It’s not a goodbye, it’s a ‘see ya later’

Casey Paskus

Casey Paskus

I had the incredible opportunity to intern with the Michigan League for Public Policy this fall, and I have enjoyed every minute of my experience. I have been able to write blogs that have been published on the League’s website, I have authored reports on topics that I am passionate about and I even had the chance to attend a (very fancy) dinner hosted by the Citizens Research Council.

Working with the League has enabled me to complete projects I never thought I would be working on as a college student. I loved working here so much, I decided to spell it out for everyone:

L – Literally the nicest people to work with. Thank you to everyone at the League for instantly welcoming me into the office and stopping by my cubicle just to say ‘hey’. The League’s staff are really what made my time here special!
E – Extraordinarily interesting projects that I had the chance to work on, including reports on Race for Results data and the importance of third-grade reading benchmarks. I had so much freedom to choose what I was interested in and how I would write each report. Thank you to the League for the faith and trust you had in me!
Children-in-a-Circle 350x233A – Author—me! I was able to write blog posts on youth advocacy and the needs of African-American kids and the reports mentioned above that are now published on the League’s website. I can’t thank everyone enough for allowing me to become published as a college student and giving me the chance to finally apply everything I’ve learned in my college courses to the real world.
G – Great, really important research and advocacy that happens every day at the League, thanks to the wonderful, passionate and smart staff! These people are doing work that will help all residents of Michigan, from hungry children to unemployed adults. With the League, I knew I was really making a difference through the reports and research I completed.
U – Unceasing snacks and coffee! Shoutout to the coffee machine that kept me alive, even on days when I had been up studying for my classes at Michigan State till 4 a.m. the night before. You’re the real MVP.
E – Everything! This experience has been amazing. I’ve learned so much about myself and about issues that are important to Michigan families. I can’t put into words how much this opportunity has meant to me; thank you to everyone who made my time at the League so wonderful!

I want to give a special shoutout to Gilda Jacobs, Rachel Richards and my incredible, amazing boss Alicia Guevara Warren. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to intern with the League this fall semester. I will never forget all of the things I have been able to accomplish with their help and guidance!

— Casey Paskus, Kids Count Intern

Holding on to the dream

As families come together to celebrate the holidays, on the minds of many immigrant families is the worry that this may be their last holiday season with their loved ones. This is because the recent termination of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program threatens the ability for thousands of young immigrants—often called “Dreamers”—to remain in the country. In Michigan, 5,400 undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA stand to lose their ability to work and go to school without fear of deportation.

A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy focuses on the positive impact that DACA has had on the lives of thousands of Michigan’s immigrants, and the many ways these young Dreamers contribute to our state.

Advocates are calling on Congress to address this crisis before the end of the year by passing the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants whose futures hang in the balance. Every day that Congress stalls the passage of the DREAM Act, 122 individuals across the country lose their DACA status and become at risk of deportation.

DACA was established in 2012 by President Barack Obama in an effort to address the needs of young undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as minors. DACA provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization (applicants must apply for renewal after two years). On Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Attorney General announced the end of the program via a six-month phasing out period. With the end of the program, Dreamers now have numbered days with their DACA status, and thousands have already seen their status expire since the announcement.

DACA graph 1Since its inception, more than 790,000 immigrant youth across the country have been able to achieve better opportunities through the DACA program. In Michigan, DACA beneficiaries work hard, go to school and give back to their communities and local economies. Here are some important characteristics of DACA participants:

  • The majority (53%) of DACA beneficiaries across the country are women, and two-thirds of them are 25 years of age or younger.
  • Across the country, DACA program participants are largely concentrated in densely populated urban areas. Detroit, for example, is one of 20 metro areas across the country where three-quarters of all DACA beneficiaries reside.
  • Collectively, DACA participants make up 382,400 workers in our country’s labor force. Meanwhile, a large majority (62%, 154,108) of those not in the labor force were enrolled in school.

