Big Macs and American dreams

A new report from the League focuses on Michigan’s immigrant community and the ways policymakers and institutions can strengthen outcomes among immigrant families.

Like many children of immigrants, my story begins with the story of my parents and the sacrifices they made to come and work in this country. My parents’ story began in the Midwest, where they had arrived separately from Mexico City in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, moving from one big city (Mexico City) to another—Chicago, Illinois. It was their first time setting foot on U.S. soil, and though they immigrated to the U.S. before they met one another, they both took part in an All-American tradition when they arrived: buying a Big Mac at the nearest McDonald’s!

Moving to the United States, however, meant a whole lot more than just tasty fast food to them. For many immigrants like my parents, living in the United States often means having the ability to work hard and earn a better living to support loved ones. It can also mean having the opportunity to pursue professional and educational dreams and making first big purchases like buying a home.

Yet, even with hard work and perseverance, many immigrant families still have a hard time achieving the “American dream.” The realities of life in America today can be vastly different across immigrant groups, and factors such as race, socioeconomic status, English language proficiency and legal status can determine the level of access immigrants have to opportunities. Public policies can also determine whether or not immigrant families have access to healthcare, education and economic opportunities.

Here are some of the key characteristics of Michigan’s immigrant community:

chart for blog_big mac and amer dreamsImmigrants in Michigan are diverse.

The latest Census data tell us a lot about the diversity of immigrants in Michigan. Almost half of Michigan immigrants (49%) emigrated from Asian countries, making it the most common world region of origin for immigrants in the state. Foreign-born neighbors from this region of the world most commonly arrive from: India, Iraq, China, Korea and Lebanon. Among the other top regions of origin for Michigan immigrants were: Europe (22%), followed by Latin America (19%) and Northern America (6%). At the League, we recently put together county-level fact sheets on immigrant communities across the state that provide a deeper look into how immigrant families are doing. 

Immigrants work hard and are employed across the occupational spectrum.

Immigrant families contribute to our state socially and culturally. As workers and business owners, they also contribute economically, and help make regional economies competitive. Most immigrants in Michigan work in Sales, Office, Service, and Management or Professional jobs. Almost a fifth (19%) work in Service occupations, while another 18% are employed in Production, Transportation and Material Moving occupations. In 2016, approximately 58% of Michigan immigrants were employed. Access to good-paying jobs helps immigrant workers grow their household income and support their families. In 2016, 69% of immigrant families had an annual income of at least $40,000, and 41% had an annual income of at least $80,000.

Children living above 200 percent of povertyChildren of immigrants are doing comparatively better than kids in U.S.-born families, but a closer look at the data reveals that there is still much work to be done.

Like the rest of Michigan children, children of immigrants also need access to healthy food, a stable home and a quality education to succeed. In Michigan, almost 7% of all native-born children under age 6 have at least one immigrant parent, while approximately 15% of children with at least one immigrant parent are immigrants themselves. Data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s new Kids Count report, Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, shows that children of immigrants in Michigan are doing comparatively better than Michigan children in U.S.-born families when it comes to key indicators in education, economic security and family. A closer look at the data, however, reveals that children of immigrants of color are doing worse across nearly every indicator. This finding mirrors that of children of color in U.S.-born families, and highlights the need for stronger supports for families of color in the state.

The data on immigrant families in Michigan tells a story of strength, resilience and hope for a better future. While immigration policy coming out of Washington is proving to be harmful to immigrants in Michigan, elected officials at the local, state and federal level can turn this around and act immediately to ensure that immigrant parents and their children have the necessary tools and supports needed to thrive and contribute in Michigan.

Today, my parents are nearing retirement age, but they continue to work hard and give back to their community in rural North Carolina, and every so often, they still enjoy a Big Mac at the nearby McDonald’s. I’ll always be incredibly thankful for the sacrifices they made in coming to this country, learning a new language and balancing multiple jobs so that their kids could have access to better opportunities than they did in Mexico. Their American dream will live on, in me.

— Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow

Michigan policies must create opportunity and remove barriers for kids of color, immigrants

For Immediate Release
October 24, 2017

Alex Rossman

2017 Race for Results report shows Michigan has lowest child well-being score for African-American children in the country

LANSING—A new national report on child well-being released today shows that African-American children in Michigan fare worse in key indicators than in any other state in the country. The report also shows that Latino children in Michigan fall behind children of other ethnic groups on key milestones. The report, 2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children, produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows that all Michigan kids are struggling academically, but children of color are doing worse in nearly all indicators across education, health, family and community, and economic security.

The report also indicates that Michigan children in immigrant families are doing relatively well, but uncertainty and outright hostility in state and federal policies continue to pose threats to their well-being and the stability of their families. Additionally, not every group of immigrants has the same experiences, with many struggling with housing, financial security, education and language barriers.

“Seeing how our kids in Michigan fare compared to national numbers is startling. We are failing all of our children, especially our kids of color, and we need policies to remove barriers that have created systemic inequities.

“Some policies like stringent immigration changes are specifically targeting certain kids, some policies are perpetuating historic racial disparities generation after generation, and some policies are just having inadvertent or unintended consequences. If we want Michigan to be a diverse and vibrant state, we have to start doing more to better take care of all of our kids,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

This is the second Race for Results report by the Casey Foundation; the Foundation released the first report in 2014. The report measures children’s progress on the national and state levels on key education, health and economic milestones by racial and ethnic groups. The report’s index uses a composite score of these milestones on a scale of one (lowest) to 1,000 (highest) to make comparisons.

The 2017 Race for Results shows that Michigan’s overall index score for White children, 667, is lower than the national average of 713, and the state score of 260 for African-American children is the lowest score in the country—far below the national average of 369 for this group. However, Michigan’s scores for other ethnic groups were higher than the national average. The well-being of American Indian/Alaska Native children in Michigan was scored at 511 compared to 413 nationally, and Asian and Pacific Islander kids in the state scored 804 overall compared to 783 nationally. The report scored the welfare of Michigan’s Latino children at 446, while nationally this group’s score was 429. The index scores for Latino children across the country are alarming, with the vast majority, including Michigan’s, below 500.

