Here's what's happening with immigration in Michigan | Michigan Radio
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Here's what's happening with immigration in Michigan

Jun 25, 2019

The national debate over immigration reached another boiling point last week.

First, a team of lawyers visited border patrol facilities in Texas where they saw hundreds of migrant children living in putrid, unsanitary conditions. The reports drew national outrage, and The Associated Press reported Monday that most of the children have since been relocated.

Second, President Donald Trump announced that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be conducting mass raids to deport undocumented families. He then announced the raids would be delayed for two weeks, in an attempt to get Congressional Democrats to give in to asylum law changes.

So what does all of this mean for Michigan?

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Migrant children in Michigan

Some of the migrant children in federal care are being brought to Michigan.

Susan Reed is managing attorney at the Michigan Immigration Rights Center (MIRC), which provides legal services to every child brought to the state. She says that none of the migrant children in Michigan are living in the conditions that are being reported at the border. That's because the programs in Michigan are the foster care services Bethany Christian and Samaritas, not mass detention centers.

"That's an imperfect system, like the whole child welfare system is. But fundamentally, what we have are child welfare programs," says Reed. "What you're seeing at the border are not fundamentally child welfare-oriented programs like we have in Michigan."

She adds that these programs have been consistent on the basic health, safety, and welfare of the children in their care.

"We have no issues with access to our clients," sayd Reed. "We do regularly visit the group homes in particular and regularly interact with foster parents. And regularly talk with kids about the conditions of their detention."

In response to the growing number of migrant children entering the country, Bethany Christian Services is expanding its transitional foster care program into East Lansing and Holland as a higher number of unnaccompanied children enter the country. The organization is already operating foster care homes in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, and Paw Paw.

Dona Abbott, Bethany's branch director of refugee services, has said the agency did recieve children that were seperated from their parents during the Trump administration's "zero tolerance policy."

Hear more of Reed's conversation with Stateside in the audio file above.

Deportation threat could affect Michigan immigrants

Approximately 100,000 undocumented immigrants currently live in Michigan, and many of them would be affected if Trump's threatened sweeps actually happen.

Before Trump opted to delay the raids, The Washington Post reported that ICE planned to target migrant families. Trump tweeted that the raids would be the first step toward deporting "millions" of undocumented people.

Read more: From a dream to deportation, a West Michigan family prepares for what's next

ICE deportations don't only affect immigrants that arrived via the southern border. The U.S. has deported a "handful" of Iraqi immigrants. The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in April that Iraqis with standing removal orders would no longer be protected from deportation if an immigration court hasn’t heard their case.

The case started when some of the affected Iraqis sued the government, saying it was too dangerous for them to return to Iraq. Many were Chaldean Christians from Metro Detroit, picked up in ICE raids during the spring of 2017.

Know your rights

If you are undocumented and unsure what to do if ICE approaches you, the ACLU offers advice for mulitple scenarios in English and Spanish.

  • You have the right to remain silent and do not have to discuss your immigration or citizenship status with police, immigration agents, or other officials. Anything you tell an officer can later be used against you in immigration court.
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen and an immigration agent requests your immigration papers, you must show them if you have them with you.
  • If an immigration agent asks if they can search you, you have the right to say no. Agents do not have the right to search you or your belongings without your consent or probable cause.
  • If you’re over 18, carry your papers with you at all times. If you don’t have them, tell the officer that you want to remain silent, or that you want to consult a lawyer before answering any questions.

Michigan is fully within the 100-mile border zone within which U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates immigration checkpoints. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 gave CBP the authority to search vehicles and vessels without a warrant, meaning the agency can search for undocumented people without any other suspicion of wrongdoing.

If ICE boards public transportation or searches your car, you have the right to remain silent. CPB's expanded powers in a border zone do not mean you can be searched, detained, or arrested without probably cause.