Despite the many different ways Dreamers contribute to our culture and our economy, lawmakers continue to drag their feet when it comes to passing a permanent solution. The consequences of ending DACA and the dreams of thousands of young immigrants will be immediately felt. Among other losses, researchers estimate that Michigan will lose $13 million in state and local tax revenue and $418 million in annual economic activity if all DACA beneficiaries are deported. The loss in tax revenue is equivalent to the cost of 220 teacher salaries in Michigan.1 This loss would prevent our state leaders from being financially able to make important investments in our schools, our hospitals and our communities.

The introduction of the DACA program was a good first step in modernizing our immigration system. Its loss means countless lost opportunities for immigrant youth and for our communities. For these reasons, investing in this generation of immigrant youth should be a key priority for our state and federal governments. Dreamers and their families have waited long enough. Lawmakers should act now to pass the DREAM Act.

— Victoria Crouse

1. Fiscal Policy Institute (FIP) analysis of Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) tax revenue data and National Education Association (NEA) data on teacher salaries.

 

 

Personal tragedies, political failures

Yesterday, my heart stopped as I heard on the news that yet another Amtrak derailment in Washington State took the lives of up to six people and injured scores of others. It brought back floods of horrific memories when I heard on May 12, 2015, that my beloved daughter, Rachel, was one of the victims on the Amtrak derailment of a train from Philadelphia to New York City. Both accidents and all the lives of the dead and injured could have been avoided if PTC, Positive Train Control, had been installed and activated.

How many more children need to lose their parents? My 5-year-old grandson, Jacob, does not remember his mom, her hopes and dreams for his future, and the once intact family that shared so much. How many men and women need to lose their spouses or loved ones before we demand of our elected officials in Washington, D.C. that this technology be installed yesterday? The deadline for the railroads to do this work has been pushed further into the future, despite the fact that their charge to install this equipment was made years ago.

I was outraged and saddened to learn that this is still an issue. And now more families have holes in their hearts. Train officials have known for decades that PTC works, yet I fear the railroad lobbyists have been far too influential in delaying spending the needed dollars to make these changes.

And I can’t help but connect these dots to the short-sightedness of the tax reform bills that were passed by the U.S. House and Senate yesterday. We are increasing our federal deficit which will directly affect not only health and human services, but the resources we have available to maintain our infrastructure, like trains supported by our tax dollars.

So this is really personal. I want our congressional delegation to make more stringent timelines for safety changes. Because, next time, it could be their daughter, son, mom or dad who loses their life.

And I want folks to understand that tax policy and change matters. That decisions made at both the federal and state levels really do have life-altering effects. That people’s lives truly are at stake.

And mostly importantly, lives didn’t have to be lost if government did the right thing. Amtrak clearly didn’t learn a thing after the 2015 derailment since they still have not reached 100% compliance. And Congress should be putting forth the same effort to push for this change to save lives as they have to pass their tax plan. But unfortunately, the revenue lost through the tax plan will make PTC and other important investments even less likely, putting even more lives at risk.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Thousands of immigrant families in Michigan may be spending their last holiday together without DACA fix

For Immediate Release
December 20, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

New report shows 5,400 immigrants and $418 million in economic activity in jeopardy in Michigan

LANSING—Over half a million Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, including 5,400 in Michigan, face an uncertain holiday season as their dreams of citizenship have been stalled by the U.S. Justice Department. While these young immigrants should be excited to register for a new semester of classes, enjoy their workplace holiday party, spend time with loved ones or take part in community events, these Dreamers are instead spending their holidays worried that they may be forced to return to living in the shadows, fearing for their futures.

A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, The Benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on Immigrants in Michigan, delves into the positive impact of DACA on enrollees in the state—and the devastation its recent termination will have on Michigan’s immigrant families, communities and economy.

In Michigan, thousands of immigrants currently enrolled in the federal DACA program stand to lose their ability to work and go to school without fear of deportation. These young “Dreamers” came to the United States as children and identify as Americans in every sense of the world, but do not have legal status. The DACA program, established in 2012, granted temporary reprieve from deportation and a renewable two-year work permit to Dreamers who met requirements.

