MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

The art of advocacy: Finding meaning in policy

Added April 25th, 2018 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
MLPP

I have had the incredible experience of interning with the Michigan League for Public Policy during this never-ending winter. The people I have met, and the knowledge and heartbreak (from researching student homelessness) I have experienced, provided me with immense opportunity to reflect on my personal life and be grateful for what I have. Working at the League has enabled me to research topics I had never really thought of before,  providing me the opportunity to find my passion—advocating for those less fortunate than I am.

Education has always been something extremely important to me and I will forever be grateful to my parents for supporting me and granting me with the opportunity to receive the education that I have. Last summer I had an internship with a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that focused on providing support to youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) to help them find employment. Upon starting at the League I had the opportunity to pick what I wanted to focus on, so naturally, I picked something closely related to education—student homelessness. These two internships have allowed me to gain a better appreciation for what I have and drove me to further shape my future goals to help students that have not had the same opportunities I have had.

Collaborating with the big-hearted individuals at the League and the incredibly passionate people I have met throughout the past four months has contributed to the development of my long-term goal to start a nonprofit to advocate for students in Michigan to receive the best education they can, while having a stable environment to thrive in. Life is not all about academic education, but also about what is learned outside of the classroom, through work, sports, clubs or whatever else students may be involved in. Learning should not just be confined to a classroom, although the classroom plays a big part in the overall structure, there is so much opportunity out there to learn and grow as individuals. Often times people look at the bigger picture of how we can help, and focus their resources abroad or nationally, but it is extremely important to understand that so much can be done much closer to home.

During my time at the League, I have worked on the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book to help determine that the economic, health, education, and family and community sectors in the state of Michigan still have a long way to grow. To better the national standards, we must first start by bettering the standards in Michigan.

Thank you to everyone at the League for the huge hearts you have for advocating for the people of Michigan and for accepting me into your family. Special thanks to Alicia Guevara Warren, my incredible boss, for providing me with this amazing opportunity to grow and learn so much about the disparities in Michigan. There was never a day that I didn’t look forward to coming to the office to see what problem was being tackled that day. Thank you to Rachel, Gilda, my fellow intern Spike, and everyone else at the League for providing such a fun, hardworking environment to advocate for change. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to intern with the League this semester. I will never forget all of the things I have been able to accomplish with the help, advice and guidance of the advocates at the League!

— Alexa Krout

Tax day 2018: Celebrating the contributions of all Michiganders

Added April 20th, 2018 by Victoria Crouse | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Victoria Crouse

We at the League make no secret of the fact that we celebrate what tax dollars can do for our state. Schools, parks, bridges, safety services, roads and other important community resources are funded by taxes, so we certainly had plenty of reasons to cheer for taxpayers on April 17 (and April 18) and every day of the year. Among these taxpayers are thousands of undocumented Michiganders who filed their tax returns just as they do every year. As we celebrate all the good things taxes provide, we also honor our immigrant neighbors and community members whose invaluable contributions to Michigan’s culture and economy have helped revive our state in more ways than one.

tax day 2018 325x736Current rhetoric on immigration often overlooks the important contributions undocumented immigrants make to our communities as neighbors, workers and taxpayers. Research from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy highlights the significant contributions that undocumented immigrants make to our state and local economies by paying taxes. According to the report, undocumented immigrants across the United States collectively contribute $11.74 billion in state and local taxes. In the Great Lakes state, which is home to more than half a million foreign-born residents, about 130,000 undocumented immigrant residents contributed an estimated $86.6 million in state and local taxes in 2014 (the latest year for which data is available).

What are some of the ways undocumented Michiganders contribute to the tax base, you ask? Just like their fellow residents, undocumented Michiganders pay sales and excise taxes on things such as utilities, clothing and gasoline. They also pay property taxes, either directly on their homes or indirectly as renters. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants also pay state income taxes that help grow state investments in schools, infrastructure, healthcare and other important services.

