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Take Action: Justice For Immigrants

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Pax Christi Michigan “Justice for Immigrants” campaign report

Pax Christi Michigan has committed to support the national Justice for Immigrants (JFI) campaign of our church. This is the “war at home” against injustice.

A state-wide meeting was held, November 12th at Pax Christi’s office in Lansing. Those in attendance included:  Fred Thelan (PCM);  Joan Tirak (PCM);  Jim Rauner (PCM); Fr Wayne Dziekan (Diocese of Gaylord); Sr. Susan Ridley, (Diocese of Kalamazoo); Luis Beteta and Casrola Carassa (Grand Rapids); Melanie Goldberg (attorney, Detroit); Susan Reed (attorney, MIRC); and Kish Inquilla (attorney, by conference call).

Some initial steps to support the national Catholic bishops’ JFI campaign were suggested:

  1. Setting up a process to Document Justice and Human Rights abuses involving immigrants and undocumented persons and families in Michigan.
  2. Developing communications with the seven Bishops and dioceses of Michigan, as well as their state-wide organization the Michigan Catholic Conference, MCC.  The Catholic population of Michigan is 2,156,168, [that’s millions!] as of last year. That represents 22% of the total population.  To mobilize this vast voting block to call for justice and comprehensive immigration reform, we need the leadership of our seven bishops.
    1. We need to set up a process of communication with these bishops, and give them the stories and information we document in part A.
    2. It was also suggested that we sponsor small meetings between the individual bishops and local immigrant families.
    3. Encourage liturgical celebrations that would dramatize Justice for Immigrants.
    4. Bringing others into this discussion, particularly trying to obtain representation from every diocese in the state, and eventually forming diocesan teams that can respond to the needs of our immigrant brothers and sisters.
    5. Forming coalitions with all other groups working to protect Migrant rights, and recruiting some groups and institutions who are not yet involved ….local church, religious, ethnic, labor, educational, and civic groups.

Identifying actions that people can take to:

  1. Help us with the documentation process.
  2. Negotiate with local police agencies.
  3. Defeat state legislation that would punish migrants
  4. Urge positive administrative changes that are possible now, at the federal and state levels.
  5. Raise awareness in the whole population to support the common good and seek justice and respect for the least among us.
  6. Investigating the “Welcome Michigan” initiative, leadership training, neighbor – to- neighbor, and paid media.

Work in Progress

A) A document is now available to use in the local “gathering of information” process.  “Urgent Responder’s – Immigrant Intake Form.”    This has been approved by our contingent of lawyers as useful both to bring a case to court, or to obtain descriptions of events that can be used to show human rights abuses if they exist.

Example:   On Jan 13, I received notice that “an illegal alien” had been arrested in connection with a car crash in Gratiot county, near Saginaw.   A young man, Noe de la Cruz, was driving without a valid license [he was unable to renew it because of being undocumented]. Very scared, he fled the scene of the accident, but later called into the police because he himself was injured, as were several others.  He is now being held in Gratiot county jail placed on a $75,000 bond.  He is charged with failure to stop and two misdemeanors, including committing a traffic violation in a moving vehicle and driving without a license.

Since we do not have any Pax Christi group in that city, I searched the list of attendees at our 2010 state conference, finding 2 couples and a Sister nearby.  I e-mailed them asking for help and explaining JFI and the immigrant situation in Michigan.  Sister Marietta Fritz answered offering her prayers for the young man and his family and victims of the accident.   Edward Lorenz also responded, he is director of Public Affairs Institute at Alma College.  He contacted a local attorney to informally check with the Prosecutor. And He and his wife were having a number of people from the local Hispanic community over for dinner that day to discuss the matter…

“Jim, We’re still working on this to get answers.  I hope to get back to you later with a full update.

One thing the incident has done has start a discussion about organizing a structure to work in future cases.  This is at least the second incident like this in the last few years – the other was even worse from what we know.

Thanks for doing this.  Here we should have been more prepared.” – Ed Lorenz

B)  We (Jim Rauner ), are acting to create a bridge between Pax Christi and the Michigan Catholic Conference (through Paul Stankewitz ), and the Alliance for Immigrant Rights and Reform (AIR)  (through Ryan Bates and Sally Kim ).  We believe that (AIR) is the largest and most funded group in Michigan working for immigrants.