“Michigan is not the best state for meeting the needs of African-American kids,” said Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. “At a time when racial tensions are running high in our nation, our government and our society are letting these kids down and leaving them behind. ‘Separate but equal’ was a foolish and flawed policy, but so is ‘Together but inequitable.’ We need to help all kids move up together, and we’re going to need an overhaul of our policy approach to do that.”

Regionally, Michigan had the second lowest score for White kids in the Midwest. The lowest score in the Midwest for White children was Indiana with a score of 664, while Minnesota had the highest at 789—the fifth highest score in the country.

The academic indicators continue to be some of the lowest and most distressing for Michigan. The percentage of fourth-graders proficient in reading is lower in all racial and ethnic groups in Michigan than the national average for each group. The starkest difference is among African-American fourth-graders in Michigan, where nine percent are proficient in reading compared to the national average of 18 percent. This is the lowest rate of any state. White and Latino kids in Michigan fall into the bottom five states nationally for the rate of fourth-grade reading proficiency. Similar struggles are seen for all racial and ethnic groups in eighth-grade math, and the math proficiency rate for African-American eighth-graders in Michigan is tied with Alabama for the worst in the country.

“As we work to help Latino children in Michigan thrive, we need to take a broader, two-generation approach to better support their parents,” said Angela G. Reyes, Executive Director and Founder of the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation. “Over a quarter of our Latino kids live with a householder without at least a high school diploma, and their parents’ struggles to finish school affect their own reading proficiency and ability to learn.”

Around 284,000 immigrant kids currently live in Michigan. Some children face the same struggles, whether they were born in the United States or abroad. More than 20 percent of children in immigrant families live with a householder without at least a high school diploma compared to only eight percent of children in U.S.-born families. More than 25 percent of Latino children in Michigan live with a householder without at least a high school diploma. Conversely, all the other U.S.-born racial and ethnic groups have rates between nine and 15 percent.

“Not all immigrants are the same, and our experiences are as varied as the countries and cultures we come from,” said Aamina Ahmed, Executive Director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote – Michigan. “Gov. Rick Snyder is trying to bring more immigrants to Michigan, President Donald Trump is trying to keep more immigrants out of the country, and policy approaches to immigration sway with the political winds. Immigrants come here in search of a brighter future, but right now, that search is clouded with fear and uncertainty, leaving them very vulnerable.”

Other indicators showed some significant differences in family structure. Eighty-seven percent of children in Michigan’s immigrant families live in two-parent households, a significantly higher rate than the 66 percent of children in U.S.-born families. Michigan immigrant kids are in the top five nationally in this category. Only 69 percent of all children in Michigan live in two-parent families (just above the national average of 68 percent), ranging from a low for African-American children of 33 percent to a high of 89 percent for Asian and Pacific Islander kids.

While this data is eye-opening, it also raises questions about how policies are affecting children of color and in immigrant families. Michigan policymakers in Lansing and Washington should embrace the following policy recommendations to address the low scores for child well-being and drastic racial disparities for kids of color identified in this report:

  • Use a racial and ethnic equity lens in evaluating and developing public policies, like the Raise the Age effort to keep kids out of adult prisons;
  • Keep families together and in their communities;
  • Increase economic opportunity for all parents, especially immigrants and people of color; and
  • Provide a quality education to help all children meet key developmental measures.

The Michigan League for Public Policy continues to make racial equity a focal point of all of our policy work, recently analyzing the state budget’s impact on Michigan kids and residents of color. The League also strives to lift up the contributions of immigrants and their families to our state at a time when they are coming under severe attack from policies out of Lansing and Washington. A new report, Immigrant Families in Michigan: A State Profile, analyzes Michigan’s immigrant population and the positive impacts they have on our economy and labor force. The League has also compiled immigration profiles for all 83 Michigan counties in conjunction with the Race for Results release.


Release Information

The 2017 Race for Results report is available at Additional information is available at The website also contains the most recent national, state and local data on numerous indicators of child well-being. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about Race for Results can use the Data Center at

About the Kids Count in Michigan Project

The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Fetzer Institute.

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit KIDS COUNT is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

U.S. Senate budget plan slashes services for struggling Michiganians to push huge tax cuts for very wealthy

For Immediate Release
October 20, 2017

Alex Rossman

Michigan’s Senators stand up for the people, but preferential budget primarily passes along party lines

LANSING—The United States Senate passed its budget resolution last night, including drastic cuts to programs and services that support hardworking Michiganians to fund $1.5 trillion in unpaid-for tax cuts largely for the wealthy and profitable corporations.

The budget sets up a fast-track, partisan process for passing the Republican tax plan with just 51 votes—the same process the Senate used to try to force through their repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The tax plan would overwhelmingly benefit those at the top of the economic ladder: the top 1 percent in Michigan would receive 62.5 percent of the tax cuts while the bottom 20 percent of Michiganians would get just 1.1 percent, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). Michigan households that make over a million dollars each year (only .2 percent of Michigan’s population) would see an average tax cut of $253,500, ITEP found. The middle fifth of households in Michigan, people who are literally the state’s “middle class,” would receive just 7.1 percent of the tax cuts that go to Michigan under the framework at an average of $440.

“Like the House’s federal budget passed two weeks ago, the Senate’s budget and corresponding tax cuts line the pockets of the wealthy and profitable corporations at the expense of everyday Michiganians,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “Michigan residents who are struggling to get by suffer now, with immediate cuts to critical programs that help Michigan families thrive, including health coverage, tax credits for families with low incomes, and basic assistance for seniors and people with disabilities living in poverty, and they will suffer later, when dramatically higher deficits would ultimately force cuts to healthcare, education, infrastructure and other building blocks of economic growth.”

