon.
Michigan United, the UAW, access and others joined together Monday for the press conference. More than a dozen civil rights and faith groups stood together at Central United Methodist church, vowing to work together against racism, and keep families safe for years to come.
Among those facing prejudice and tension, Michigan United estimates there are between 100,000-150,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan alone.
“The biggest thing I want for my community immediately is to let them know that they should not be scared,” said Sergio Martinez of Michigan United. “If they are scared, we meet at churches so they can discuss their rights.”
All these people share the common goal to stop the tension before there’s more violence.
Ramon, at first, was scared for her daughter’s safety, when she posted the video.
“She felt like she was maybe not doing the right thing,” Ramon said. “She was afraid when she did it. But she knew she had to do that and she had to show people what was going on.”
Michigan United and other groups plan on holding more events like this until the tension eases.
Pending legislation in Lansing would restore driving privileges for thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Michigan
The Kalamazoo County Commission passed a resolution Tuesday night in support of restoring driving privileges for undocumented immigrants living in Michigan. House Bills 5940 and 5941, dubbed the ‘Drivers Licenses for All’ bills, were introduced in September by Michigan State Representatives Harvey Santana (D), Dave Pagel (R), and Stephanie Chang (D).
30 members of Michigan United attended the Commission meeting to support the resolution. One of them, Kim Hilton, a chemistry professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, weighed in before the commission’s vote. “I’m not sure why it is that just by me being born here and someone else not being born here, I somehow get treated as more of a human being,” said Hilton. “It’s like having a group of hardworking students in a classroom, and making one group move to the back where they can’t really hear what you’re saying. They’re just as smart, just as eager to learn, just as capable, but now you’ve made it much, much harder for them to do what all the students are working to do.”
Nelly Fuentes, an organizer with Michigan United told the commission “I invite you to recognize these values in yourself and vote in favor of the resolution that will give immigrants the opportunity to drive to their places of worship, drive their children to school, drive to their places of employment, and drive to local businesses making Kalamazoo’s economy stronger.”
Michigan used to allow undocumented residents to have driver’s licenses until 2008 when Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land reversed the policy. There are currently over 600 thousand immigrants in the state of Michigan, roughly 120 thousand of them are undocumented, many of which work in Michigan’s $100 billion dollar a year agriculture industry.
Despite the bipartisan origin of the ‘Drivers Licenses for All’ bills, the commission voted 6-5 in a straight party line vote, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. After the vote, County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman expressed his disappointment. “Immigration is not a partisan issue, and making it a partisan issue only leads to disaster,” said Wordelman. ”The sooner we can decouple this issue from partisanship, the better. I hope we can start to have constructive conversations. But what I would like to see in coming days and years is Democrats and Republicans coming together on this issue.”
“In this political climate, we need more than ever to remember what it means to love one another,” said Lizbeth Fuentes, a member of Michigan United. “If you are a person of Christian faith, I invite you to ask yourself What Would Jesus Do if it was in his hands to help his foreign neighbor?”
Mayor’s office works with community groups to promote “Detroit-ID”
Michigan United and a host of other community groups launched a series of community events called “ID’s For All,” to promote “The D-ID” card that the city will issue in mid-November. On Friday, dozens of Detroit residents attended the event with many questions about the soon to be available municipal IDs. They wanted to know who qualifies, as well as how, when and where to apply. Most of these residents have difficulties getting a state ID and were very enthusiastic about the prospect of applying for a city identification.
One of those residents was a mother who has lived in the city for 16 years and had a terrible experience at a local clinic due to the lack of a state ID. “This week I went to a local clinic and they refused to give me treatment because my Michigan ID is expired, even though I was ready to pay for the full cost of care.” said Bertha Aviles “It has been impossible to renew my ID and there are thousands of people in the city who have difficulty getting a state ID. We are all humans and deserve to be treated when we are sick. This should not happen to anyone and I am hoping that the new Detroit IDs will help prevent this situation from ever happening again.”
Although it was designed specifically for residents who have difficulty getting a state ID (such as youth, the elderly, returning citizens, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ and homeless communities), all Detroit residents, 14 years old and older, will be eligible to apply.
ACCESS, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote), the International Institute and Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development (LA SED) are also hosting information sessions on the new municipal ID program. If you have questions about the new ID or would like to find out how to apply, please come to one of the following events near you.
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.