Among residents who help strengthen our state are Dreamers—young undocumented immigrants whose futures continue to hang in the balance as Congress stalls action on the Dream Act. Dreamers contribute to our communities every single day, and they also contribute to our local and state economies as working professionals, consumers and entrepreneurs. As taxpayers, they contributed an estimated $13 million in Michigan in 2014. Yet, if Dreamers lose their DACA status, they will also lose their temporary work permits that enable them to work in good-paying jobs with benefits. The loss in tax revenue from this shift is equivalent to the cost of 220 teacher salaries in Michigan.1

Looking at the contributions of our immigrant neighbors in Michigan brings up an important question about fairness. Michigan’s tax system is upside down—it’s regressive. This means that Michiganders who have low and middle incomes pay a larger portion of their income in taxes than the top 20% of taxpayers. Unfortunately, undocumented taxpayers aren’t left out of this unbalanced system. When it comes to state and local taxes, the average effective tax rate (a measure of the share of total income paid in taxes) for undocumented immigrants is 8%, and 8.9% for Dreamers (young undocumented immigrants). This is striking when compared to the average nationwide effective tax rate among the richest taxpayers: 5.4%.

Policymakers can and must make wise choices that strengthen our communities and recognize the substantial contributions made by our immigrant neighbors. When it comes to immigration, state and national leaders have an opportunity to explore and enact sound public policies that promote economic growth and immigrant integration based on facts and reality rather than playing out the politics of fear and division.

  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.

— Victoria Crouse

Tax day 2018: Why does no one listen to me?

Added April 17th, 2018 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

Happy tax day! I know this may not be everyone’s favorite holiday, but it definitely ranks up there for me! I love my trash and recycling being picked up every week, the cute park in our neighborhood where my son and his friends play, my public schools, my local library, and, yes, even those pothole-ridden roads that we drive on, and all of this is paid for by taxes. (And you can read more here and here!)

Unfortunately lawmakers in Lansing and Washington don’t seem to be listening to me.

In December, Congress pushed through deep tax cuts that disproportionately help the wealthy and increase the deficit by more than $1 trillion over 10 years, putting at risk services that we all rely on. A new analysis shows that in 2018, Michiganders making less than $22,000 a year will see an average tax cut of $100; taxpayers in the middle class—making between $40,500 and $65,400—will see $780; and Michiganders making more than $470,400 will see an average tax cut of $49,900. What’s more is that the top 20% of taxpayers will receive 71% of the tax benefit. Talk about upside down.

As currently enacted, tax cuts that primarily benefit individuals will go away in order to pay for permanent tax cuts for profitable corporations. While Congress seems certain that this won’t happen—that they will extend the tax cuts as they expire—this wouldn’t help the middle-class any more than the original bill helps the middle class in its first year. The richest 20% of Michigan taxpayers would see 65% of the benefits of an extension of the temporary provisions in 2026 and would receive 70% of the benefits of the proposed extensions and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as enacted.

Share of tax changes in 2018 and 2026

Furthermore, immediately following the enactment of these deficit-increasing tax cuts, Congress decided that now is the time to consider a federal balanced budget. This poses very serious risks to our federal and state budget and economy. Requiring a federal balanced budget would not only result in cuts to programs that help our most vulnerable residents but also tip a weakened economy into a longer-lasting and harder recession quicker. While a forced vote failed to advance the measure (requiring bipartisan support and a two-thirds majority), we will continue to monitor the situation because of the impact it could have on our state budget and our Michigan residents.

At the same time, lawmakers in Michigan took advantage of an unintended consequence of the federal tax law to satisfy their tax cut fever. Instead of simply restoring the personal exemption that the TCJA arguably took away from Michigan taxpayers, the Michigan Legislature decided to cut taxes more. Once the plan is fully phased in, the $100 tax cut for a family of four will cost our state $180 million a year. The League was vocal in our opposition to the cut, citing needed public investments, budget constraints and concern over the federal budget.

So listen up!

Taxes do a world of good! They allow us to provide healthcare to millions of Michigan residents with low-incomes. They pay for the police and fire departments that help keep our communities safe. They give us parks and libraries and neighborhood aquatic centers. And they help repair and maintain the roads we use every day.

On Tax Day, remember all the good you’re doing! (Oh and if you haven’t yet, make sure you check your withholding for 2018; you don’t want any surprises when my favorite holiday rolls around next year!)