The Michigan League for Public Policy created a fact sheet on the top threats to Michigan in the federal budget, and has also drawn attention to the devastating impact of the tax plan drawn up by President Trump and congressional Republicans. An analysis by the League shows that Michigan is the second-most reliant on federal funds in the U.S., with 42 percent of our state budget coming from federal funds.

“For too long, many Michigan residents have been getting left behind by state and federal policies, and these budgets and tax plans are only going to widen the gap further,” Jacobs said. “Instead of tax cuts that benefit those who need it the least, Congress should be prioritizing budget and tax policies that do not add to the deficit while strengthening our economy and supporting working families through investment in education, housing, infrastructure and more. We’re grateful to Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters for their understanding of this, and only wish the message would resonate with their colleagues across the aisle.”


The Michigan League for Public Policy,, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

Keeping people at the center of public policy

I am still very much a newbie at the Michigan League for Public Policy. I finally know where I can find extra staples, but I still struggle with all of the acronyms and institutional knowledge that this job requires. Luckily, I recently attended a New Staff Training at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). I want to share some of what I learned at my training because I believe the CBPP’s outlook on equity-driven public policy is useful to all of us.

This training was held in Washington, DC, and while I usually love visiting our nation’s capital, I could not put to rest a feeling of anger and frustration. I imagined folks debating the future of healthcare, immigration policy and the federal budget just miles away, and I was not happy about being so close to the people making those decisions without being able to voice my opinion on them.

People 450x667Thankfully, the training environment I stepped into could not have been more different from the bitter scenes I was imagining on Capitol Hill. New advocates, researchers, communications staff and executive leaders traveled from around the country to learn how to make a difference in their states and contribute to national movements for policy change and justice. There was even an entire contingent of folks from Puerto Rico who arrived just as Hurricane Maria made landfall back home.

The room was refreshingly diverse and we spent a good part of our time together discussing racial and ethnic equity, exploring how public policy decisions often have disproportionate impacts on people of color. Everyone in the room was dedicated to studying history, understanding the racism that has driven public policy decisions in our nation’s past, and using that knowledge to develop meaningful research and advocacy.

I love that our work is not simple here at the Michigan League for Public Policy. Our researchers take the time to examine public policies deeply and decipher the impacts they have on vulnerable people. Our staff dedicates a lot of time to talking about racial and ethnic equity, and we are encouraged to point out places where we can grow and become a more inclusive organization, even if that means we have to change the way we have been doing things. I am heartened to see organizations across the U.S. doing the same.

As an advocate, I am particularly moved by the CBPP’s prioritization of community engagement. At our new staff training I understood even better the importance of bringing more people into our policy discussions. We cannot simply put out reports and hope they will make a difference. If we are truly invested in creating sustainable, equity-driven change, we need to develop relationships with our communities. Our communities need to inform how and why we do our work.

Now I am home and ready to get to work! I hope to challenge myself to make racial equity central to my outreach here in Michigan. I feel recharged and I can imagine how desperately other activists are in need of some renewed optimism as they take on more and more public policy fights. I will do my best to share the hope I witnessed as I talk with folks about the importance of forging ahead.

If you’re looking for a way to be part of the process, you can learn more about the League’s opportunities for involvement here.

— Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Specialist

Immigrant families in Michigan: A state profile


 October 2017
 Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow

Michigan has long been home to thousands of immigrants from all over the world. Immigrants in Michigan are neighbors, students, workers and Main Street business owners. They help our state maintain a strong, modern economy and they enrich our communities.

Michigan has seen a significant increase in the number of immigrants in our state over the past several decades. Between 2000 and 2015, the immigrant population in Michigan increased by almost a quarter (24.5%), and has nearly doubled since 1990. The majority of immigrants in Michigan (51.4%) arrived to the state before 2000, with only 20.8% having arrived since 2010.1 Michigan’s immigrant population is high among other small states in the country, but still smaller than many large states like Illinois. Furthermore, the rate of growth of the immigrant population in Michigan remains outpaced by growth at the national level.2 About half of immigrants in Michigan are naturalized citizens (51.1%) while some maintain some form of legal status such as a temporary visa or permanent residency. As of 2014, 97,000 immigrants in Michigan were undocumented or had no form of legal status.3


From Latin America to South Asia, immigrants in Michigan come from regions all over the world, helping to enrich the Great Lakes state. Almost half of Michigan immigrants (48.4%) arrived from Asian countries, making it the most common world region of origin for immigrants in the state. The top Asian countries of origin are: India, Iraq, China, Korea and Lebanon. Among the other top four regions of origin for Michigan immigrants were: Europe (21.7%), followed by Latin America (18.9%) and Africa (4.3%).

Immigrants who come from the same world region can have vastly different experiences in the United States due to race, socioeconomic status and level of English language proficiency. Immigrants of color, in particular, are more likely to experience discrimination and barriers to opportunity than their White counterparts. These barriers often take the form of residential segregation, limited access to well-paying quality jobs, and poorly funded schools in their communities among others. Public policies that address racial inequalities in health and economic well-being are needed to ensure that more families of color, both immigrant and U.S.-born, can thrive.


table1Children of Immigrants

In Michigan, among all native-born children under age 6, 6.9% (51,112) have at least one immigrant parent, and 14.9% (4,846) of children with at least one immigrant parent are immigrants themselves. Like the rest of Michigan children, children of immigrants also need access to healthy food, a stable home and a quality education to succeed. Many children of immigrants, however, face a higher risk of having poor health and economic outcomes if their parents are experiencing poverty or are undocumented.4 Among children of immigrants in Michigan, 14.8% were experiencing poverty and struggling to get by in 2014 (the most recent year available).5 As Table 1 shows, Hispanic children of immigrants are disproportionately more likely to experience poverty than other non-White racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, more than half of all children of immigrants in Michigan are children of color who are more likely to face barriers to success that stem from structural racism. These longstanding disadvantages impact everything from the quality of education in schools to access to health institutions and community resources.

