immigration

On today's show: we continue our look at road-funding Michigan.

There's a new proposal out this week in the state House that would shift the way we pay for road and bridge repairs, but can it really pass with both Democratic and Republican support?

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The so-called gang of eight have released their immigration reform proposal.

The formal introduction of the bipartisan bill  known as the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013” was filed last night at 2 a.m.

The 844 piece of legislation would enact sweeping changes to the nation’s immigration laws.

President Obama says the bill is a compromise that doesn’t give everyone everything they want, but he’s urging the Senate to move forward with it.

So we took a look at the man who likes to call himself the nation’s most pro-immigration Governor - Gov. Rick Snyder.

Rick Pluta Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network was with the Governor this afternoon and tells us what he had to say about the introduction of this bill.

Listen to the full interview above.

Millions of undocumented immigrants in this country are hoping this is the year for immigration reform. On today's show, we explore what the future holds for mixed-status families.

And, it's being called "one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America." Why beavers along the Detroit River are such a big deal.

And, it’s been a week now since Governor Snyder announced Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency manager, and it was a week ago that we last spoke with Daniel Howes, business columnist at the Detroit News. We checked in with Howes about the prospect of a Detroit recovery.

All that, and roller derbies and march madness, on today's show.

U.S. ICE

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

For the very first time in more years than just about anyone can remember, things seem to be lining up in favor of immigration reform.

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

There has been a change of heart, or at least of policy, at Michigan's Secretary of State's office.

Word came down late last week that thousands of children of undocumented immigrants in Michigan will now be eligible for a driver's license or official state ID.

This was quite a reversal of the stand that had been taken by Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson who now says a review of new federal guidelines convinced her to change the policy.

Cyndy spoke with Miriam Aukerman, staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan, to talk about the change of policy.

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.”

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her decision to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants with work permits granted under a new federal-deferred action plan.

The suit was brought on behalf of three young immigrants and One Michigan, a youth-led advocacy group.

There are approximately 15,000 young people in Michigan who are eligible for the federal program.

Wendy Medrano / Michigan Organizing Project

More people are protesting against a decision to deny Michigan driver's licenses to immigrants granted work permits under a new federal deferred-action program.

President Obama announced the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program in June. It provides work permits and Social Security cards to young people brought to the United States without legal permission.

But Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will not issue those in the program driver’s licenses because she says they don’t have legal status.

Flickr/jnn1776

Recently, there was a protest rally in Southwest Detroit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement over raids and deportation, and what’s seen as overreach by ICE officials. Non-citizens can't legally vote, but how does the heightened sense of tension impact the Latino vote here in Michigan? Also, the Latino community is one of the fastest growing minority groups in the state. Should there be more Latino representation among lawmakers? Jennifer White talks with Laurence Garcia, an attorney, and the Chairman of the Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan.

A non-profit organization in Kalamazoo is trying to help young undocumented immigrants sort through a new federal process that could prevent them from getting deported.

The director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the process earlier this month.

Lori Mercedes is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo-based Hispanic American Council. She says many immigrants have been calling with questions about the process but are nervous about exposing their legal status.

“This brought it up to the light and forced a conversation about it. It made it into an issue; now we have to talk about it,” Mercedes said. “It’s exciting…we can tell our kids go ahead and dream and have hope. There is hope for you after all.”

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.”

Kate Wells / michiganradio.org

For a few hours Saturday morning, the Troy Public Library became Syrian immigration base camp. Some two dozen Syrian nationals came out to a makeshift legal clinic held there. Their visas are about to expire or already have, and the federal government’s offering a special extension due to the crisis in their country.

But as pro-bono lawyers explained to one family after another, Syrians who fled escalating violence in the last three months aren’t eligible; they’ve already missed the program’s crucial window.

That window ended March 29, when the Obama administration declared Syrians in the United States could receive Temporary Protected Status, or TPS. That lets Syrians stay here even after their visas expire.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

“This is a defining time for this country. That’s a place where the president and I agree,” the Republican Presidential candidate said in Holland Tuesday night. Thousands of Romney supporters in shorts and sandals rallied on the shore of Lake Michigan at Holland State Park.

Romney’s 20-minute long speech focused on how important a strong American economy and military are to the rest of the world.

“American strength is the best ally peace has ever known. We must strike for a strong America,” Romney said.

Romney says the president’s health care overhaul is hurting small businesses. He says the economy is being dragged down by uncertainty about the federal debt. He says he worries that the United States is headed on the same path as Greece.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A major change in U.S. immigration policy is getting a mixed reaction from advocates for undocumented immigrants in Michigan. 

Top federal law enforcement officials took questions on immigration laws at a Dearborn town hall Thursday night.

Organizers say the event was meant to break down barriers between law enforcement and the public on a particularly complex and emotional topic: immigration.