C)  Presently we are working with Allison Colberg, MOP – Michigan Organizing Committee, in Kalamazoo to develop guidelines for negotiating with local police agencies. We want them to treat undocumented persons the same as American citizens when they commit minor crimes, and not turn them over to ICE.  They have the experience of doing this.  And the results will be turned over to all our local Pax Christi groups and others.

D)  With Hugh Conahan’s help, we have put together e-mail and other contact information for all seven dioceses of Michigan. And, I have asked him to place a category on the state conference registration form for people to indicate their Diocese.

E)  We will be working with Fr. Wayne Dziekan, of Gaylord diocese, and others, to learn from their experience in setting up a diocesan/regional network, or “rapid response” network, with the intention of sharing some kind of organizing document with the other dioceses.

Action in Progress

A) We will be activating communication between Pax Christi’s JFI campaign at the State Council level and all our local Pax Christi groups, asking them to:

  1. Designate one or two people in the group willing to take on responsibility for the JFI campaign.
  2. Ask them to be on the alert for local undocumented persons who may get in trouble  with the law, and document these events.
  3. Ask each Pax Christi local group to reach out and form networks with other groups or institutions – religious, civic, labor, ethnic, college, school, professional, etc.. — working for immigrant justice .
  4. Carry out a program of negotiation with local police agencies to treat the undocumented the same as regular citizens, and not turn them over to ICE.
  5. Respond to all unjust legislative actions at both the national and state levels during the next two years.

B) We also want to invite individual members and friends of Pax Christi to participate to a lesser degree in some of the above actions where appropriate.

C) We want to suggest that local Pax Christi groups and individuals within the diocesan regions form a practical working relationship as the best way to provide a strong challenge and better service to the Catholic leadership in Michigan to implement the JFI campaign.

D) We want to see that detainees in each of the five ICE detention centers in Michigan receive adequate pastoral and legal counseling

Political Action

With the recent failure of the Dream Act to pass Congress, it is clear that we are entering a difficult time for legislative action to succeed.   We recognize that a comprehensive and just reform of the US Immigration system may only be possible in two to four years time.

But I want to give you some ideas of what is being done now politically.  We are presently representing Pax Christi Michigan within the activities of (AIR).

See below:

2011-2012 Strategy Framework

What then is the central strategic task(s) of the movement for the next two years?

During the 2010 AIR Convention, leaders from across Michigan came together to discuss the future of the immigrants’ rights movement.  We evaluated a set of strategic assumptions, and began to plan, based on those assumptions, where we would target our organizing in 2011 and 2012.

Those strategic assumptions were largely validated by the Convention and have, with additions and suggestions, been appended below.

These core areas of actions were developed and agreed upon at the Convention:

1) Snyder Plan: We will begin a long-term campaign aimed at moving Governor Snyder into an openly pro-immigrant position.  This work will have to proceed by building relationships with potentially sympathetic business leaders, especially in tech and agriculture.  We can use these relationships to open up a dialogue with the administration, while continuing our base-building work.  Perhaps we can work toward a first event around an issue the Governor is known to be sympathetic toward, such as the Arizona Law.  A successful public commitment around an AZ-style law could have a chilling effect on other proposed Arizona laws.

Action Steps:

A)  John Musick (MOP), Nadia Tonova (ACCESS) and Ryan Bates (AIR) will continue to convene a working group on the Snyder Plan

B)  Coalition partners should begin to reach out to potential business allies, especially folks from Snyder’s business world in Ann Arbor

C)  Partners should feel out their local representatives to ensure that we get a “heads-up” if there will be moves on controversial anti-immigrant legislation

2) Enforcement Accountability Working Group: We will begin a long-term campaign to hold law enforcement agencies accountable for racial profiling, abusive enforcement, detention standards, and exceeding their mandates.  This work will begin with a reporting and response mechanism for those who encounter abusive enforcement, and a documentation project.  Campaigns will target narrow practices that we can beat, rather than “enforcement” as a whole.

Action Steps:

A)  Sally Kim (AIR) will convene a first Enforcement Accountability committee meeting early in 2010.

