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immigration

Frances Kellor reading on a dock
Harvard University, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America

As our nation continues to lay entrenched in the immigration debate, it might do us well to remember the life and work of a woman from Coldwater.

Frances Kellor rose from very humble roots in Michigan to become a nationally respected reformer. She worked in prison reform and for women’s issues, championed the cause of immigrants, rural and African American workers, and challenged the country to think about what it really meant to be an American.

Ruth Bengtsen (center), the facilitator of "Talk Time" at the Troy Public Library, sits with some participants of the program.
Photo courtesy of the Troy Public Library

Immigrating to the United States is not easy. Luckily for those who are making a new life in Southeast Michigan and are trying to learn the often difficult language of English, “Talk Time” is available every Saturday morning at the Troy Public Library.

“It’s just a matter of making them feel comfortable here,” says Ruth Bengtsen, a volunteer tutor at Talk Time. “I tell them if they can communicate with whatever words, to do so. Not worry about the grammar and being correct all the time.”

Michigan café owner's deportation fight simmers

Jan 19, 2016
Ibrahim Parlak at his cafe in Harbert, Michigan
Gabrielle Emanuel / Michigan Radio

On Wednesday, Congressman Fred Upton will meet with a man whom the U.S. government has been trying to deport for over a decade.

Some say Ibrahim Parlak is a terrorist.  Others say he’s a model immigrant.

Parlak runs a popular café in Harbert, a resort town in Southwest Michigan. On the day I visited, it was quiet and all the chairs were tucked in.

Parlak temporarily closed Café Gulistan because he says he needs to focus on fighting deportation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A growing number of Michigan cities are opening their doors to immigrants, despite a national debate over allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

Lansing city officials today signed a pledge making the capitol one of nearly a dozen Michigan cities pledging to welcome immigrants.

Mayor Virg Bernero laments the current national debate over Syrian refugees is creating negative feelings about immigration.

The federally-created Council of Governors has a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. This is the group of 10 governors (always five Republicans and five Democrats) that gives the federal government the states’ perspectives on national security issues.

This is also the group that Governor Snyder said he wanted to conduct a review of federal security policies after the self-proclaimed most pro-immigration governor called for a “pause” in resettling refugees from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries after last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Egypt.

Michigan governor puts refugee acceptance efforts on hold

Nov 15, 2015
Google

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's Republican governor, who has bucked many party leaders for welcoming Syrian refugees, is putting efforts on hold following the deadly attacks in Paris.

Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement Sunday that the state is postponing efforts to accept refugees until federal officials fully review security clearances and procedures.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder paid a visit to Hamtramck’s BanglaTown Friday, to officially open the Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Committee’s new headquarters there.

That Bangladeshi community is aiming for a higher profile among Metro Detroit’s immigrant enclaves.

Snyder again proclaimed himself “the most pro-immigrant Governor in the country.” And he says Bangladeshi-Americans are exactly the kind of immigrants Michigan needs.

Kate Hiscock / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A new state initiative aims to help foreign-born professionals find jobs in Michigan.

The Michigan International Talent Solutions program offers skilled immigrants assistance with resumes, applications, interview skills and other aspects of the job search process.

Annie Fenton, the program's director, said immigrants who worked in professional roles in their home countries often have difficulty finding equivalent positions in the United States. 

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.

flickr user Gage Skidmore / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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
Flickr/Icars

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.

The Michigan state capitol building
Thetoad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

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.

The story of an unacompanied minor, 7 years later

Nov 5, 2014

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.”

Central American children destined for Michigan?

Jul 16, 2014

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.

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