Rachel Richards

The five-year fight: Protecting SNAP in the Farm Bill

Added April 6th, 2018 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps) plays a critical role in addressing hunger and food insecurity in Michigan and is the first line of defense against hunger for the majority of Michigan households with low incomes. When Michigan led the country in unemployment for four years during the 2000s, SNAP enabled jobless workers who had not earned enough to qualify for Unemployment Insurance to put food on their families’ tables.

bridge cardSNAP is reauthorized by Congress every five years as part of the overall reauthorization of the federal Farm Bill. Reauthorization provides an opportunity for members of Congress to make helpful—and unfortunately also harmful—changes to the food assistance program. This year, the threats are stronger than the potential positive changes.

One population particularly under fire are able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs), who are required to work at least 20 hours per week in order to receive SNAP. If they fall short of this threshold for more than three months in a three-year rolling period, they lose their food assistance. From 2002 through 2016, Michigan received a statewide waiver from this work requirement due to the high level of unemployment the state experienced during many of those years. There has been talk from U.S. House members as well as the Trump administration of taking away states’ ability to receive waivers from the work requirements during times of high unemployment.

While a Farm Bill has not yet been introduced in the U.S. House, the chair of the House Agriculture Committee has also signaled an interest in cutting overall funding, making work requirements more stringent for ABAWDs and perhaps other recipients, and requiring states to undertake comprehensive work programs that would in many cases duplicate or pull funding from existing programs that work. While the Michigan League for Public Policy believes work is the best way for able-bodied individuals and households to achieve economic security, we are concerned that such changes will reduce SNAP’s ability to assist recipients’ success in the workforce. The “stick” approach apparently favored by many in the U.S. House and the administration assumes that SNAP recipients do not want to work, when in fact most are working.

The League has recently sent all members of Michigan’s congressional delegation a letter outlining our concerns with some of the proposals and asking members to protect SNAP in the following ways:

  • Oppose More Stringent Work Requirements
  • Oppose Eliminating a State’s Ability to Waive Work Requirements During Times of High Unemployment
  • Maintain State Flexibility for Devising Work and Training Programs Under SNAP
  • Protect SNAP from Deep Funding Cuts
  • Protect the Double Up Food Bucks Program
  • Reject Any Attempt to Eliminate Categorical Eligibility

This is a heads-up on what MIGHT be in the 2018 Farm Bill, which could be introduced as soon as April 9. After it is introduced, the League will keep you informed on what is in it and how you can communicate with Michigan’s congressional delegation that you want them to build on SNAP’s strengths rather than making it less accessible to those who need it.

— Peter Ruark

Medicaid work requirements: A prescription for problems

Added April 4th, 2018 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

“We’ll call you with the results on Monday.”

If you’ve ever left your doctor’s office after hearing those words, then you’re familiar with the dread. Minutes become hours, hours become days, and the worst fears tend to enter your mind no matter how hard you try to suppress them.

Waiting for that call is excruciating. But a law being proposed in Lansing would make it a lot worse for many in our state.

Michigan’s Senate Bill 897 is ethically, logically and morally wrong; it threatens the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of Michiganders. And it’s going to cost us a boatload.

The bill comes on the heels of a change at the federal level that allows states to request waivers to enforce work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

First, let’s look at what Medicaid is. Medicaid is healthcare. It was designed to help sick people get well and to help healthy people stay that way. And it does a pretty great job. Michiganders with low incomes are able to sleep at night knowing that they can receive healthcare through Medicaid and Michigan’s expanded Medicaid program, the Healthy Michigan Plan. Since its creation in 1965, that’s what Medicaid has been: A healthcare plan.

Now, let’s look at what Medicaid is not. Medicaid is not a jobs program. Jobs programs help train workers, eliminate barriers like transportation and childcare issues, and work with local governments, community members and businesses to find solutions to problems in workforce development. By all means, let’s invest in solid jobs programs!

