Ann Arbor forums, dinner focus on immigration laws

By Frank Weir
Legal News

The Washtenaw County Bar Association held its Nineteenth Annual Bias Awareness and Inclusion week last week.
The theme for the week was immigration and included a Sunday panel on Arizona’s controversial proposed immigration legislation and a proposed law in Michigan that mimics the Arizona law; a Monday morning panel on the impact of immigration on women and children; a Tuesday noon discussion on the impact of immigration on race, gender and ethnic bias; and a Thursday night dinner featuring Detroit immigration judge Elizabeth Hacker.
In addition, Washtenaw County Public Defender Lloyd Powell hosted the 11th Annual ENPACT luncheon forum on racial profiling on Wednesday.
Among the highlights was Sunday’s presentation by State Representative Rashida Tlaib, who represents southwest Detroit’s 12th District discussing proposed immigrant legislation in Michigan that mimics the controversial Arizona law well-known to most across the nation.
“The two state legislators who introduced the legislation here in Michigan both lost their primary elections. When they introduced the legislation, they couldn’t even articulate why it was important to do so and why it was supposedly an issue in Michigan.
“A study was done that showed that if all the people in Michigan who are not legal according to Federal law were removed, the state would immediately lose $3.8 million.
“Twenty two states have copied the Arizona legislation and none of those have succeeded. Most lost outright and others have been delayed due to lawsuits.
“I think just the threat of lawsuits have scared off any state legislators here in pursuing something like Arizona’s law.
“Arizona already has suffered economic loss due to the state’s immigration law. It has been estimated that Phoenix lost $90 million as soon as the law was signed in lost hotel and convention business.
“It is said that $6 to $10 million more has been lost around the rest of the state in hotel and convention business.”
Tlaib noted that Arizona went beyond the initial law by banning ethnic study in the state’s public schools.
“If a teacher is caught teaching ethnic studies, he or she can go to jail. Think about that. Think how blatantly racist that is.”
Tlaib said that many Americans think of “immigrants” as people crossing the southern border of the United States.
“These are people who have been living among us for twenty years or more. It is not true that they just came here; they are not people who just walked across the border.
“Many have spouses and children who are U.S. citizens or there are children who are not legal but have lived their lives here.
“They had no idea of their status until they perhaps applied for a college loan and discovered they are undocumented.
“They are devastated when they find out.”
Tlaib said that up to 70 percent of Americans believe our system of immigration needs to be reformed and that many who work in the system feel it is simply “broken.”