“Dreamers in Michigan are students who balance work and college courses, employees pursuing professional dreams, family members helping to contribute to their household income and consumers working to afford a car or a home. They are contributors to our state’s economy and tax base in a variety of ways,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These young immigrants are a vital part of our state and key to a vibrant future, and federal policymakers should be working to keep them here.”

If these Dreamers leave Michigan, their economic contributions leave, too. According to the report, DACA beneficiaries contribute $13 million in state and local tax revenue. And the state would see a $418 million annual GDP loss without these individuals.

This is in addition to the personal devastation that Dreamers face with the end of DACA. Loss of income, loss of a driver’s license and loss of educational opportunities lead directly to the loss of a future.

“Just a few months ago, DACA recipients were looking forward to a safe and secure life in the United States. Today, they must deal with uncertainties and even potential deportation to ‘homelands’ that are unfamiliar. This type of treatment is despicable and goes against our American values. The League encourages policies that allow all residents to thrive instead of these efforts to tear us apart, right down to our very families,” Jacobs said.

Research shows that inclusive immigration policies are best, and the report recommends the following:

  • A pathway to citizenship that provides long-term relief from deportation;
  • Tuition-equity policies that allow DACA beneficiaries to be considered eligible for in-state tuition at universities and private colleges;
  • Access to occupational and professional licenses so that DACA beneficiaries can put their education and training into action; and
  • Policies for social and economic inclusion that eliminate barriers to success for Michigan’s immigrant families.

A recent wave of anti-immigration legislation raises concerns as thousands of immigrant families across the nation and here in Michigan have become the object of scrutiny and .

“We know that inclusive immigration policies help all Michiganders, so we were dismayed to see that the Michigan Legislature is moving forward with HB 4053, an anti-immigrant bill that would make English the official state language. Policies like this do nothing but divide our state and distract people from the real issues facing our residents,” Jacobs said.

Over the last year, the League has continued to lift up the contributions of Michigan immigrants, including producing an overview of immigrants in Michigan and county-by-county immigration fact sheets.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, 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.

The benefits of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) on immigrants in Michigan

pdficon Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow
December 2017

INTRODUCTION

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was initially established in 2012 by President Barack Obama in an effort to address the needs of young undocumented immigrants who arrived to the country as minors. DACA provides temporary protection from deportation and work authorization (applicants must apply for renewal after two years), and has led to an increase in employment opportunities and participation in higher education among many beneficiaries.

DACA graph 1In the five years since its inception, DACA has proven to be an effective strategy for boosting beneficiaries’ wages, employment opportunities and education. While there are several shortcomings to this policy, DACA was a good first step in addressing our outdated immigration system. The recent termination of the DACA program threatens the livelihood and well-being of these young undocumented immigrants and their families, and this in turn threatens our economy and the well-being of our state.

Unless there is action in Congress or by President Donald Trump’s administration, all 689,800 DACA beneficiaries across the U.S. will lose their work permits and be subject to deportation over the next two years as their permits expire. In Michigan, 5,400 young immigrants currently enrolled in the program stand to lose their status. This report describes the many ways in which young undocumented immigrants help strengthen our state, the positive impact that DACA has had on their lives, and recommendations that policymakers can take to ensure their well-being as well as that of their families.

BACKGROUND: WHO ARE THE DREAMERS?

The term “Dreamers” was coined in 2001 to describe young immigrants who would benefit from the passage of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a bill offering a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as young children by their parents. Today, “Dreamers” is used more broadly to describe all young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as kids 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 Dreamers who met age and education requirements (hold a high school diploma or GED), and passed a background check. By opening the doors to legal employment without the fear of deportation, DACA became a vital policy for enabling this group of young immigrants to succeed in this country. Researchers and recent data on beneficiaries confirm that the DACA program enabled many participants 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.1

DACA graphs 2 and 3As of September 2017, there were 689,800 active DACA beneficiaries across the country. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that in 2017 there were approximately 1.3 million undocumented immigrants who met the eligibility requirements to apply for DACA, and approximately 68% ultimately submitted an application for the program as of June 30, 2017. In Michigan there are approximately 5,400 young adults enrolled in the program.2 The total share of DACA-eligible immigrants in Michigan totaled 15,000 as of 2014.3 High application fees, legal fees and a shortage of community resources to navigate the application process were common barriers for many Dreamers hoping to enroll in the program but who ultimately did not apply.