B)  AIR will begin to create a reporting infrastructure with help from Rashida Tlaib and New Detroit

C)  We will begin to research other campaigns that have gone after Border Patrol, most likely our first target.

3) Immigrant Worker Organizing Group: We will convene a working-group of organizations across the state actively involved in immigrant worker organizing.  Though we were unable to come to agreement for a concrete campaign at the Convention, it was agreed that these groups need a space to convene and strategize.

Action Steps:

A) Ryan, Sally, Chris Michalakis (UFCW) and Minsu Longiaru (ROC), will convene the next meeting of the immigrant worker organizing group early in 2011 to conduct a needs assessment and see if funding can be raised to support this organizing.

4) Students and DREAM: AIR will continue to support the DREAM organizing initiated by the students and One Michigan, which includes organizing support of grassroots labor, business, and Republican leaders for the short-term legislative battle.

Other long-term projects include:

5) We aggressively build our electoral capacity across the state to ensure that our communities’ needs are addressed by policy-makers

6) We organize and support local fights (secure communities, Border Patrol accountability, matricula consular as accepted ID, high profile deportations, wage theft and labor rights) that can build capacity and support a central state or national strategy.

7)  We focus on alliance-building and “moving the middle” organizing, such as a “Welcoming Michigan” style campaign.

Coming out of the midterm elections, it seems clear that some of the political consequences are:

1) Latino and immigrant voters are a constituency that has real reach and power in key states (CO, CA, NV), and this can drive national politics to some extent.

2) Given the breadth and depth of this constituency, it will be difficult to impossible to win the Presidency without them, BUT they do need a reason, positive or negative, to come to the polls

3) In Michigan, immigration is still seen as a safe “wedge” issue to run on in elections—Right-wing Republicans feel safe targeting singling out immigrants; Democrats do not universally support a pro-immigrant agenda and/or do not feel well-supported to state so publicly.

4) With Republicans in control of all branches of state government, we will likely be facing a hostile legislature, though we may have some room for maneuver with the Governor.

In this new environment, we can assume the following about US Congress:

5) The Federal Judiciary Committee will be in the hands of rabid anti-immigrants (Lamar Smith, Steve King), who will try to move many bad bills.  They could be crafted in a way that will put Democrats on the defensive, and it will be no sure thing to stop them in the Senate.  They may also be crafted in a way that will make it difficult for Obama to easily defend vetoes.

6) The Judiciary Committee will spend a significant amount of time auditing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), compelling officials to testify, and pressuring DHS to deport as many immigrants as possible.  This will be designed to appeal to the Republican base, illustrate how Democrats are “soft on enforcement,” and embarrass the White House.

7) The soonest that CIR or other substantive pro-immigrant reforms could be addressed in Congress is 2013, if Obama is re-elected with large pro-immigrant majorities in the House and Senate.

In the White House:

8 ) We cannot expect audacious change from Obama, but rather a continuation of the current enforcement strategy

In Michigan’s government:

9) The legislature will look for scapegoats for our state’s economic problems, starting with immigrants.  One of the first bills to be introduced for the 2011 session, for example, is Senator Joe Hune’s anti-immigrant public benefits bill.  Other bills could include an Arizona-style law, English-only legislation, restrictions on drivers’ licenses and marriage, E-Verify, etc.  Anti-immigrants Rick Jones and Eileen Kowall are likely to be the chairs of Senate and House Judiciary.

10) With no Democratic check, these measures could pass very quickly with little debate.

11) Snyder ran as a moderate with a focus on taxes and jobs, though the legislature may want to focus more on social issues.

Our enemies:

12) Will continue to organize, and fight to bring immigration issues up through the Tea Party.  Their activity will also focus on the state level, due to the deadlock in Congress

13) Will continue to organize primaries against moderate Republicans (Snowe?).

Our Base:

14) Will continue to blame Obama for deportations and “not doing enough” for CIR or DREAM, but will clearly see the damage that Republicans are doing if we make it clear.

15) In Michigan, our base is still not big enough to win our key priorities alone, and will need to build strong alliances with business, white evangelicals, labor, and African-Americans.

What does this mean for our state and national strategy for the next two years?

