immigration

Alexandra Hidalgo

    

There’s a new video documentary that looks at immigration from a woman’s perspective. The documentary is called Vanishing Borders. Alexandra Hidalgo directed and produced the film. She's an assistant professor in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University.

The four women featured in Vanishing Borders are Teboho Moja, Melainie Rogers, Daphnie Sicre, and Yatna Vakharia. Hidalgo says she was looking for people who had compelling stories and who could be eloquent and not afraid of the camera.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Immigration activists worry that President Obama’s recent executive order could bring scammers out of the shadows.

The new program could let up to five million currently undocumented people gain at least temporary legal status in the US.

For immigrant advocates, the concern is unscrupulous people peddling bad or even phony “help” with the application process.

Sarah Kerson / Michigan Radio

  State officials are starting to figure out how President Obama's executive action on immigration could play out in Michigan.

Since last year, Michigan's Secretary of State has been giving out drivers licenses to so-called DREAMers, young people brought to the US as kids.

The President's recent executive action means parents of U-S citizens or permanent residents would also be protected from deportation, so long as they've been in the country for five years.

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.

I saw a poster the other day on the Internet that I really wish I could have framed and put on the wall. It said something like “Illegal immigrants refuse to learn our language, yet still get food assistance.”

What it showed was the first Thanksgiving.

What it could have added was that those same undocumented aliens were often guilty of tremendous violence against the native population.

Today, the descendants of those illegal immigrants have been wrestling with what do to about those who followed in their footsteps, centuries later.

The fact is that there are millions of so-called undocumented aliens in this country, maybe 100,000 in Michigan, and that our economy depends on them.

These immigrants, by and large, do the jobs nobody else wants, working hard for little money. When they do become legal, they tend to be tremendous job creators. Gov. Rick Snyder knows this; that’s why he has asked Washington to make more visas available for immigrants with special skills to come to Detroit.

There are legal immigration routes, complex and bureaucratic. But there are also millions who came without papers, or were brought here as children.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A prominent Palestinian-American activist faces up to ten years in prison and the loss of her US citizenship after being found guilty of immigration fraud.

Rasmea Odeh, 67, was convicted in a Detroit federal court Monday of gaining US naturalization and citizenship unlawfully.

Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing. She did not disclose that information on immigration papers, according to federal officials.

Lead in text: 
This summer the news was full of the stories of children who fled to the U.S. because of violence in Central and South America. Here is one of those stories, 7 years later. From Dustin Dwyer and State of Opportunity.
Families & Community
Jake Neher / MPRN

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says foreign investment and immigration will be critical to turning around Michigan’s economy.

The former aide to President George W. Bush spoke before the Detroit Economic Club Monday afternoon with Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Make Michigan attractive for investment, period. OK? Make it attractive,” said Paulson.

He says Michigan should especially look to China to help boost the state’s economy. He says many Chinese businesses are looking to expand overseas, and Michigan needs to make it clear they are welcome.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of activists Thursday that “we are at an inflection point in national and world history.”

Biden addressed the Netroots Nation convention at Detroit’s Cobo Center.

That group describes itself as a means to “amplify progressive voices by providing an online and in-person campus for exchanging ideas and learning how to be more effective in using technology to influence the public debate.”

There has been a recent influx of undocumented children who are crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. Many of these children hail from Central American nations where violence is prevalent. Recent news that some of these children could be housed here at a facility in Vassar, Michigan while awaiting immigration hearings has received mixed reactions.

Wolverine Human Services is an organization that owns and operates a facility in Vassar and might house some of the Central American children. Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, is joined by Derrick McCree, senior VP of Wolverine Human Services.

McCree says as it stands right now, the contract is still under consideration by the Office of Refugee Settlement. The contracting company, Heartland Alliance of Chicago, Illinois, has been providing services for children in similar circumstances for the past 19 years. Due to the humanitarian crisis at the national level, Heartland Alliance reached out to other providers, particularly in Michigan, to inquire about providing assistance.

The services provided are essential, basic shelter services, medical care, education in the format of ESL, recreational activities, and trauma counseling. Heartland Alliance would cover the reunification fees to help seek relatives or family members within the U.S. where the child could stay while the court proceedings play out. If no family member or relative is located, the option of a foster family exists.

According to McCree, funding for the program comes from the federal government. And while there has been vocal opposition to the idea of housing children in Vassar, McCree says the Vassar community has been largely supportive, and he's heard from people who are interested in helping the Central American children. McCree says the children making their way to the southern U.S. border are escaping what are often very dangerous situaations, and they are in need of help.

Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom 

I’ve always had a warm place in my heart for the sugar beet country of Michigan’s Thumb.

Years ago, I used to take graduate journalism students to Caro for a day where they would put out a special edition of the Tuscola County Advertiser.

The folks there were open, friendly, warm-hearted, and hard-working, but I have to say I’m ashamed of some of them today.

They are disgracing our state and reminding us of some of the ugliest chapters in American history.

Here’s why: Thousands of children and teenagers have been turning up at the United States’ southern border over the last few months. We are, if you’ve forgotten, a nation founded by refugees and which, to this very day, has remained open to those seeking political asylum.

