Let’s not make “hate” Michigan’s official language

Nearly a century ago, my great-grandparents came to the United States along with my grandparents—who were grown adults—and my father, who was an infant.

They arrived on the heels of the Immigration Act of 1924, which restricted immigration of—among other religious and ethnic groups—Eastern European Jews. The act was fueled by xenophobia and anti-Semitism: those who passed the law felt that immigration upset the “ethnic composition” of the U.S. population and that it was important to “keep American stock up to the highest standards” by excluding Eastern Europeans and Jews. They believed that people like my grandparents would spread “feeblemindedness” throughout the nation.

ImmigrationSo when my family arrived from their little village in Poland, which they fled due to hatred and persecution, they arrived in a nation where many people viewed them as incapable of being American because of their background. Despite this hate-fueled anti-immigrant law, my father and his parents were able to thrive here. To build a life for themselves and to make new roots. To start anew. My great-grandparents, though, were never able to settle. They were older and found the language and surroundings difficult to bear. The forced assimilation and anti-Semitism they faced overwhelmed them, so they returned to that little village in Poland.

They were later killed in the Holocaust.

They weren’t alone. More people left the United States than arrived here in the mid-1920s because of harsh restrictions for immigrants.

I share this story with you not because I think you need a history lesson. I share it because we’re up against similar hateful policies today. The people backing them may not be as overt about their intentions, but there’s no denying that the sentiment is the same. We must not allow anti-immigrant laws and racial intolerance to continue eroding our nation’s core values.

It’s 2018. And the moves I’m seeing from our leaders confound me, because they’re not unlike the moves we saw in 1924.

Just two weeks ago, the Michigan House of Representatives passed polarizing and politicized legislation to make English the official language of Michigan. Making English the official language of our state is not only unnecessary, it is divisive, exclusionary and serves no one. Yet the Michigan Legislature seems to think it’s an important use of their time and energy, despite roads crumbling around them.

Young immigrants in Michigan and around the country have been in limbo for months as President Donald Trump and Congress continue to delay action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Ending DACA could send young people back to homelands they barely know to meet a fate that could be disastrous. Yet Congress and our president seem unable to make things right for people who are American in every sense of the word.

Placing farm workers, most of whom were born outside of the US, in unsanitary working conditions is reprehensible. Yet some in the Legislature seem comfortable telling certain employees that they don’t require the same level of safety and care as others.

And these are just a handful of the policies attacking our immigrants instead of welcoming them.

We at the League take these issues facing immigrants seriously. Our policy fellow, Victoria Crouse, has enhanced our work in this area, and in order to bring more attention to the issue, we have created a dedicated section of our website that focuses on immigrants in Michigan. We also have made supporting Michigan immigrants a priority in our 2019 state budget work.

Creating a state that is strong and welcoming is important to me as the President and CEO of the League. But it’s important to me on a personal level, as well. As a descendant of Yitzchak Wispe, I have a commitment to making sure no one leaves this country or this state because they feel unwanted or inhuman.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

2017: A blog odyssey, part deux

Earlier this month when I was working on a recap of our best blogs of 2017, it was becoming more of a Casey Kasem Top 40 than a David Letterman Top Ten. While it’s nice to look back at what was shared the most, that’s just one measurement of a blog’s importance and resonance. As the editor of our blog, I was particularly proud of the issues we tackled in 2017, and I think you will be, too. Here are some of the other great blogs and pressing policy issues that I wanted to highlight from the past year.

We had a firsthand account of a 17-year-old’s experience being treated like an adult in the justice system, and why we need to “Raise the Age.”

The League hired a new policy fellow, Victoria Crouse, who wrote several blogs on the experiences of an immigrant family and the threats many immigrants have faced in the last year—including the Muslim Ban(s) and the elimination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

BestBlogsOf2017We continue to lift up racial equity, and the historic and systemic issues that have contributed to current disparities. With 2017 being the 50th Anniversary of the racial uprising in Detroit, we had the opportunity to share the perspectives of our community engagement director Renell Weathers and our CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs who were both living in the Detroit area at the time. We also tackled the harrowing incident in Charlottesville both directly and in a broader policy context.

Through our blogs and our policy work, the League also keeps speaking up for women’s issues, the policies that benefit them and the political rhetoric that doesn’t.

One of the perks of having an economist as our board chair is that we were able to draw on the expertise of Charles Ballard for a look at the Affordable Care Act from an economic angle.

The League’s blog certainly tackled some heavy topics, but we also try to have some fun with it. Our work covers the same range of emotions that our lives do, and the blog is meant to reflect that.

The League put together a couple blogs that allowed all of the staff to share some personal perspectives on what we were thankful for and how healthcare had benefited many of our lives.

We got to do a fun interview-style blog with Phyllis Killips, who celebrated 40 years of service the League this year.

We had great blogs from our interns from the past year—Casey Paskus, Lorenzo Santavicca, Eric Staats and Mallory Boyce.

And in honor of having a Friday the 13th fall in October in 2017, I managed to meld my love for horror movies and progressive public policy in 13 things Congress has in common with Jason Voorhees. I also realized an 11-year dream of making a pun that combines state revenue estimates and an Ice Cube reference.

Our staff and supporters all care about the same things (well, most of the same things—see above), and our blog is one way we can connect on that. Stay tuned to our social media to see what we’ll be working on and writing about in the coming year, and you can also subscribe to our blog via email or RSS feed to get updates directly. Thanks for reading!

— Alex Rossman

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

For Immediate Release
December 20, 2017

Alex Rossman

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.


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.

Families left in limbo after Supreme Court ruling on immigration

The United States Supreme Court recently tied 4-4 on a long-awaited decision to allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizens a pathway to citizenship. Due to the tie vote an injunction on Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) will remain in place, continuing to leave tens of thousands of parents in limbo. It is estimated that the DAPA program would have kept 43,000 children with their parents.

Children of MI immigrants graphicsThis would have been an important step forward because immigrant children live in fear of deportation of family members and friends. Under the Obama administration more immigrants have been deported than under any other president, making this fear imminent. Recent declines in deportation are attributed to fewer people illegally migrating. While the administration has stated that the focus of these policies is not intended to affect law-abiding residents, many such families have been separated in the process. (more…)

Children of Michigan immigrants are waiting for an answer

Approximately 43,000 immigrant children in Michigan are currently living in fear of their parents being deported and their families being torn apart. President Barack Obama’s executive orders Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) were positive steps taken to address the large number of immigrants stuck in limbo in Michigan and around the country. (more…)

Federal reform will expand immigrants’ economic contributions at the state level

Despite ongoing political rhetoric designed to raise fear and animosity surrounding immigration, immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, contribute a great deal to Michigan’s economy. There are many reasons why federal immigration reform through expansion of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) makes economic sense for Michigan as a whole. (more…)