The Michigan United Statewide Strategy Summit on Immigrant Rights

On Saturday, Dec 10, 2016, Michigan United held a statewide stragegy summit. The purpose of this meeting was to come up with strategies to support immigrant families and stop deportations. Some one hundred people were in attendance, from many parts of Michigan. Simultaneous Spanish translation was provided in headsets. Ryan Bates, an immigration lawyer who also works with Michigan United, opened the meeting, saying "This is a working meeting, not a talking-about-problems-we're-not-gonna-solve meeting."

In addition to Michigan United, representatives from these organizations were sponsors of the event (though many individuals at the meeting represented other organizations): Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR), Michican Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC), The Campaign to Take On Hate.

While most speakers mentioned fear of what the Trump administration will do for immigrant families -- "Right now, we're waiting for the bombs to fall," said Diego Bonesatti of Michigan United -- Bonesatti also reminded us that the Obama administration has also deported more people than any administration in history, deporting 300-400 thousand people per year1, and building miles of fence along the southern border of the United States.2

One of the Obama administrations main tools, according to Bonesatti, was to work with local law enforcement agencies -- deputizing them to do enforcement. In this program, for example, all fingerprints collected by local police departments may be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "They want to force people to accept that local police departments will turn you in," said Bonesatti. These are tactics that Bonesatti expects the Trump administration to continue, and expand. He also acknowledged that many people are afraid of military-style raids sweeping up large numbers of people. But, he says, "raids are less successful producing numbers. They get more people per agent by focusing on local police. But raids are scary. Raids are reported. People picked up at home or in traffic stops, that's just an everyday thing."

What can be done about this? The Michigan United meeting had a several-pronged approach, with each prong holding its own break-out meeting.

Adonis Flores, of Michigan United, hosted a political mobilization breakout group, which focused on brainstorming tactics and sharing information about where politicians stand on immigration, and who can be allies.

Diego Bonesatti hosted a breakout group about "know-your-rights" education. Know-your-rights educators go to communities and host meetings to train immigrant families on their rights. Michigan United already has 60 trained know-your-rights educators. At the breakout session, people volunteered to host educator training sessions, to train more know-your-rights educators. Their goal is to have 1,000 education sessions before May Day (May 1, 2016).

Another breakout session focused on "Sanctuary and Receiving Communities". These are usually faith-based communities that offer sanctuary to families that are in immediate threat of deportation. These communities commit civil disobedience by shielding these families from enforcement agencies. Other faith communities who are not ready to commit civil disobedience may help by providing food, clothing, and medical supplies. Further communities may not be ready to do this, but may be ready to host talks and education sessions. People at this breakout session volunteered their communities for some of these roles.

Darren Miller, of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, hosted a breakout session describing what he called a "Legal Services Surge." Non-attorneys can be trained to represent individuals before the immigration agencies, and in some cases, before immigration courts.

Asha Noor hosted a breakout group to recruit volunteers for the Take On Hate campaign.

To get involved, contact any of these organizations: