DREAM ACT

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Many in Detroit's immigrant community are welcoming President Obama’s change of course on immigration.

The crowd at Detroit’s El Nacimiento restaurant listened quietly as the president outlined his executive order Thursday night, but broke into cheers and shouts of “bravo!” as he wrapped up.

The order makes a number of changes to immigration policy, affecting up to five million currently undocumented people.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

President Obama and federal lawmakers are announcing new plans for major immigration reform this week.

That comes as activists from Michigan and around the country are preparing for a major immigrant rights march in Washington, D.C. this spring.

There are an estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, and an estimated 100,000 in Michigan. Advocates hope to send at least 250 affected families from across the state to the “Keep Families Together” march on April 10th.

Congressman Gary Peters, a Democrat representing Detroit and much of Oakland County, says he’s hopeful that event can capitalize on growing public pressure for immigration reform.

“I think if most Americans can hear these compelling stories of people trapped in a dysfunctional immigration system, and the types of problems it’s created for their families…the American people will not
believe that’s an acceptable system,” Peters said.

Peters says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that real immigration reform is possible, despite likely fierce opposition in the Republican-dominated U.S. House.

A bipartisan group of Senators and President Obama are releasing frameworks for such reform this week.

Immigration reform advocates are cautiously hailing the Senate framework on some key points. They’re happy it includes a so-called “earned path to citizenship” for those now in the country illegally.

Detroit resident Cindy Garcia will attend the April march with her family. She’s fought successfully to prevent her husband, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, from being deported.

“Because if I can do it for myself, and my family, I can do it for the eleven other million families. Because when I stand here and tell my story, it’s not just for me,” Garcia said.

“I have to think of other children being separated from their families, and it’s not fair.”

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her refusal to provide driver’s licenses to some young immigrants.

Last summer, President Obama unveiled the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It gives undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children authorization to live and work here legally for a two-year period. There are an estimated 15,000 DACA-eligible young people in Michigan.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Immigrant advocates are celebrating a new policy that offers some protections for young immigrants.

And a few of them wasted no time heading to US immigration offices in Detroit on Wednesday, the first day applications became available.

The new Obama administration policy is the so-called the DREAM Relief Program—or, more formally, the “Deferred Action Enforcement Process for Young People Who Are Low Enforcement Priorities.”

(courtesy of U.S. Sen. Carl Levin's Office)

An incoming University of Michigan student has taken her fight against being deported to Washington D.C.  Ola Kaso testified before a U.S. Senate committee in favor of the Dream Act.   The bill would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S. to pursue their educations. 

Kaso says she has tried to take advantage of the education opportunity given to  her, an opportunity now threatened by deportation to Albania.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

With immigration reform bogged down in Congress and perennially on the back burner, the Obama administration is pushing a more aggressive deportation agenda. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement plans to deport a record number of people this year.

If the agency has their way, one of them will be Ola Kaso, an 18-year-old girl from Sterling Heights. She’ll be forced to leave just days after she graduates high school as one of the top students in her class.