Among those individuals who are no longer enrolled in the program, approximately 70,000 individuals did not renew their benefits or were denied, and approximately 40,000 adjusted their status and obtained green cards, granting them permanent residence in the United States and a path to citizenship.4

DACA RESCINDED

Shortly after the DACA program’s fifth anniversary on Sept. 5, 2017, the U.S. Attorney General announced that the Justice Department would end the program over a six-month phasing out period. As of that date, United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) stopped accepting new DACA applications. As of Oct. 5, 2017, the federal government is no longer accepting renewal applications. Nearly 700,000 beneficiaries across the country will be affected by the termination of this program. In Michigan, thousands of undocumented immigrants currently enrolled in DACA stand to lose their ability to work and go to school without fear of deportation.

CHARACTERISTICS OF DACA BENEFICIARIES

DACA graph 4DACA beneficiaries come from different regions and countries around the world. In the U.S., the top five countries of origin for beneficiaries are: Mexico (79.4%), El Salvador (3.7%), Guatemala (2.6%), Honduras (2.3 %) and Peru (1.1%). In Michigan, the top country of origin for DACA-eligible immigrants is Mexico.5 The majority (53%) of DACA beneficiaries across the country are women, and two-thirds of them are 25 years of age or younger.

Compared to its Midwestern neighbors, Michigan is home to a smaller number of DACA beneficiaries. Illinois, with 35,600 beneficiaries, is a traditional immigrant destination and home to the largest number of beneficiaries in the region. Across the country, DACA program participants are largely concentrated in densely populated urban areas. Detroit, for example, is one of 20 metro areas across the country where three-quarters of all DACA beneficiaries reside.

DACA graph 5DACA’S IMPACT ON BENEFICIARIES

Impact on Employment

By providing beneficiaries with temporary work permits, DACA enabled individuals to access better paying jobs and pursue careers in their areas of interest.6 A 2016 study of DACA beneficiaries found that DACA increased the likelihood of participants’ employment through expanded labor force participation, while also decreasing the rate of unemployment for individuals.7

As of September 2017, more than half (55%) of all DACA program participants across the country were employed (48% were female and 64% were male), making up a total of 382,400 workers in the labor force. Meanwhile, a large majority (62%, 154,108) of those not in the labor force were enrolled in school.8

Thousands of Dreamers are balancing work and school. Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute found that about a quarter of DACA enrollees are juggling both college classes and work, suggesting that beneficiaries must work in order to afford their education. When it comes to occupational groups, DACA beneficiaries are most commonly employed in white-collar occupations. Compared to undocumented immigrants without DACA status, DACA beneficiaries are more likely to work in office settings, and less likely than their counterparts to work in blue-collar occupations like construction, suggesting that DACA opens the door to better employment opportunities for individuals.9

Impact on Education

In a 2013 research study, researchers sampled over a thousand DACA beneficiaries and found that a majority of respondents perceived that their DACA status enabled them to pursue educational opportunities they previously did not have access to.10 Researchers at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) confirm these findings, providing a fuller picture of their education and enrollment statuses.