That’s the beautiful part of our legacy.

The ugly part is that far too many of us think our ancestors were the last immigrants who should have been allowed in. That’s been reflected throughout our history in signs that said “No Irish need apply,” communities that refused to allow Jews, and the entire history of black America.

Steve Carmody

In recent weeks we’ve been hearing about the surge of undocumented minors from Central America crossing into the U.S. Some call it a humanitarian crisis while others look at it as the result of a failed immigration policy. 

Wolverine Human Services has applied to be a sub-contractor to house these children at their facility in Vassar.

Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee talk about where things stand right now. 

"I think there is some degree of likelihood that Wolverine will be providing some shelter for these young unaccompanied minors that have made their way to our border," said Kildee.

Listen to the full interview above.

Alyse Guenther / Michigan Radio

Some 200 people and about a dozen media outlets stuffed into an airless high school cafeteria in Vassar, Michigan last night.

The small town of some 2,600 has been thrown into the center of the immigration debate during the past few weeks.

That's because a local juvenile center, Wolverine Human Services, is in talks to temporarily house as many as 120 of the unaccompanied Central American children flooding into the U.S.

And so far, Vassar appears very, very against that idea. 

Michelle Huan / Michigan Radio

Some of the chaos at the U.S. and Mexican border has made its way to Michigan.

About 75 protesters turned out last night in in the tiny, mid-Michigan town of Vassar, population roughly 2,600. 

That's where a juvenile center is in talks to potentially house some of the unaccompanied minors flooding into this country from Central America.

Michigan Radio's Kate Wells sent us this field report. 

via Center for American Progress

UPDATE 10:49 PM 

Some 75 protestors and several police officers filled the front lawn of Vassar's city hall Monday evening.  

Even though officials say these kids would stay in the juvenile camp for housing and school while they're going through the asylum, or more likely, the deportation process, lots of people expressed concern about what it would mean for the town. 

"More crime," said Josh Barnes, of Vassar, when asked why he was worried enough to come out and protest.

Michigan United

Friday marked one full year since the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, but with the measure effectively dead in the House, immigrant advocacy groups hope to convince President Obama to use his executive powers to steer around the Congressional roadblock.

In Michigan, activist Maximo Anguiano with Action of Greater Lansing says his group feels separating families with 1,100 daily deportations is not the answer.

michigan.gov

Highly skilled immigrants in Michigan now have a new resource to help them find jobs. The national nonprofit organization Upwardly Global opened a new office in Detroit on Monday.

Upwardly Global says immigrants and refugees often have valuable job skills that are in high demand in the United States. But the group says they often still have trouble finding work because of cultural differences.

The new office is meant to help polish immigrants’ job searching skills and connect them with local employers.

User: Nic Redhead / Flickr

Silverio Lopez and his son Antonio run their Tequila Cabresto brand out of their house in Southwest Detroit. They say about 60 restaurants in and around the city carry their brand of small batch, craft tequila. They also own a rim and tire shop just down the street. In total, they employ close to 10 people.

Silverio emigrated from Mexico in the early '80s. He says there were many reasons for settling down and starting a business in Detroit.

“The properties were cheap, the rent was cheaper, plus we had family here already,” he said through Antonio, who translated from Spanish.

The Lopez family exemplifies the kind of people Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to attract to Michigan – people with an entrepreneurial spirit who can create jobs.

But some critics of the governor’s new EB-5 visa program say it’s a slap in the face to immigrants like Silverio Lopez, who came here with nothing.

Detroit's first Latina council member, Raquel-Castaneda-Lopez, speaks at a press event earlier this year announcing Michigan’s intention to establish an "EB-5 regional center."
screen shot from LiveStream

It's called the EB-5 program. It's based on the employment-based 5th preference visa program, which allows foreign investors and their families to get their green cards – get permanent residency – by investing in an enterprise that creates at least 10 direct or indirect jobs in Michigan.

Private companies have been using the EB-5 program to bring immigrants into the country, but Michigan has become only the second state – after Vermont – to create a state EB-5 program. It will be staffed by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Scott Woosley is the MSHDA Executive Director.

*Listen to the full show above.

via Michigan United

Immigrant advocates in southeast Michigan have launched a push to make more people US citizens.

The New Americans campaign is on the ground in eight U.S. cities, including metro Detroit.

The area is home to large numbers of people who are permanent residents, but haven’t taken the steps to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Diego Bonesatti, legal director for the pro-immigrant group Michigan United, says that’s in part because the immigration process has become a lot more complex in recent years.

user: Norsehorse / Flickr

A federal visa program called EB-5 offers a conditional green card to foreign nationals who invest $1 million in a qualified project in the U.S., or invest half a million in a depressed urban or rural area.

EB-5 is the cornerstone of Gov. Rick Snyder's strategy to attract more immigrants to Michigan. In fact, Michigan will be only the second state in the country to open a statewide center to attract immigrant investment and offer a possible path to citizenship.

The first state to open such a center was Vermont. 