But some in the Michigan Legislature think we need to complicate the health plan by adding layers of bureaucracy and obstacles with work requirements. Here are a few logical truths to counter the myths being used to push work requirements:

 

  1. Most Medicaid recipients who can work are already working. Those who don’t work are students, caregivers, retired or in poor health.Work Requirements (2) 302x550
  2. Michiganders enrolled in Healthy Michigan are doing better at work and are able to find work because they have healthcare. It’s not a big stretch: Being healthy makes it easier to thrive in the workplace. But it doesn’t work the other way around. Being at work doesn’t suddenly cure health problems.
  3. Medicaid recipients, employers, doctors and state employees will be burdened with paperwork, red tape and additional hurdles. These complications will strain the state and cause many struggling Michiganders to lose coverage.
  4. It’s going to cost us. Kentucky, which recently implemented work requirements, reports that just setting up the infrastructure to track work requirements will cost nearly $187 million in the first six months alone.
  5. Work requirements are potentially illegal. Under the act that created the Medicaid program, certain parts of the Medicaid Act can be waived, but new eligibility criteria cannot be imposed—in this case, the criteria of work in order to qualify for Medicaid. Legal challenges have already begun in Kentucky that could have repercussions on any states pursuing work requirements. Michigan lawmakers should wait and see how that case unfolds.

I’m obviously urging you to take action on this issue. But I’m also asking you to start talking about it. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your family. Help them to understand what Medicaid is and what it is not.

I also hope you’ll listen. Over the years Medicaid has helped millions of Michiganders, from those going through a rough patch to those struggling with chronic health problems or terminal illness. It is likely that someone you love or know has benefited from Medicaid. Take the time to listen to how it helped them temporarily or on a long-term basis. And encourage them to share their story to make a difference.

Healthy people are better able to work, but working people do not automatically become healthy. Let’s stop discussing unnecessary plans like this and instead focus on the real things Michigan residents need to work and provide for their families, including Medicaid and other assistance programs, job training, adult education, high-quality child care, reliable public transportation, and more.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Great news for working parents and children!

Added March 28th, 2018 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Facing another possible government shutdown, last Friday Congress passed and the president signed a federal spending bill for the remainder of 2018. Included in the federal budget is more than $3 billion in increased funding for child care and early learning programs—a major step forward for thousands of working families and their children in Michigan.

The final budget provides nearly $2.4 billion for child care programs through the federal Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), as well as increases of $610 million for Head Start, $20 million for afterschool programs through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, and $11.4 million for early intervention programs.

The most significant boost is in funding for child care for families with low wages. This money is intended to fully fund the 2014 federal child care reauthorization that expanded health and safety protections for child care, as well as set the stage for improvements in child care quality and access. While the child care reauthorization was widely praised, it was not accompanied by the new federal funds needed to make its vision a reality.

So what does this mean for Michigan families and children? The Center for Law and Social Policy estimates that the newly-passed budget will bring an additional $69.7 million in federal funding to Michigan in 2018, with the potential to provide care to nearly 3,500 additional children while their parents work to support them.    

The Michigan League for Public Policy has documented problems in Michigan’s child care subsidy program including some of the lowest income eligibility levels in the country, provider rates that have made access to high-quality care difficult, and child care payment practices that have made it difficult for small child care businesses to thrive. The result of these shortcomings has been a dramatic drop in the number of children able to receive a child care subsidy in Michigan.

The League is working with its state and local partners to advocate for important changes in Michigan’s child care subsidy program, and welcomes this unprecedented opportunity to use new federal funds to move the state forward. Please join us in letting your representatives in Congress and in the Michigan Legislature know how much access to high-quality child care means to you, your neighbors or your employees.

Pat Sorenson

Food is a fundamental human right

Added March 23rd, 2018 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

At the end of February, with President Donald Trump’s recent proposal to decimate federal nutrition programs hanging over us, more than 1,200 advocates from all over the nation gathered in Washington, D.C. for the annual Anti-Hunger Policy Conference.

Before the conference began, I visited the National Museum of American History to see an exhibit about food in America. I was struck by how many food issues raised decades ago remain relevant today, a reminder both of how far we’ve come and how much is left to do to ensure that everyone in our nation has the fuel they need to grow, learn, work and reach their full potential.

Last year’s conference was marked by a vague but palpable anxiety about what the new administration would bring. While we knew the outlook wasn’t good for struggling families, the president hadn’t yet released his first budget proposal or many specifics in terms of policy.