Advocates for undocumented immigrants say a Supreme Court decision hurts millions of families in the U.S.
In a tie vote, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that blocked the president’s executive order on immigration.
President Obama wanted to stop deportations of undocumented parents with legal resident children.
Attorney Ruby Robinson is with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. Robinson says undocumented residents of the U.S. live with tremendous day-to-day insecurity and fear.
“Every day when that (undocumented) parent goes to work or the child goes to school, there is no guarantee that the parent will be in the house when that child returns,” says Robinson.
And he says everyone, not just immigrants, stood to gain from the executive order.
“We don’t want children to grow up in the United States without parents, we don’t want them to be reliant on social services safety nets if a parent is deported. We want families to be together,” he says.
Robinson says there are about 60,ooo undocumented parents in Michigan who would have benefited from the president’s order.
He hopes the case comes before the Supreme Court again next year, after a ninth justice will be appointed.
Vacancy on bench allows decision to be revisited when court at full strength
On a press call in response to the Supreme Court’s tied decision in the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) case, Michigan immigration reform leaders urged the community to head to the polls in November. The decision in the case of USA v. Texas addressed President Obama’s DAPA program which would have granted protection from deportation and a work permit to up to five million undocumented parents of US citizen children. it is estimated that as many as fifty thousand of those parents live in Michigan. Today’s decision was on an injunction halting the program, not the legality of the program itself.
“The Court’s tie decision leaves the door open for the Supreme Court to come back to this case and enact deportation relief that would keep families intact,” said Adonis Flores of Michigan United. “But that can only happen if voters make it clear that we want and need a Supreme Court justice that values all families, including immigrant families, and will recognize deportation relief as crucial for millions across the nation. We have to mobilize to make that happen.”
The current vacancy on the Supreme Court has created a unique situation that made this tie decision possible. Consequently, the court could revisit the program when a new justice is appointed.
“We’re going to fight for our families, and that means mobilizing every voter we can this summer and fall. We need to send a strong message to the next President and win a pro-immigrant Supreme Court,” said Nadia Tonova, director of the National Network for Arab American Communities. “This summer you’re going to see undocumented families register voters, knock on doors, and get out the vote. Even if you can’t vote, you can still organize.”
Organizers promised to contact at least thirty thousand Arab , Asian, and Latino American voters this summer and fall as part of a coordinated civic engagement effort.
Participants promoted the following public events regarding DAPA and the civic engagement push:
Friday, June 24, 12 p.m., Michigan State Capitol, Lansing, MI Vigil with the Mid-Michigan Immigration Coalition & Greater Lansing Network against War and Injustice
Tuesday, June 28, 6:30-8 p.m., Town Hall Meeting – Now What? Next Steps for Immigration
Michigan United Kalamazoo, 1009 E. Stockbridge, Kalamazoo, MI
Saturday, July 9, 10 a.m., St. Francis of Assisi Parish Hall, 4405 Wesson, Detroit, MI Town Hall Meeting for Immigrant Families on the Consequences of the DAPA Decision
Saturday, July 16, 10 a.m., Immigrant Citizens Voting Power Door-to-Door Canvass Michigan United Detroit, 4405 Wesson, Detroit, MI
Michigan United Kalamazoo, 1009 E. Stockbridge, Kalamazoo, MI
Advocates of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals call for Supreme Court to hear arguments in April as planned.
Following the death of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia, West Michigan immigration reform advocates gathered to call on the Supreme Court to affirm deferred action.
“You wake up every day and then you realize, this could be the last I’m going to see my family.”
That’s Kevin Curiel-Vazquez, speaking at the Hispanic Center of West Michigan about his fears growing up undocumented. When President Barak Obama signed deferred action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, his whole life changed.
“I was able to apply myself in the way I always wanted to. I was able to find a decent job, get an ID, get a car, get a license, get a back account, insurance.”
DACA and a similar program for undocumented parents of US-born children, called DAPA, were both challenged in court. Alex Gillett from Justice for Our Neighbors said the death of Justice Antonin Scalia worried her in how it would affect the timing of the decision.
“What we are here doing today is continuing to draw attention to administrative relief, DACA and DAPA and just urging the Supreme Court to hear the case and decide in favor of DACA and DAPA. So the Supreme Court has accepted to hear the case and I believe oral arguments will be made in the case in April and hopefully we’ll have a decision in June.”