Many children with immigrant parents also live with the constant fear of separation from loved ones due to immigration status. As of 2014, approximately 28,000 undocumented immigrant parents with at least one U.S.-citizen child under the age of 18 lived in Michigan.6 Research shows that children who are permanently separated from parents can experience long-term psychological trauma and economic hardship. Therefore, policies that enable families with mixed legal status to stay together are imperative for ensuring child well-being.

Young Adult Immigrants

figure 1Many children of immigrants who have grown up in Michigan are now enrolling in college or entering the workforce. Their contributions as students and workers are vital for maintaining a healthy economy. When it comes to educational outcomes, immigrants in Michigan are more likely to have both an advanced college degree and a bachelor’s degree than U.S.-born state residents. However, some immigrants in Michigan are also much less likely to have completed a high school education than their U.S.-born counterparts. Figure 1 provides an overview of educational outcomes among all immigrants in the state. This disparity in educational outcomes demonstrates that while some immigrants have made gains in accessing higher education (though some also arrive with higher education degrees from their countries of origin), many others still face barriers to completing high school and obtaining a college degree.

A subset of the young adult population is known as the “Dreamers”—immigrants who were brought to this country as children and identify as Americans in every sense of the word, but do not have legal status. In 2012, the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program granted temporary reprieve from deportation and a renewable two-year work permit to beneficiaries and became a vital policy for enabling this group of young immigrants to succeed in this country. Approximately 6,430 young undocumented immigrants in Michigan are currently enrolled in the DACA program.7 Several studies have confirmed that the DACA program has enabled many beneficiaries to pursue educational and professional dreams, contribute to their family’s household income, and make their first big purchases such as buying a car or a home.8

On Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Justice Department, under the direction of President Donald Trump, announced the end of the DACA program. Under new instructions set forth by the administration, the Justice Department announced it would no longer consider new applicants for the program, but would consider renewals for those beneficiaries whose permits expire before March 5, 2018, so long as they submitted renewal applications by Oct. 5, 2017.9 The end of the DACA program has left young immigrants feeling uncertain about their futures in this country. Not only does the end of DACA mean harm to thousands of immigrant students and professionals in our state, it also negatively affects local communities and the state’s economy.


As workers and business owners, immigrants can make regional economies competitive, improving the employment prospects and wages for all workers. From 2006 to 2010, immigrant business owners in Michigan generated $1.8 billion in net business income.10 In 2015, immigrants contributed 9% of the total state GDP in Michigan, and made up 11% of all business owners in the state.11 Michigan immigrants also contribute millions in tax revenue each year, and in doing so help pay for important public programs and infrastructure in the state. In 2015 for example, undocumented immigrants in Michigan paid approximately $86.6 million in state and local taxes.12 Young undocumented immigrants also contribute their share in taxes. In 2015, DACA-eligible immigrants contributed approximately $15 million in state and local taxes.13 While Michigan immigrants should not be valued solely for their economic contributions, it is important to recognize the countless ways in which they help strengthen our state and our local communities.


As workers, Michigan immigrants are highly engaged in the labor force, working in a variety of occupations. In 2016, the employment rate among Michigan immigrants 16 years and older was almost identical to that of their U.S.-born counterparts, and had improved from the previous year. In the same year, 57.9% of Michigan immigrants were employed compared to 57.3% of native-born residents and 57.3% of all Michigan residents.14 Michigan immigrants are also less likely to be unemployed than U.S.-born residents. In 2015, the unemployment rate among Michigan immigrants was 4.7% (the most recent year available), compared to 6.7% among U.S.-born residents. Michigan immigrants also work in a diverse number of industries and occupations in our state. Many serve as teachers, nurses, agricultural workers and more. Figure 2 provides an overview of the occupations held by Michigan immigrants as of 2015. Most Michigan immigrants worked in sales, office, service, and management or professional jobs as of 2015.


When Michigan immigrants succeed, we all succeed. Policymakers can immediately address the lack of policies in place to support our immigrant neighbors. While many immigrants in our state have been able to thrive post-recession, many more are still struggling to make ends meet for their families. Here are some of the ways state and federal policymakers can strengthen Michigan immigrant outcomes:

  • In-State Tuition. The high cost of a college degree continues to be a barrier to higher education for many immigrants, particularly undocumented immigrant students. Most Michigan universities consider undocumented students “out-of-state” residents and require them to pay out-of-state tuition, despite the fact that many have lived in Michigan long enough to otherwise qualify as state residents. Granting in-state tuition to these aspiring students would require a change to our state constitution. A more feasible solution could be that public and private universities adopt tuition equity policies.
  • Access to Occupational and Professional Licenses. Policymakers can also strengthen outcomes among young undocumented immigrants by making them eligible for occupational and professional licenses. In Michigan, no state law has been passed that specifies DACA beneficiaries as a category of non-citizens eligible for obtaining occupational and professional licenses.
  • Pathway to Citizenship. Legal status allows immigrants to focus on their careers and families without having to worry about the potential separation from loved ones due to deportation. Providing a pathway to citizenship for thousands of undocumented immigrants in Michigan is a critical step in helping immigrants achieve positive outcomes for their families.
  • Leaving Behind Policies of Exclusion. The most recent wave of anti-immigrant legislation in our state presents a serious threat to immigrant families and undermines American values of justice and equality. Certain bills, like a proposal to make English the official state language, are introduced for purely symbolic purposes that only serve to divide our communities. Other proposals, like cracking down on sanctuary cities, carry more dangerous implications for undocumented immigrant families. Research shows that inclusive policy is the best way forward for all Michiganians.16 Members of Congress and state legislators can act immediately to abandon policies of exclusion and introduce policies that eliminate barriers to success for Michigan’s immigrant families.