Researchers estimate that a total of 37% of DACA participants were enrolled in some type of postsecondary education program as of September 2017. Of these students, one-third were also working, while 8% were unemployed and 59% were not in the labor force.11 Though more than a third of individuals were estimated to be enrolled in school, the majority (62%) were not. Among beneficiaries who were not enrolled in school, 69% were employed, while 9% were unemployed and 22% were not participating in the labor force, as of September 2017.12

DACA graph 6When it comes to college, researchers found that DACA beneficiaries are almost as likely as their U.S.-born adult counterparts to be enrolled in college (18% versus 20%), but are much less likely to graduate. This latter finding can at least partially be attributed to the steep tuition costs undocumented immigrant students are required to pay each year. In states like Michigan, where there is no statewide tuition-equity policy, undocumented students’ state residency is not recognized, and students are forced to cover out-of-state tuition costs to stay in school. Additionally, these young adults are not eligible for federal financial aid and must instead lean on personal savings, private scholarships and high-interest private loans to cover tuition and college-related costs. Michigan is unique in that the only way to achieve a statewide tuition-equity policy is by amending the state constitution. Despite this, a number of public and private universities in Michigan have begun to implement tuition-equity policies to alleviate the burden of tuition on undocumented students.

As millennials, young immigrants enrolled in DACA are part of the most educated generation of Americans, but data shows that even with DACA status, these young adults’ educational gains still lag behind those of U.S.-born Americans and other immigrants residing in the United States.13 What is even more alarming is the impact that a loss of DACA status will have on thousands of beneficiaries who are currently enrolled in school. Without the prospect of being able to work legally in their profession, many students may drop out of school and lose out on their educational dreams and the promise of increased earnings that a college degree affords.

THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF DREAMERS

DACA has enabled a generation of young immigrants to not only pursue professional goals, but also help fill gaps in the labor market and grow the country’s skilled workforce. As workers and consumers, DACA participants and their families have helped revive local economies in the post-recession era. As taxpayers, these individuals and their families contribute to important public investments every year. Researchers at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimate that nationwide, DACA enrollees contribute $2 billion in state and local taxes each year. In Michigan, these young adults contribute $13 million in state and local taxes annually.14 If federal elected officials fail to pass a replacement to DACA and beneficiaries’ work permits expire, their tax contributions will drop by more than half to $5 million in revenue—an amount that is equivalent to 220 teacher salaries in Michigan.15 This loss would prevent our state leaders from being financially able to make important investments in our schools, our hospitals and our communities. Alternatively, if Dreamers have a path to citizenship their naturalization will enable them to access better-paying jobs, leading to an increase in tax contributions. In Michigan, researchers estimate that as citizens, Dreamers would contribute $6 million more in state and local taxes each year.16

DACA graph 7IMPLICATIONS OF ENDING DACA

The heightened policy backlash from state and federal elected officials against the undocumented immigrant community in the last year has led to the permanent separation of families due to deportations and the threat of everyday harassment in public spaces. For DACA enrollees, the DACA program’s termination has placed thousands at risk of losing the ability to live and work in the United States. Researchers at MPI estimate that every day between March 6, 2018, and March 5, 2020, an average of 915 DACA enrollees will see their work permits expire and lose their protection from deportation across the country.17 DACA participants are currently employed across numerous industries make important contributions in our schools, hospitals and communities every day. The loss of their work permits could lead to job loss and place Dreamers and their families in economic jeopardy while endangering professional and educational dreams. This tenuous policy landscape gives reason to examine the consequences of eliminating DACA, and what it will mean for Michigan.

The end of DACA could result in thousands of unnecessary deportations of Dreamers, which would not only be inhumane, but it would also translate into significant losses for Michigan. If program participants are removed from our economy as workers and consumers, Michigan would experience a $418 million annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) loss.18 Over 10 years, our nation would lose $433.4 billion in GDP. A loss in productivity at the state and national level impacts Michigan’s ability to sustain a post-recession recovery.

The end of the DACA program hurts our labor market. Research points to the central role that immigrants and children of immigrants will play in growing our labor force in the years to come. In fact, immigrants and their children are projected to be the primary drivers of growth in the working-age population through the year 2035. Specifically, the number of working age immigrants in the U.S. is projected to rise from 33.9 million in 2015 to 38.5 million by 2035. Given these projections, it is imperative that policymakers work toward integrating undocumented immigrants into our communities to ensure that our skilled and educated workforce remains solvent for years to come.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