Brent Raymond, the director of the Vermont EB-5 Regional Center, joined us. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

  

Jesus Valdez is from Zacatecas, Mexico. He owns and operates a shoe repair store in Ann Arbor. His story is like so many others across the state. He knew his skill was valuable and saw an opportunity to make his dream of owning a business a reality.

Listen to our conversation with him below:


Peter Martorano / Flickr

Rick Snyder has been one of the most enthusiastic governors in pressing Congress and the White House for immigration reform.

He recently proposed a plan to attract 50,000 highly skilled immigrants to Michigan, essentially "rolling out the red carpet" to attract immigrants to fill vacant technology, engineering, medical and health care jobs in Detroit.

His plan would require immigrants to live and work in bankrupt Detroit, using their skills in science, business or the arts to help power the city back to health.

But some believe the governor's plan overlooks the immigrants who are already here, people who might be able to use a little of that support. And what about immigrants who might not possess an engineering or science degree, but have energy and an entrepreneurial spirit – are they being slighted by the governor's plan?

Here to discuss the future of Michigan’s immigrant population is Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit, and Nikki Cicerani, president and CEO of Upwardly Global, a resource for skilled immigrants.

Listen to the full interview above.

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Update: The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement to Michigan Radio," After a thorough review of Mr. Sanchez-Ronquillo's case. The agency has granted a one-year Stay of Removal." We are updating our earlier story now. 

Charlie is seven years old, a second-grader at an Ann Arbor elementary school. Over the last week, his picture has been all over facebook. It's also on flyers and email as his church and parents at his school try to organize around his family.

Read the updated story at State of Opportunity.

 

Read or listen to the entire story at State of Opportunity.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an executive order creating a Michigan Office for New Americans. The governor has made attracting immigrants a priority as part of his economic plans. The governor named Grand Rapids entrepreneur Bing Goei to lead the office.

“It’s not going to be a large department,” said Goei, “but it’s really to be that clearinghouse, that focal point, because, again, we have activities probably in every department of state government involved with immigrants. This is to have a clearinghouse, a center for that.” 

The governor says he will do what he can to make Michigan more immigrant friendly, while he hopes Washington can come up with a better national immigration policy.

“I think there’s a lot of evidence to say, particularly for skilled immigrants, they’re net job generators,” said Snyder. “They add jobs, they create economic wealth and well-being throughout the supply chain.” 

Thirteen years ago, a friend who runs a political PR firm urged me to meet a man he saw as a visionary politician who he was going to be elected mayor and transform Detroit.

His name was Kwame Kilpatrick. We all know how that turned out, but nobody did then. What was the same then and now, however, was Detroit’s need for jobs and money.

Over the years, I had learned one thing: If you want to jump-start an economy, what you need are immigrants. Driven, motivated, immigrants who want a better life.

screen shot from LiveStream

Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit leaders announced their immigration reform plan this morning at the Hispanic-owned Ideal Group in Detroit.

The plan calls for federal changes that would allow immigrants to live, work, and hopefully create jobs in the city of Detroit.

More from Gov. Snyder’s press release:

Detroit must harness the power of skilled immigrants to grow its economy, increase its tax base and reverse its population decline, Gov. Rick Snyder said today as he urged federal action on his proposal that increases employment-based visas for immigrants.

“We want the world to know that Detroit is open for business,” Snyder said. “Legal immigration helped to build this great city and is just as critical to its comeback. Immigrants create jobs and Detroit is a great value opportunity in terms of business costs and overall quality of life.

The plan calls for the federal government to secure 50,000 employment-based visas for skilled immigrants (employment-based second preference visas, or EB-2 visas).

The visas would require that the visa holders reside and work in the city of Detroit.

Gov. Snyder's office cited the following statistics in support of the plan:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says he's launching an initiative to encourage immigration as a way of fostering Detroit's economic development.

Snyder's office says the governor will join Mayor Mike Duggan at a Thursday morning news conference. It says City Council members and business and community leaders also will participate.

The 10 a.m. event is at the offices of the IDEAL Group, a family-owned manufacturing and construction company.

Snyder has promoted immigrant entrepreneurs as a resource for Detroit's economic development. He said in last Thursday's State of the State address that he wants to make Michigan more immigrant-friendly and more attractive for foreign investment.

Snyder has applied for Michigan to join Vermont as states that run a regional center for the EB-5 visa program targeting immigrant entrepreneurs.

MIGOP / Instagram

Gov. Rick Snyder put services for immigrants and seniors at the top of his to-do list for 2014 in his State of the State speech yesterday.

The governor also promised to extend pre-school to every child in the state that wants to attend, and trumpeted the state’s economic recovery as he prepares to seek a second term.

"We are reinventing Michigan," Snyder said. "Michigan is the comeback state."

Snyder noted that hiring is up, and more people are looking for work — although Michigan still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and many families living in poverty.

But the governor says things are getting better and the state’s improved budget position and the prospect of a revenue surplus is evidence of that. He said much of that money — more than a billion dollars over the next three years — should be used on infrastructure, investments, and savings. But he also said taxpayers should get some of it back.

“There’s going to be some opportunity for tax relief,” Snyder said.

Find out about the H-4 visa and why it’s troubling to many families coming to the U.S. 

*Listen to the interview above.

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