Unless otherwise noted, all state-level data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey. “Immigrant” generally describes a foreign-born person living in the U.S., regardless of their immigration status or whether they have become a U.S. citizen.




What Muslim ban 3.0 means for Michigan

Two weeks ago, a coalition of Muslim and immigrant grassroots groups gathered together at Wayne State University to protest the most recent rollout of anti-immigrant policies at the federal level. Since the 2016 election last fall, advocates from across the state have gathered time and time again to push back on the increasingly hostile climate toward Muslim and immigrant communities. Beginning in his first week in office, President Trump began to make good on his campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the country by issuing a travel ban targeting Muslim majority countries. Last week, advocates came together once again to oppose the latest iteration of the Muslim ban unveiled on Sept. 24 by the Trump administration. The ban, which again mostly targets Muslim-majority nations, continues to restrict travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (Sudan is no longer included). It now also includes a ban on certain residents from North Korea, Chad and Venezuela, and goes into effect tomorrow, Oct. 18. Unlike its predecessors, this Muslim ban has no end date.

Refugee arrivals chartThe scope of the president’s power over our borders and the legal future of travel bans in the U.S. Supreme Court is somewhat uncertain. The court allowed portions of the second travel ban order to go into effect in an unsigned opinion in June and set a date for arguments for Oct. 10. But when that 90-day ban expired, Trump issued a third iteration of the ban and the high court dropped the earlier case. Since this third travel ban is indefinite, legal challenges to it—which began Monday—will be pivotal in resolving these issues.

The initial version of the travel ban, which expired in September, narrowed travel from listed countries for those with “close family ties” in the United States. Though narrower in scope than the January version, the second version of the ban kept out refugee families fleeing natural disasters and war-torn countries who had no previous connections in the United States. The refugee restrictions in the second iteration of the travel ban are set to expire on Oct. 24. The current version of the ban has different travel restrictions set for each country listed. Some of the new restrictions include a ban on tourists, relatives of American residents and those seeking medical visas. Legal experts and community advocates argue that the administration is attempting to hide the ban’s discriminatory intent towards Muslim refugees by adding countries that are not majority Muslim in its latest version.

While the latest version of the travel ban does not include refugees in its scope, the refugee restrictions from the second version of the ban are still in effect and are set to expire on Oct. 24. These restrictions will likely continue to slow the resettlement process for families and resettlement agencies in Michigan in the latter half of the year, and the process is also likely to be affected by a new cap on refugee admissions for the coming budget year. According to a report from the Trump administration, the refugee cap will be set at 45,000. This is a stark drop from the Obama administration’s cap which had been raised by 30% to 110,000 refugees for budget year 2017.

When it comes to refugee resettlement, Michigan has a history of being a good global neighbor as a site for resettlement. In fact, for the past several years, Michigan has remained among the top 10 resettlement states in the country. In the first seven months of budget year 2017, for example, Michigan resettled 2,121 refugees, and was the fourth highest initial state of residence for refugee arrivals to the country during that time period. Michigan is also one of 12 states that has resettled more refugees from Iraq than any other group in the past 10 years.

Despite these gains, there is still much work to be done to truly make Michigan a welcoming state for all refugees and immigrants. Policies like a Muslim ban will undo the progress Michigan has made in the area of immigration, and will only lead to pain and separation for countless families from around the globe. Residents, business owners and elected officials should all speak out against a Muslim ban and the countless other xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies coming out of Washington.

— Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow

13 things Congress has in common with Jason Voorhees

Happy Friday the 13th! I’m a big fan of Halloween and horror movies, so a Friday the 13th in October is a pretty big deal to me. In honor of today’s “holiday,” I decided to have a little fun and put together a 13-point comparison between Jason Voorhees and Congress. When you think about it, the similarities are pretty scary! While we don’t have the ability to make Camp Crystal Lake safer for counselors and summer campers, the League will keep doing what we can to protect you from the dangerous policies coming out of Congress.

1.They are prone to slashing things. The federal budget passed by the U.S. House of Representatives recently is nearly as bloody and brutal as a “Friday the 13th” movie, containing some of the worst cuts to support programs in recent history.

Mask Friday_13th 400x2142.They prefer to utilize masks. While Jason uses a mask to hide his face (and for good reason), Congress prefers to mask their motives—they cut healthcare for millions while saying they’re helping them and give absurdly large tax breaks to the wealthy while saying they’re helping the little guy.

3.They are relentless and just won’t quit. Say what you will about Jason, but he is not easily deterred. Similarly, Congress has managed to disregard public opinion, compelling personal stories and multiple political failures—their bad policies just…keep…coming.

4.They prey on the most vulnerable. If you’re a senior, a person with a disability, a woman or a person of color, you’re unfortunately not going to fare well in most horror movies. Similarly, Congress’ federal budget and many iterations of healthcare “reform” keep coming after our most vulnerable residents.

5.They improvise and use whatever weapons are at their disposal. Just as Jason is known for capitalizing on weapons of opportunity (I mean, the party horn!?), Congress uses a variety of weapons to push their policy agenda, from procedural changes that make their bills easier to pass and harder to defeat, to cutting funding to push an agenda they can’t pass legislatively.

6.They make things you used to enjoy scary. Summer camp, swimming, bonfires and just about everything else you like about being outdoors in the summer have been tainted by Jason. Congress has threatened to do the same with affordable quality healthcare, economic security and dependable government services, turning them against us.

7.They keep coming back from the dead. Since he’s technically already dead, Jason does not die easily, and even when he does, he comes back multiple times and for myriad sequels. Similarly, Congress’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the American Health Care Act, the Better Care Reconciliation Act and the Cassidy-Graham plan) keep dying…and keep coming back.