  1. A Pathway to Citizenship. The DACA program provided only temporary relief from deportation for most participants (though there has already been one reported case of a DACA beneficiary being deported to their country of birth).19 A pathway to citizenship would enable young immigrants and their families to contribute fully to their communities and the economy. Given the program’s recent termination, it is crucial that federal policymakers act now to pass a permanent solution to the issue.
  2. Tuition-Equity Policies at all Michigan Colleges and Universities. The high cost of higher education continues to be a barrier to college for many DACA participants. Pursuant to the state constitution, undocumented students are considered “out-of-state” for tuition purposes and are therefore required to pay out-of-state tuition at many Michigan higher-education institutions, despite the fact that many have lived in Michigan long enough to otherwise qualify as state residents. All Michigan universities and private colleges should adopt tuition-equity policies to recognize these students’ residency for tuition purposes.
  3. Access to Occupational and Professional Licenses. Another way policymakers can strengthen outcomes among young undocumented immigrants is 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. Their ineligibility means that some cannot put their education and training into action despite their investment in their education. The absence of this policy can also be a deterrent to enrollment in programs that require licensure, and it contributes to a shortage of skilled labor in our state.
  4. Policies for Social and Economic Inclusion. Recent waves of anti-immigrant policies and legislation in our state and at the federal level threaten the well-being of thousands of immigrant families in Michigan. Through a flood of anti-immigrant executive orders signed by President Trump earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security ramped up immigration enforcement forces across the country, which has led to the senseless separation of many immigrant families in Michigan.20 Research shows that inclusive policy is the best way forward for states with growing immigrant communities. Members of Congress and the Michigan Legislature can act immediately to abandon policies of exclusion and introduce policies that eliminate barriers to success for Michigan’s immigrant families.

DACA graph 8

 

 

Raise the Age: We must stop treating kids as criminals

 

The views in this story reveal the storyteller’s experience and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of the Michigan League for Public Policy. If you have a story, please share it here.  

By Briana M.

I was 17. I was a 17-year-old child who was convicted of a misdemeanor assault and battery for a mall fight. The impact this had on me from that point forward cannot be conceptualized. I feel in order to tell my story I have to include a little background history.

At the age of 14, I moved to Michigan from Colorado with my parents due to my father’s job. I was an isolated outsider and was bullied nonstop, which drove me into alcohol consumption at the age of 16. Halfway into my sophomore year I was sent back to Colorado to live with my grandparents in my hometown. I did well at the beginning, but struggled to find myself and lacked appropriate coping mechanisms. The only coping that worked at the time was substance abuse. I was set to graduate a year early, as a junior, but halfway through my junior year, I was using methamphetamines and decided to drop out of high school all together.

I came back to Michigan to live with my parents and to figure out where to go from there. The events following are a symbol of my lack of decision-making skills and reflect a mind not capable of thinking through consequences of actions. On Feb. 11, 2004, I was at the Oakland Mall with two other girls who were two years older than me. We came upon another girl who we had a history of conflict with. The girls I was with kept telling me to do something, and as I stood there, all I wanted to do was leave, but the more they pressured me the angrier I became. I eventually provoked a fight. Afterwards, I ran out of the mall and was not arrested at time of the fight.

I took my GED test two days later and passed. I later received a notice to turn myself in, and I remember being dumbstruck because I was 17 being charged as an adult! 17-year-olds in Colorado are seen as juveniles. I felt doomed and boxed in. This mall fight and the charge I was facing shaped my mind and labeled me as a criminal, not a young delinquent.

Shortly after this happened, I moved back to Colorado to live with friends, often living in my car. I was running from a mind that I was unable to escape. On May 20, 2004, I jumped off a bridge into three feet of water and broke my femur. Since I had no stable place to recover, I ended up coming back to Michigan, so I had to face the charges before me.

I entered the courtroom on crutches on June 22, 2004. It was four days before my 18th birthday. I was charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, taken for fingerprinting, and ordered to one year of district court probation. The only help I received was one session of the Learning Experience in Addictions Program (LEAP) and some counseling sessions.

