Efrain Zamudio in front of his backyard coop in Allen Park. The Mexican community in Metro Detroit might help carry on the tradition of pigeon racing.
Michael Jackman

That question might surprise those who didn't realize pigeons are "a thing" in the Metro Detroit area.

Immigrants from Belgium came to Detroit and brought their national passion of pigeon racing with them and it spread from there.

See this clip of an old pigeon race from the Detroit News:

I’ve been studying presidential elections for a long time, and can tell you that this has been the most anti-immigrant campaign since the Know-Nothing Party of the early 1850s.

Ironically, many of those bashing immigrants today are descended from people who the early immigrant-bashers hated: Germans, Irish and Catholics.

But I’m not sure that even the Know-Nothings ever descended to the levels we’ve seen this year, with the leading Republican presidential candidate saying he’d build a wall across our southern border and force Mexico to pay for it. Nor did they ever call for repealing the part of the Constitution that says children born here are automatically citizens.

Donald Trump speaks at the 2015 CPAC in Maryland
flickr user Gage Skidmore /

Donald Trump came to Michigan on Tuesday to, well, be Trump.

As a few dozen Democrats protested outside the Birch Run Expo Center last night, the crowd inside was certainly receptive to Trump and his message.

How to welcome more immigrants to Flint, Saginaw

Apr 20, 2015
Flickr/Michigan Municipal League

The Next Idea

I am a daughter of immigrants who grew up in Michigan's Indian and Pakistani community. Most often the response people have when they hear this is to ask: “Why, with all the glamorous cities in America, would so many people from South Asia choose to come to the Midwest?”

Rebecca Kruth

The federal government this week closed its annual application period for H-1B visas after applications exceeded the annual cap of 65,000.

Some Michigan business leaders are calling for the government to raise the cap, which they say hurts the state’s economic growth.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Detroit sentenced Chicago-area Palestinian-American activist and community leader Rasmea Odeh to 18 months in prison for immigration fraud Thursday.

A jury convicted Odeh, 67, last year of lying on naturalization papers and unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Odeh said she had never been convicted of a crime. In fact, an Israeli military court had convicted her of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem terrorist attack.

New immigrants are crucial to Michigan's future

Feb 26, 2015

The Next Idea

Every American family has a genesis story about how they came to be in this country: escaping a cruel despot, searching for elusive riches, or enslaved by brutal overlords. Only the few that were made foreigners in their own lands can claim to be the original Americans. Somewhere along the way, you or your ancestors had to overcome the perils of the journey, the acquisition of the language, the challenges of employment, and the stigma of prejudice and intolerance. Regrettably, some are still struggling to this day.

Congressman Dan Kildee
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

The clock is ticking. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will run out Friday if Congress can't figure out how to separate the DHS budget from the politics of immigration reform.

House Republicans are using the DHS funding bill to try to repeal President Obama's executive actions on immigration. But there aren't enough votes in the Senate to pass that bill.

Not surprisingly, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., disagrees with House Speaker John Boehner's assertions that President Obama's executive action on immigration was an overreach of his powers.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Michigan, says it's not his party's fault if the Department of Homeland Security runs out of money.

It has to get new funding before the end of this week to stay open.

House Republicans passed a bill to fund DHS, but it had a poison pill: reversing President Obama's plans to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Thetoad / Flickr

State Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Twp.,  plans to introduce a bill next week requiring high school graduates to pass the same citizenship test immigrants take. Students would need to score 60% or higher on the test to receive their diplomas. Lucido says that he hopes the exam will encourage participation and increase voter turnout for elections. If passed, the law would be in effect for the 2016-17 school year.

user: John Hardwick / Flickr Creative Commons

For the last week, a bus that stops in southwest Detroit has been stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The riders are asked for identification, and those that cannot produce the proper paperwork are detained. 

Michigan United, a civil rights group, is calling these actions by CBP intimidation, harassment, and even racial profiling. 

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.

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.

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.

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.