Special Agent in Charge Brian Moskowitz from the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Detroit ICE field office director Rebecca Adducci, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Detroit office director Mick Dedvukaj fielded questions on a range of topics.

Kyle Norris

Seven years ago, political science professor Ron Stockton was mentoring a student from Poland who was struggling with a writing assignment. So Stockton told her to imagine she was writing a letter to her great-grandchildren describing her life here as an immigrant. The student loved the idea, got super excited, and spread the word about Stockton’s technique.  

The ACLU and the Michigan Immigrants Rights Center have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Luis Valdez and his mother Telma Valdez. Telma was born in Guatemala but is a legal, permanent U.S. resident. Her son Luis is a U.S. citizen.

The lawsuit alleges ICE agents illegally detained the two in February of last year when Valdez and his mother pulled up to a relative’s home in Grand Rapids for a visit. He says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers approached them with their guns drawn.

It’s alleged the agents illegally detained and interrogated the two; even after they produced proof they are legal U.S. residents.  

U.S. ICE

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have arrested 3,168 people for "egregious immigration law" violations as part of a six-day enforcement operation.

The Detroit Free Press reports 67 were arrested in Michigan:

  • 21 in metro Detroit,
  • 19 in the Grand Rapids area,
  • and 27 others around the state.

From the Freep:

According to ICE, the Michigan arrestees were primarily men from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Cuba, Iraq, El Salvador, Bosnia-Herzegovinian, Cuba, Ghana, the U.K., Haiti and Lebanon.

ICE Director John Morton said in a press release:

"The results of this targeted enforcement operation underscore ICE's ongoing commitment and focus on the arrest and removal of convicted criminal aliens and those that game our nation's immigration system. Because of the tireless efforts and teamwork of ICE officers and agents in tracking down criminal aliens and fugitives, there are 3,168 fewer criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators in our neighborhoods across the country."

U.S. ICE officials released this video of arrests made in metro Detroit:

user GPDII / wikimedia commons

The Michigan State Police is opening an internal investigation into a traffic stop that has raised allegations of racial profiling.

The ACLU called on the Michigan State Police to look into the February traffic stop of an American citizen of Mexican descent.

During the traffic stop in Livonia, the ACLU claims the state trooper interrogated about the man about his immigration status, apparently not believing the man’s claims that he is a naturalized citizen.

The driver was handcuffed, threatened with deportation and federal immigration agents were called.

The man was eventually released after his claim of being a legal U.S. citizen was confirmed.

In a written statement, the head of the Michigan State police says the department “expects its members to perform their duties in a professional and impartial manner”, adding the department does not condone “bias profiling”.

While many states in the South and West passed restrictive laws against illegal immigrants last year, officials in Dayton, Ohio were putting out the welcome mat.

And they’re not alone in the Midwest.

In the second part of our look at immigrants and the Midwest, we’ve found many local governments are trying to attract immigrants as an economic development strategy.

Dayton got attention from all over the world last fall when its city commission unanimously approved a plan called Welcome Dayton to make it an “immigrant-friendly city.” Since then, the town has been inundated.

Dustin Dwyer

In many ways, the headquarters for Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids, Mich. is like a factory. It’s in an old building with brick walls. The floor is smooth, cold concrete. A noisy printer rattles off new orders.

But of course, it smells amazing in here. Designers stand at long wooden tables, primping and pruning flowers. Red tulips. White daisies. Yellow roses. And just about any other flower you can imagine.

Bing Goei, the owner, says this work is more like artistry.

“I think you have to be born with that.” he says. “I was not. I admit it.”

Goei says this with a laugh.

But he was born with something else that turned out to be its own asset. He was born with a foreign birth certificate. His parents were Chinese. He was born in Indonesia, then moved to the Netherlands. From there, they moved to Grand Rapids, like a lot of Dutch people before them. Except, they have a Chinese name.

And like many of those immigrants before him, Goei worked hard. He started in the flower business in high school. Now, Eastern Floral has seven locations, about 60 year-round employees – twice that around Valentine’s Day – and the company has over $5 million in annual revenue.

Goei says being an immigrant, and being an entrepreneur, there’s a connection there.

“Almost every immigrant that comes to this country has come because they see America as that land of opportunity,” he says. “So immediately, their drive is to fulfill that dream.”

The data on this backs Goei up.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that immigrants are twice as likely as people born in America to start a business.

Richard Herman is an immigration attorney in Cleveland. Herman and Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Robert Smith wrote a book called Immigration, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Gov Snyder's office

Governor Snyder has said the state needs to do more to attract immigrants, and get them to stay once they’re here.

In his recent budget proposal, Governor Snyder calls for the creation of a Cultural Ambassador program to attract and welcome immigrants to the state, which is similar to a program he helped create when he worked at Ann Arbor SPARK.

Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Gov. Rick Snyder is heading to Washington to talk about jobs. He's scheduled to testify Wednesday morning before the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce on ways to promote job creation.

Snyder and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy have been invited to talk about what's happening in their states and offer policy recommendations.

In December, Snyder unveiled a new state website aimed at matching residents with jobs by offering workers and employers one-stop shopping for career planning, job openings and education and training.

He's expected to recommend Wednesday that the federal government allow more foreign students to remain in the country after they obtain degrees from American universities. President Barack Obama also wants to lift some visa caps so more high-skilled foreign workers can stay and work.

Photo courtesy of Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder will follow his State of the State address with another speech today to the state’s business leaders and immigration policy is expected to play a prominent role in his talk. 

Governor Snyder announced in his State of the State address that he’s forged an alliance with unions and businesses to lobby Congress to relax some immigration laws. Snyder wants to keep educated immigrants in the country. 

Mike Finney is the CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and one of the governor’s top advisors on business issues. He says right now immigration rules force out many potential entrepreneurs after they earn advanced degrees from Michigan colleges and universities.

“It seems only logical that we would at least create opportunities for them to offer up that intellect to help grow businesses here in this country and, of course, in the state of Michigan.”

Finney says the governor also wants to improve efforts to match workers with the skills they need to land a good job.

user mconnors / morgueFile

Low-income immigrants in the Washtenaw County area will soon be able to get free legal help from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus.

Jason Eyster, an associate professor at Cooley Law School, will run the new immigrant rights clinic. He says they’ll be able to take up to six immigration cases at a time, dealing with a variety of issues:

"In the immigration area: individuals are seeking asylum, seeking withholding of removal,  seeking cancelation of removal, or seeking clarity on what their rights may or may not be," said Eyster.

Eyster says they’ll also help immigrants with other issues, like "foreclosure, landlord-tenant, custody issues, and that sort of thing."

The clinic doesn't open until next month, but Eyster says they're already booked.

Michigan Municipal League / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he considers himself "probably the most aggressive pro-immigration governor in the country." Snyder says Michigan should work to attract immigrants with advanced degrees, especially in biomedical sciences and high-tech industries.

He reminded students, researchers and educators at University of Michigan today that some of the state’s most successful businesses – such as Meijer and Dow – were founded by immigrants.

“We tend to forget they’re Michigan names. Dow was a Canadian emigrant and Meijers was a Dutch emigrant. And now they’re household words that we consider them Michiganders,” said Snyder.

State Demographer Ken Darga says one of the big reasons Michigan was the only state to lose population in the past decade is because of a failure to attract immigrants.

Meanwhile, there are several Republican proposals in the Legislature aimed at enacting regulations to discourage illegal immigration.

Snyder also stated that too many college graduates in Michigan are leaving the state to pursue careers. He says part of that is because there are not enough jobs available for young workers. He says revitalizing urban areas will help reverse the so-called “brain drain.”

“It’s absolutely critical for Detroit to begin on the path to be a great city again because many of our young people are looking for that urban environment. And there are good things going on in Detroit. They’re good enough going on today that I like to ask young people – and you might appreciate this – I say ‘Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to stay and make a difference in Detroit?’” said Snyder.

*Correction - an earlier version of this story was titled "Governor visits U of M, touts anti-immigration stance." He was highlighting his "pro-immigration" stance. The headline has been changed.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to attract more foreign entrepreneurs to the state. Snyder told a gathering of “The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan” he’d would like to leverage a federal immigration program to attract new jobs and investments.

The EB-5 immigration program

Some people in southwest Detroit say the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol continues to practice racial profiling in their community. Detroit is home to the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada.

Residents say Customs and Border Protection agents regularly question and detain people who look Hispanic.

At a press conference Wednesday,residents produced pictures they say show a young Latino man being handcuffed without cause by Border Patrol agents in July. It happened outside a Catholic church during Mass.

DETROIT (AP) - A robbery of illegal immigrants has exposed sharp differences at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. broke with the court's conservative bloc and joined three liberal justices in letting a minimum five-year prison sentence stand last week.

Jorge Ivan Torres-David pleaded guilty to armed robbery in 2009. A Wayne County judge added points to the sentencing formula after determining that Torres-David targeted illegal immigrants because he believed they would be reluctant to complain to police.

Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly agreed with the trial judge. She says illegal immigrants are "vulnerable victims" when criminals view them as "easy targets."

Justice Stephen Markman calls the decision "remarkable." He and two other Republicans on the court say illegal immigrants now have greater protections as crime victims than law-abiding residents.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senator Debbie Stabenow visited a farm in West Michigan Monday to discuss how to expand the agriculture industry.

Stabenow is chairwoman the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“We all have a stake in our farmers doing well because we all have a stake in having food security, in making sure we have wholesome, American grown, Michigan grown food for us.”

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