After I finished healing from my injury, I moved back to Colorado in August 2004 while on probation, and I had to send in written reports and drug tests every month. I attempted to comply with those orders for about four months, eventually checking myself into rehab for the first time on Dec. 6, 2004, out of fear of violation of probation. I was unsuccessful in rehabilitating myself, and gave up on reporting and dove back into my addiction stronger than ever.

girl croppedIn my eyes, I was already a criminal, and so who was I to think I could be anything but that? After my six-month lease was up on my apartment, I became homeless for three months and on June 16, 2005, I was sent to jail and charged with a Class 4 felony charge of drug possession. I spent 20 days in jail and 30 days in drug rehab. I moved back to Michigan to straighten up my act and faced my violation of probation on the assault and battery.

The judge told me he was not going to send me to jail because he knew that I would screw up my current felony probation and that they would punish me more than he could. He essentially had no faith in my rehabilitation and was betting I would go to prison.

Well, I did comply and was discharged from probation without incident. As of now, I am a licensed and working Cosmetologist and a full-time student at Oakland University in my senior year holding a 3.92 GPA. I am interning at the Waterford Senior Center and giving back to the community. I am also in the middle of applying for graduate school at Wayne State University for a master’s in Social Work. I should add that on March 8, 2011, I entered Narcotics Anonymous and have been clean and sober ever since. I even volunteered at the Macomb County Jail for two years offering N.A. meetings to female inmates.

I wish that I could say I have recovered from my criminal history, but the fact is I have not. It follows me at every turn. When applying for my cosmetology license, college, an internship … It will follow me in all my future career applications. Will I always be paying for the mistakes I have made so many years ago? Will people be able to see past my mistakes and take me seriously?

In an attempt to correct and overcome barriers, I appeared in court on May 23, 2017, before Judge Maureen McGinnis at 52-4 District Court, who allowed my conviction to be set aside. Unfortunately, I am still required to say I pled guilty if asked, and my record will show up in any background check done by the Michigan State Police. Most social work jobs require this type of background check.

So, did my appearance in court actually help? I do not know. As I look at my future, it is easy to go back to the label of “criminal” and think that I am out of my league in trying to better my life. It is very easy to think about giving up when I believe that I will not be given a fair chance due to my criminal history. I take accountability for the mistakes I have made, and I don’t blame anyone for them.

I must remind myself that I am fighting for a better future for that little girl who was sick and needed help. I am standing up for her and not allowing a court judgment to decide her future. Therefore, I am telling her story. I will no longer be boxed in and told what I am and am not capable of doing.

However, I do think about what would have happened if I had received juvenile intervention rather than being treated as an adult. Would my outcomes be the same, or would I have been open to receiving help and guidance to prevent further offenses? I will never know these answers because I was not given that opportunity. I will speak out in hopes of preventing another child from asking those same questions. I believe that Raise the Age is the right path, and I hope that in sharing my story I can be of some help.

— Briana M.

Spending money on women is good for America

Iowa senator Chuck Grassley recently asserted that congressional Republicans’ proposal to eliminate the estate taxrecognizes the people that are investing, as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Senator Grassley, have you seen The Wolf of Wall Street?

It seems like he’s confusing the spending habits of some of the millionaires the Republican tax bill and estate tax help with what most everyday Americans do with their money. As a middle-class person, I don’t spend every penny I have but I certainly don’t have savings anywhere near the $10.98 million threshold that triggers the estate tax for a married couple. I enjoy the occasional adult beverage and a movie here and there, but these things don’t make up a significant portion of my spending.

The senator is right, however, in that I do spend quite a lot on women.

A woman multiplies the impact of an investment 450x450No, I’m not visiting sex workers or keeping a mistress in a luxury apartment in the city. I’m talking about the teachers and other staff at my daughter’s daycare center who do the important work of helping my husband and me raise our child. I’m talking about the women who work in the retail shops where I buy my clothes and the dry cleaner where I get them cleaned. The women who clean my house, allowing my evenings and weekends to be family time. The women who cut my hair. The women who clean the hotel rooms in which I’ve stayed. The receptionists, medical assistants, dental hygienists and nurses at every doctor’s and dentist’s office and hospital I’ve ever visited. The generations of lunch ladies who have served food to America’s schoolchildren. And someday, quite possibly, the home aides and nursing home staff who will help me eat, bathe and go to the bathroom.

