Immigrant workers, families and students are a vital part of our communities and deserve the chance to live in dignity, not in fear. Unfortunately, our country is growing increasingly hostile to immigrants – deportations have increased dramatically, children are being separated from their parents, Muslims and refugees are being targeted and students and workers don't have the chance to reach their full potential. We work with grassroots immigrant leaders to oppose these unjust policies, and advocate for something better: a country where everyone has a fair chance, no matter where you come from. That's why we're fighting for proactive measures, like drivers licenses for all, full funding of immigrant integration programs and language access programs at schools and state government.
Local Campaigns: Freedom Cities
This year, most municipalities in Michigan will have elections for mayor and city council or commission. There are many things that can be done on a local level to protect the rights of immigrant communities. We need to engage with local candidates and educate them on these issues.
Non-collaboration Policies: This includes preventing ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection) from using local law enforcement to separate families. As its evident in the latest ACLU report on racial profiling, ICE and CBP are notorious for using racial profiling and infringing on people’s constitutional rights. Local employees and police should not collaborate in the detention, apprehension or enforcement of immigration laws without a judicial warrant. Your municipality could be exposing itself to liability for civil rights infringements if clear limitations are not set in place limiting the collaboration with ICE and CBP. Washtenaw county, Wayne county, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Detroit are some of the municipalities in Michigan that have already implemented similar policies. Your city or township needs to be next in adopting such policies.
Invest in Immigrant Integration: The immigration court system is a civil court, therefore immigrants are not entitled to court appointed legal representation, as a result, low income immigrants that cannot afford an attorney show up to court without legal representation. They are more likely to lose their case, be deported, and leaving their families in shambles. Municipal governments can address this by allocating local funding for legal representation of their residents in immigration courts, funding for adult English Language Learner programs and Citizenship classes to help those who qualify for citizenship go through the naturalization process. So far only Washtenaw county has implemented such a policy in Michigan.
Creating an Office of Immigrant Integration: Most government services are inaccessible to english language learners or newly arrived immigrants who may not be familiar with how the local government works. Many cities are addressing this by creating an office of immigrant integration charged with reaching out to immigrant communities in their municipality. They ensure that government services are available and accessible in multiple languages to the immigrants residing in your municipality.
Offering Municipal IDs to your residents: Many residents struggle with getting state IDs for many reasons. Oftentimes, inadequte gender markers exclude the LGBTQ community from getting IDs that respect their gender identities, the homeless community struggle to get IDs when they cannot provide proof of address and many new immigrants struggle to meet the real ID criteria to get a state ID. However, municipal governments can resolve this by creating municipal IDs for residents in their city or township. Kalamazoo county, Washtenaw county and the City of Detroit are some examples of municipal governments in Michigan that created such programs.
State Campaigns: Michigan Immigrant Justice
This year we will advocate the state government to allocate immigrant integration funding for English as a Second Language and citizenship classes. Recognition of Municipal IDs by state agencies and implementing a policy prohibiting state employees, including the Michigan State Police, from engage in racial profiling, cooperating in the detention, apprehension or enforcement of immigration laws without a Judicial Warrant. As mentioned earlier ICE and CBP are notorious for violating people’s constitutional rights and rampant use of racial profiling. This could open up the state government for liability. To protect the state, and the rights of Michiganders, the state government could require a Judicial Warrant to collaborate with ICE and CBP to detain or arrest immigrants. Similarly, we will continue to support the DRIVE MI Forward coalition which aims to create a state ID policy that would allow Michiganders that wish to opt out of the real ID program to do so.
Federal Campaigns: Compassionate and Inclusive Immigration Reforms
The previous Trump administration implemented Executive Orders that targeted immigrants, refugees, and Muslims. They strike at the very heart of who we are as a country, and are a threat to freedom of religion. They target the most vulnerable in our society—refugees fleeing the horrors of war, and families trying to start a new life in America. Fortunately, the new administration has begun to undo the damage done by the previous administration, restoring DACA, TPS and Due Process in the Asylum courts. However, executive orders can be easily undone with the change of presidential administrations, leaving immigrants vulnerable to the violation of their constitutional rights every time a new administration takes over.
During the Pandemic it became evident how essential immigrants are to keep America functioning. So many immigrants are essential workers that had to put their health and life at risk in order to bring America out of the pandemic. Without the work of agricultural workers, food processing workers, grocery store workers, manufacturing workers, healthcare workers, transportation workers and other essential workers, Americans would not have been able to put food on the table during the pandemic. These workers did heroic work and they suffered the consequences with higher COVID infection rates for them and their families and many even losing their lives or loved ones due to COVID. The least our country could do for these immigrant heroes is offer them legalization and a path to citizenship.
This is why it is urgent for the Senate and Congress to pass sweeping legislation to legalize and protect all immigrants currently living in America. There are many bills currently introduced in Congress and we will advocate to improve and pass all of them into law. These are:
The American Citizenship Act of 2021
The Dream and Promise Act
The SECURE Act
The Agricultural Workers Modernization Act
The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act
Services: Legal Clinic and English as a Second Language
Immigrant communities struggle to have access to affordable legal services and trustworthy representation is often limited for immigrants, especially in low-income areas. Our legal clinic is accredited by the Department of Justice and we provide assistance with applications for DACA, citizenship, and residency, as well as connect clients with reputable local attorneys for consultation or representation, when we cannot represent them. We also hold free citizenship classes and adult ESL classes for those going through the naturalization process. The goal of our legal clinic is to not only provide these scarce and highly needed services, but also to empower our clients to fully engage in their communities civically and flex their rights as full fledged citizens to protect the rights of their loved ones.
Our legal clinic offers these services in Detroit, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids. To schedule an appointment please contact: in metro Detroit, Yesenia Baldivia at firstname.lastname@example.org 586-339-6119, in Grand Rapids, Leticia Huesties email@example.com 616-262-3056, or in Kalamazoo, Alex Pulido firstname.lastname@example.org 269-350-7916.
We have several specific programs in our immigrants rights department:
Legal and Language Services
In addition to our work as organizers and advocates, we provide immigration legal services and English classes. Michigan United's Detroit and Kalamazoo offices are fully recognized and accredited by the US Department of Justice to practice immigration law, and we offer many services, such as DACA application and renewal, green card application and renewal, citizenship application and referral. We also offer English classes in both locations.
Border Civil Rights
Michigan is a border state, and as a result, immigrant communities' civil rights are often violated by the Border Patrol. Racial and religious profiling and harassment by Border Patrol are too common. We're fighting to hold the Border Patrol accountable and demand an end to the over-policing of immigrant communities.
Women are often the backbone of immigrant communities, but do not get the training, support or recognition that they deserve. WE LEAD is a leadership development and apprenticeship program designed to enhance the ability of women in immigrant communities to take on leadership roles and provide basic immigration services. The program aims to provide pathways to living wage jobs in the legal services and non-profit fields.