8.They punish drug and alcohol users. Any fan of the “Friday the 13th” movies will tell you that using drugs and alcohol often means an accelerated demise. By continuing to threaten the Affordable Care Act and its particular protections for substance use disorders, including the opioid epidemic rocking Michigan, Congress is also placing drug and alcohol abusers in danger.

guy in suit cropped9.They don’t listen to reason. Jason’s single-mindedness is impenetrable to logic or reason. Sadly, most of the time, so is Congress.

10.They hold on to grudges way too long. If you really want to psychoanalyze it, the whole “Friday the 13th” franchise is based on a decades-old grudge and a primal desire for revenge. Congress still seems a little obsessed with undoing as much of President Barack Obama’s legacy as they can, particularly with the ACA.

11.They are terrorizing our woods and waters. Just as “Friday the 13th” movies have ruined your enjoyment of crystal lakes and pristine woods, Congress’ cuts to environmental protections in the budget and potential oil drilling in wildlife refuges are doing the same.

12.They fear outsiders. Jason generally only terrorizes people he considers outsiders to his turf of Crystal Lake. Similarly, Congress continues to vilify immigrants to our country and pursue legislation to harm and intimidate them.

13.They prefer to operate under a cloak of darkness. While Jason does not fear the light of day, he generally prefers to do most of his damage late at night and after dark, especially while people are sleeping. Congress is known to take a similar tact, taking important votes like the Better Care Reconciliation Act in the middle of the night and doing a lot of wheeling and dealing in the shadows.

— Alex Rossman, Communications Director

Help Wanted: Michigan lacks teacher diversity

As part of our U.S. history unit on the Progressive Era, my co-teacher and I have included a project called “Be the Change.” Through this, we ask students to tackle some of the major issues facing young people in our nation, including environmental problems, economic disadvantages and racial inequities.

The students read articles, watch videos and listen to podcasts to educate themselves about the problem. They then develop a plan to “be the change,” modeling their actions after activists from the progressive era.

As I curated sources for the project a couple years ago, this article struck me. It highlights the utter lack of diversity when it comes to teachers in the U.S. And sharing it with my students, many of whom are from the very races and ethnicities that are so underrepresented in teaching, prompted some powerful discussions. So when I read the League’s recent report on the state budget as a tool for racial equity, I was not surprised to see the statistics on teacher diversity, but I was again troubled.

quote 1In Michigan, students of color made up 33% of the population of public schools in 2015-2016. But 91% of teachers are White. Study after study after study has shown that having at least one teacher of the same race increases the likelihood of school success for children of color. But that’s not happening in Michigan.

I care deeply about this issue and want to learn more about its roots. But I am a white female high school teacher. Part of being an effective teacher or an effective advocate is knowing what you don’t know, and being open to learn from others’ experience and expertise, so I sought answers from people working more closely on diversity in teaching.

I first went to Dr. Terry K. Flennaugh at Michigan State University. Flennaugh is an Assistant Professor of race, culture and equity in education and the coordinator of urban education initiatives at the university.

“We know that greater diversity is better for all students, not just students of color. The folks who help usher in learning shouldn’t look like just one person,” Flennaugh said.

quote 3Why do teachers look the way they do? As with most issues involving race, place and ethnicity, it’s complicated, says Flennaugh.

He made clear that the problem is caused by things beyond the scope of academics—that people from underrepresented backgrounds face many barriers. But he did pin down some issues that crop up at the university level.

“Teaching is a highly regulated profession—it has to be. But we’re held to all these standards, and some of the accreditation requirements have disproportionately negatively impacted communities of color,” Flennaugh said.

The biggest requirement that falls into this category is the standardized test. Right now, the state of Michigan uses the SAT as its “test of basic skills.” In order to begin student teaching, it’s required that a student meet or exceed the career and college readiness benchmark on that exam.

Leah Breen, Director of Educator Services with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), agrees that the test is not an ideal measurement.

“We know that standardized tests are going to show racial bias—any standardized test shows a disparity between White students and students of color. We also don’t have any research that definitively shows that success on these tests indicates that someone is going to be a successful teacher,” Breen said.

Breen’s department, which oversees teacher preparation, is well aware of the lack of teachers of color entering the teaching profession.

children-of-color-white-teacher350x232According to Breen, MDE consistently examines its internal policies and procedures to see what might be creating barriers to anyone who might want to teach but feels disenfranchised.

“Michigan’s stats mirror the nation’s stats when it comes to diversity in the workplace, and that’s an issue,” Breen said. “We’re working every day to make this profession more desirable for young people.”

One approach they’re taking involves the standardized test.

“One benefit of the SAT is that all students in Michigan are able to take it free of charge during their junior year of high school. So that means one less hurdle for students as they try to begin their student teaching program.”

Another way the department is using the standardized test to its advantage is through a campaign to reach out to high school students.

“We’re implementing a plan to send letters home to any student who earns the ‘career and college’ readiness cut score on the test their junior year. The letter will congratulate them and let them know they’ve already met a benchmark…that their path to becoming a teacher has already begun. We do feel like this is a way to reach out to a wider body of candidates.”

Of course, only 10% of African-American students and 19% of Latino students in Michigan met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college readiness in 2015-16. So we can’t depend on these measures to increase diversity among teachers.

“We can’t just blame a screening test, though,” said Flennaugh. “Students who have positive experiences with a profession tend to go into those fields. Black students don’t always have those positive experiences with teachers.”

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There’s also the practical side of the issue, says Flennaugh. Teaching is not a moneymaker, so students who come from a disadvantaged background and want to rise up don’t see a teacher prep program, with its four years of classes and fifth year unpaid internship, as a lucrative option. Plus, the starting salary is less than desirable for someone looking to find a way up the economic ladder.

“We also have asked universities to increase clinical experiences in urban areas—giving future teachers the opportunity to work with more racially diverse students and perhaps provide better access for student teachers of color,” Breen said of the state’s motion toward greater diversity.

But, Breen adds, teacher diversity can’t come from one department. It’s got to come from the districts. And the universities. And the Legislature. And the communities.