Despite all the money I pay for work done primarily by women, only a small portion ultimately goes into their pockets. Generally, overwhelmingly female professions are some of the least glamorous and the least lucrative in terms of wages and health insurance and retirement benefits. Often, the pay for these jobs is so low that it’s impossible to make ends meet without taxpayer-funded services like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid. There’s a gender wage gap in every single county in Michigan.

Not to mention all of the women who are eligible for these services because they’ve had to leave the paid workforce to provide thousands of hours of unpaid labor caring for children or relatives who are aging or have disabilities. Additionally, women are disproportionately exploited by their employers through wage theft, making it even less likely that they will have a sizable fortune to leave to their heirs.

So, Senator Grassley, please stop talking about women and talk to us. Recognize that even though most of us won’t amass a multimillion-dollar legacy, we are investors, too—investors in the other women without whom our families and the American economy could not function. And if you want America to be great, Congress and state legislatures should invest in women, too, by raising the minimum wage, maintaining the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion, preserving the Earned Income Tax Credit, increasing child care subsidies and expanding paid family and sick leave.

Women are not a vice. They’re hardworking Americans whose labor is already undervalued and often invisible. Tell Congress not to reward the children of the wealthiest 0.2% of the nation with a tax cut that will help decimate the safety net so many women must rely on because society doesn’t recognize the true worth of their work.

— Julie Cassidy

A warm home is a healthy home

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 December 2017
Julie Cassidy, Policy Analyst

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Neither U.S. Senate nor House tax plan is good for Michigan

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December 2017
Lorenzo Santavicca, Intern

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The gift that keeps on fighting

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Last Friday night, though we were scattered around the state, our staff was busy refreshing web pages, updating Twitter feeds and following the U.S. Senate’s live video. In the wee hours of the morning, our hearts dropped as the nation’s political leaders voted in favor of a highly flawed tax plan.

Final tax graphic 300x750We’d held out hope through much of the day that reason and good sense would prevail over partisanship and spite. But in an all too familiar cloak-and-dagger move, through hastily written marginalia and hidden deals, the Senate Republicans chose to line the pockets of the wealthy at the expense of kids, families and seniors.

Saturday morning, as I planned our next steps to defeat this disastrous “tax” plan … and potentially deal with the aftermath of its passage, a friend asked me, “Don’t you just feel like giving up?”

I paused.

Certainly the question was a legitimate one. Over the past year America’s most vulnerable residents have suffered blow after blow. My friend truly wanted to know why I wanted to keep up the fight, how I could continue to wake up in the morning as lawmakers continue to push through legislation that takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

Yes. On Saturday morning I felt defeated, deflated and—quite literally—defrauded by the late-night antics on the Senate floor. But I poured myself a cup of coffee and tried to figure out a plan to keep going. That’s why I was able to look my friend in the eye and say, “No. I never feel like giving up.”

I will keep up our fight because I refuse to give in to this shortsighted manipulation of the democracy we hold dear. I refuse to allow these acts to knock us down, because the tide will change, and those of us in the world of policy must be prepared when it happens.

Friday night was painful. Any time someone in power lets down the people depending on them it’s painful. But this is not a fight we can quit.

Avg tax cut top 1 percentWe have work to do, and we hope you’re ready to join us. Whether you follow us on social media, donate to our cause, or share your stories with us, you’ll be making a difference in the lives of Michiganders. We cannot give up.

We must also remember that this tax bill is not yet set in stone. As the conference committee convenes, we have a chance to continue to make our voices heard. You can act today by contacting your U.S. Representative to express your concerns.

You, our allies, motivate us in so many ways and we’re grateful for each of you. Between our supporters and the abundant supply of chocolate in the office, I’m confident we’re going to have the strength to take on whatever 2018 brings.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

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