National:   It is almost impossible that CIR or any smaller bill could be enacted in the next Congress.  We will probably be in a running fight to keep Smith/King from controlling the debate.  It is possible that the Senate could take up positive bills; they will likely be as alternatives or bargaining positions for anti-immigrant House measures.  It is possible, though unlikely, that forward-thinking Republicans with Presidential aspirations may push for a deal with Obama while they are strong in the House, hoping to take the issue off the table for 2012.

Michigan:   It is certain that we will be facing almost immediate attacks in the legislature, with limited leverage to defend ourselves.  There is some hope to move Snyder toward pocket-vetoes of some legislation.  However, we will likely be in crisis mode for the next two years, especially as we near the 2012 elections and Republicans use the legislature to frame the debate around wedge issues.

Legislative Call   Jan 11th   (AIR)

The Legislative Committee came up with two strategies in the medium and long-term to move the Governor.

1) Business and Republican Strategy

We will convene a meeting of business and Republican leaders the week of March 14th in Lansing.  The goal of this meeting is to get these leaders to sign on to a kind of “business leaders for immigration reform” coalition that would then leverage their power and access with the administration.

Key sectors: Agriculture, High Tech, Automotive/manufacturing, health care, education, food processing.

Points of entry: this coalition may have entry with the Governor through Andy Dillon, state treasurer, John Nixon, director of Management and Budget, or Dan Wyant, Agriculture Director.

1st Benchmark: Get Buy-in from Key Southeast, Central, and West Michigan conveners.

Targets– Lawrence Garcia (Hispanic Bar Association), Fay Beydoun (American-Arab Chamber of Commerce), Carlos Sanchez (West Michigan Chamber), Joe Schwarz

Action steps:

  • Ryan and John Musick will begin business meetings, courting conveners.
  • Max Anguiano will get meetings with Lansing Regional Chamber, Prof Juan Marinez to feel out both Farm Bureau and Wyant.
  • Ryan will produce a one-pager so folks can begin business meetings
  • Amanda will figure out who we should talk to at the Chamber of Commerce and SBAM
  • Rachid will check with Rashida about her relationships with Snyder and Gonzalez Group.

2) Social service strategy

We will convene the directors of key Latino-serving agencies, and attempt to get a meeting with Director of the Department of Community Health Olga Dazzo.  Dazzo is Cuban-American, and will probably grant a meeting to these leaders.  We probably don’t need to form some sort of formal “coalition” with these leaders, as many of them already collaborate closely.

A challenge will be keeping the meeting focused to a legislative agenda.  We will need probably several pre-meetings or calls.

Benchmark 1: Establish Southeast and West Michigan conveners

Action steps:

  • Susan Reed will check with Martha Gonzalez Cortes @ West Michigan Hispanic Center, and Ryan will check with Norman Bent and the Hispanic Collaborative about convening.

Legislators to develop relationships with:

Harvey Santana (West Detroit), Duraney (Dearborn), Ohlumbo (Hamtramck)

1. Lansing Update, January 14, 2011

January 14, 2011: As 2011–12 Legislative Session Begins, Elimination of Michigan EITC Proposed; Catholic Conference Applauds Selection of Justice Corrigan as DHS Director. Continue reading Lansing Update, January 14, 2011…

2. MCC Strongly Urges House Republicans to Reconsider Eliminating EITC

January 14, 2011: Michigan Catholic Conference President and CEO Paul A. Long made the following comments today in response to a proposal from House Republicans to eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit. Continue reading MCC Strongly Urges House Republicans to Reconsider Eliminating EITC…

State of the State Address:

See this message from State Representative Rashida Tlaib–

I was sitting in the audience at the State of State address by Michigan’s Governor Rick Synder and was extremely thrilled to hear a positive message expressed around our immigrant community.  Of course, we would have wanted him to go farther and include our boarder immigrant community, but this was still commendable.  This gets us closer to a more WELCOMING MICHIGAN that will move away from targeting immigrants or laying blame. This will help with our advocacy efforts as we combat any anti-immigrant policies excepted to be introduced in this new Legislature.

Heads up on introduction of new AZ Law in MI

This evening, the 19th , Dave Agema went on record announcing that he’ll be introducing a new Arizona-style law in Michigan as early as next week.

Submitted by Jim Rauner, PCM State Council member

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