Flennaugh agrees.

“This is a systemic problem. We’re not going to solve it by tweaking something only at the university level,” he said.

And as students in districts around the state become more diverse, the problem will only become more conspicuous.

Both Breen and Flennaugh realize there’s no quick fix toward increasing teacher diversity; they also agree that more must be done to improve lives of people of color beyond the scope of academics.

quote 2Viewing the state budget through a racial equity lens would go a long way in identifying gaps early on, giving our students a much better chance of seeing a teacher who looks like them. It’s something I’m working on in my job at the League that could inform my job as a teacher, even as a white woman.

A dictum of many teachers is “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care,” and it has always been true in my case. When it comes to diversity, it seems applicable, as well.

One of Flennaugh’s biggest points was this: “I worry about the idea that representation alone will solve the problem. The teacher, regardless of whether he looks like me, needs to make an attempt to understand me,” Flennaugh said.

As a secondary teacher, I am committed to understanding my students better each day. But I think our broader commitment should be to do what we can to make sure our students look to the front of the class and see teachers who better reflect our society.

The League will continue to work on identifying racial disparities in Michigan, including the lack of diversity in teaching, and how we can change public policy to address them. And I personally will continue to do my part to support my students, my school and my profession, including exploring some of the solutions that experts have developed to recruit and retain teachers of color.

— Laura Millard Ross, Communications Associate

Making change: The state budget as a tool for racial and ethnic equity


mlpp and kids count sept_26_2017 September 2017
Pat Sorenson, Senior Policy Analyst



The 2018 budget includes several investments that address pervasive, unacceptable and avoidable barriers to opportunity for many of the state’s children of color, but a much more intentional effort is needed to overcome long-standing inequities that can be traced to public policies in Lansing and nationwide. State budgets are not “colorblind”—even if their disproportionate impact is unintended.

Through its Kids Count program, the League documents the well-being of children in Michigan, and advocates for policies that can eliminate the indefensible outcomes experienced by children of color and their families. For every negative outcome there is a backstory—a history of inequities based on race, income and place. Michiganians share a value of opportunity for all children, but the data show us that good intentions have not always resulted in good outcomes.


Differences in economic security and opportunity are at the core of racial and ethnic disparities in outcomes for families and their children. The systemic barriers to economic security include housing discrimination, the historical impact of redlining on homeownership, segregation in public schools, differences in educational quality and opportunity, racial discrimination in the workplace, and inequities in the ability to accumulate assets and wealth.

These systemic barriers have their roots in historical racism and discrimination, but persist today in part because of budgets and other public policies that do not recognize the extra resources required to overcome the cumulative effects of inequities based on race and ethnicity.
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  1. Expanded funding for food assistance, but more work needs to be done to ensure access to healthy food. In 2018, the state’s “heat and eat” policy will continue, providing more food assistance to nearly 340,000 Michigan residents, including thousands of children of color and their parents. Still lacking is enough support for access to healthy foods for the many children of color who live in “healthy food deserts.”
  2. Continued to endorse policies that have led to the decline in funding for income and family support programs. The Legislature rejected a small increase in the clothing allowance for children receiving income assistance—all of whom are living in deep poverty. Funds were included to expand access to child care services so parents can work, as well as the Pathways to Potential program in schools around the state.


Michigan has a history of effectively covering children through the Medicaid and MIChild programs, and with the Affordable Care Act, the rate of uninsured children dropped even further. However, the state’s children of color still have less access to needed physical and mental healthcare, are more frequently born underweight and likely to die before their first birthdays, and face environmental injustices related to exposure to toxins in their homes and neighborhoods.

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As a result of historical and current barriers to a high-quality education and career path for many African-American and Latino parents, their children have less access to private health insurance. Two of every 3 African-American children—and half of Latino children—in Michigan rely on public health insurance programs. Consequently, expansions in publicly funded healthcare coverage can significantly improve equity for children.


  1. Supported the Healthy Michigan Plan with both federal and state funding, providing healthcare coverage to 650,000 Michigan residents with low incomes.
  2. Provided funding for Medicaid services for over 390,000 pregnant women and children.
  3. Established pilot projects to integrate the administration of behavioral health services—a controversial move that will begin as a pilot project in Kent County.
  4. Provided a small funding increase to address the need for transportation for families seeking nonemergency healthcare, a persistent barrier to access for many families with low incomes.
  5. Continued to invest in efforts to address the Flint lead exposure crisis, approving a slight decrease in the state portion of the costs of services from $43.7 million this year to $41.5 million in 2018. Still at issue is the prevention of similar crises in other areas of the state, and the Legislature included $1.25 million to begin implementing the recommendations of the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board.
  6. Approved $815,000 to prevent dangerous chemical vapor intrusions. The Legislature appropriated the funds to continue a new response program for the intrusion of volatile chemical vapors into homes and buildings.
  7. Continued to underfund local public health services. Funding to local public health departments is approximately the same as it was in 2004.
  8. Eliminated a health innovation mini-grant program. The Legislature eliminated the $1 million Health Innovation Program that provided mini-grants to a range of community agencies for efforts to address the needs of special populations, including families of color.


A long history of racial and economic inequality, along with racial segregation, have led to gross differences in the resources available in the neighborhoods many Michigan children of color grow up in. Too frequently children of color are living in high-poverty areas where safety is a concern, and access to parks, fresh food, and after-school and other enrichment activities is limited. African-American children in Michigan are eight times more likely to live in high-poverty communities than White children.

In addition, the barriers and economic stresses facing parents in lower-income communities of color often affect their ability to provide the support and care their children need. As a result, children of color are overrepresented in Michigan’s child welfare system.


  1. Failed to adequately fund revenue sharing payments to cities, villages and townships. The 2018 budget includes $6.2 million in one-time funding for cities, villages and townships, which is not enough to overcome years of lagging funding, resulting in current payments at only 30% of the statutory level.
  2. Provided funding for child protective services and foster care, but continued to underfund services that could prevent child abuse and neglect. Funding is available for child welfare staffing and services needed to move children out of the foster care system and into permanent homes—as required by a settlement agreement stemming from a lawsuit against the state for failures in its child welfare system. However, the lawsuit does not specifically address the disproportionate representation of children of color in the state’s child welfare system or require additional efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect. In fact, the 2018 budget reduces funding for family preservation by $6.1 million.


A high-quality education is a vital path to equity for children in Michigan, yet the data show that Michigan has a long way to go. Children of color have less access to highquality early learning experiences and face barriers throughout the educational system. Three of every 4 African-American students and two-thirds of Latino students in the state are considered economically disadvantaged, a stark reminder of broader social issues that result in inequities in educational achievement, high school completion and college readiness.

Of great concern are disparities in third-grade reading given Michigan’s new retention law. More than half (56%) of African-American third-graders would have been subject to retention if the policy had been implemented in 2015-16, compared to only 21% of White students. For the retention law to be successful and avoid contributing to racial and ethnic inequities, it is critical that there be sufficient funding for the services needed to address the cumulative impact of inadequate early learning opportunities for children of color, including the early identification and treatment of developmental delays and high-quality child care and preschool.

Further, despite evidence that having at least one teacher of the same race increases the likelihood of school success for children of color, Michigan teachers do not reflect the demographics of their students. In the 2015-16 school year, 67% of Michigan students and 91% of the state’s teachers were White—making Michigan’s teaching workforce less diverse than the national average.

Finally, reflecting diminished opportunities beginning early in life and accelerating during the school years, only 10% of African-American students and 19% of Latino students met or exceeded the SAT benchmark for college readiness in 2015-16. As a result, African-American and Latino youths are less likely to pursue postsecondary education within six months of graduating and are much more likely to require remedial coursework once in college.


  1. Increased per-pupil spending with larger increases for districts currently receiving the lowest payments. The Legislature approved an increase of between $60 and $120 per pupil, using a formula that benefits districts with lower payments. In the 10 years between 2007 and 2017, the minimum per-pupil payment increased 6%, while the cost of living increased 12.6%.
  2. Increased payments for high school students. The final budget includes $11 million to provide a bonus payment of $25 per pupil in grades nine through 12—recognizing the costs associated with the high school curriculum.
  3. Increased funding for students at risk of educational failure. The Legislature approved an increase of $120 million for the At-Risk School Aid program—bringing total funding to $499 million—and expanded eligibility to an estimated 131,000 students. The At-Risk School Aid program is the state’s best vehicle for addressing the educational challenges faced by children who are exposed to the stresses of poverty and has the potential to help improve equity for children of color.
  4. Failed to provide sufficient funding to address racial and ethnic disparities in early literacy. For 2018, the Legislature approved $3 million in new funds to double the amount available for early literacy coaches to $6 million statewide. Other early literacy funds ($20.9 million) were consolidated to be distributed to districts.
  5. Failed to invest in adult education. Despite a high level of need, state funding for adult education has dropped by 70% since the 2001 budget year. For 2018, the Legislature provided continuation funding of $25 million for adult education programs, along with $2 million for pilot programs focused on career and technical education.
  6. Providing too little financial aid for students with low incomes. Average tuition in Michigan was the sixth highest in the nation during the 2015-16 school year and the state currently spends less than half the national average on needs-based tuition grants. Michigan has also completely eliminated state financial aid for students who have been out of high school for more than 10 years. For 2016, the Legislature: (1) tightened the tuition cap for universities; (2) slightly increased funding for financial aid programs; and (3) failed to reinstate the Part-Time Independent Student Grant for older students.

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Trump, GOP tax cuts aren’t worth it

Ask anyone if they want a tax cut and more money in their pocket at the end of the year, and the answer will likely be yes.

But what if you found out that you, as a middle-class Michiganian, would bring home a few hundred dollars more a year, while the richest 1% in Michigan, those making over $500,000 a year, would take home 174 times what you got?

And what if these tax cuts also came at the expense of services that Michiganians rely on every day— food assistance, healthcare coverage, education, financial aid for college, and many other programs that help Michigan residents make ends meet?

Because that’s exactly what is going on in Congress right now.

Congress and President Donald Trump are talking about giving average Americans a tax cut. Their blueprint for tax reform uses buzz words like “tax relief for middle-class families,” “simplicity,” and “providing greater fairness.” The blueprint makes it sound like a good deal.

However, when you look at the details, the proposal is not much different than the vague framework that was released months ago, which would target the greatest tax relief to wealthy corporations and taxpayers and would be paid for by significant cuts to the things we rely on most.ITEP Graphic- Trump Tax Plan & MI

And when we look at the numbers, the message is clear. In Michigan, 62.5% of the tax savings would go to those in the top 1%, who make more than $500,000, according to recent data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. While the poorest Michigan residents would see an average tax cut of $70—and the Michigan middle class a $440 tax cut—those at the top would see a tax cut of about $76,560. Michigan’s millionaires, who represent just 0.2% of the state’s population, would get 47.3% of the cuts, at an average of $253,500.

What’s more is that these deficit-increasing tax cuts would come at a cost to programs that millions of Michigan residents use and rely on day after day.

Budget proposals from President Trump, the House and the Senate all seem to follow the same guidelines and plan to slash healthcare coverage including Medicaid and Medicare, leave more Michigan households hungry by cutting vital food assistance and make deep cuts to programs that help Michigan residents make ends meet. They also plan deep cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, which helps support our K-12 schools, environmental protection, low-income housing and infrastructure, among other needs. These are programs that are necessary to continuing to move the state and the nation—and their economies—forward.

All of these cuts just to put more money into the pockets of our wealthiest corporations and Michiganians.

These tax cuts aren’t worth their price.

— Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

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