Since then, we’ve seen multiple attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, passage of a tax overhaul that will primarily benefit the wealthiest Americans, and plans to pay for it by devastating the services that provide a basic standard of living for those who already have the least. We’ve seen cruel anti-immigrant measures rip families apart and proposals that are scaring families away from food benefits for which they are legally eligible.

While this year’s conference included the usual sessions on food insecurity trends, federal nutrition programs and state initiatives to increase healthy food access, there was a stronger emphasis on advocacy, including effective messaging in a difficult political environment and amplifying the voices of people who have lived experience with hunger.

The highlight of the conference for me was hearing New York Times columnist Charles Blow speak about race and poverty in America. Connecting the dots between historical policies that explicitly denied land, food and other basic resources to people of color while guaranteeing Whites a certain level of success, and the implicit racism of contemporary policy decisions, Blow explained, “There are no mistakes in America. There are no coincidences.”

Julie Cassidy and the League’s Michigan anti-hunger partners met with Senator Gary Peters in Washington.

Julie Cassidy and the League’s Michigan anti-hunger partners met with Senator Gary Peters in Washington.

The things I learned at the conference came in handy when I headed to Capitol Hill with about 20 of the League’s Michigan anti-hunger partners to tell members of our state’s congressional delegation just how important federal nutrition programs are in their districts, and urge them to protect our funding and policy priorities in the upcoming negotiations over the Farm Bill (the legislation that authorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other vital food programs).

The experience came to a fitting close on the flight home when I got so bored that I actually flipped through the airline’s magazine, which happened to feature actor Viola Davis and her new gig as an advocate for an anti-hunger nonprofit organization. She explained how her own experience with childhood food insecurity motivated her to get involved: “When you’re hungry, you can’t think, you can’t plan, you can’t really function because your only concern is getting food…When you are deprived of things, that is on the forefront of your mind.”

 

Quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

That deprivation needs to be at the forefront of all our minds as Congress debates the Farm Bill and other budget and policy decisions regarding the rest of the safety net. Funding cuts and eligibility restrictions temporarily move people out of the government’s expense column, but not to good health, financial self-sufficiency or economic productivity. Now is the time to raise your voice for individual well-being, strong families and national prosperity. Sign on to this letter to Congress in defense of federal nutrition programs and keep up with SNAP and other federal budget happenings at http://www.frac.org/action.

 

–Julie Cassidy

 

 

Time to double-check your paycheck! (You could be paying later.)

Added March 15th, 2018 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

As the federal tax changes (that we opposed) took effect, I had friends and family start talking about how their paychecks changed. Some even received e-mails from their human resources department explaining that their paychecks may look larger due to the tax cuts. Before you go on a shopping spree, though, make sure you check that you’re having enough taxes withheld.

When the Internal Revenue Service released the new tax withholding tables in January, payroll companies, bookkeepers and human resources departments made those changes in their payroll systems. The withholding Tax Formtables incorporated some of the changes made in the federal tax bill, including the new standard deduction, elimination of the personal exemptions and the new tax brackets. And because of this, many workers saw large changes in their paychecks, but this was based on wages only.

The new withholding tables could result in you seeing a big surprise next April—either a much larger refund than expected or, worse, that you owe money. So to avoid those surprises, you might want to fill out a new W-4 form to adjust your withholding.

The problem is that this form can be complicated to fill out, especially if you don’t know all of the tax rules. The general rule is that the fewer allowances you enter, the more taxes are withheld throughout the year. The bigger the number of allowances means fewer taxes are withheld and will result in a smaller refund or perhaps a tax bill or penalty. But how do you know what to put down?

Thankfully, the IRS has a new withholding calculator that can help you determine whether you are over- or under-withholding.

Taxpayers who may want to double-check their paycheck include:

  • Two income families, people with two or more jobs throughout the year, or people who only work for part of the year;
  • Taxpayers with children who may qualify for the Child Tax Credit;
  • People who itemized in 2017 (who may no longer be able to itemize); and
  • High-income earners, people who have businesses, or other taxpayers who will have more complicated returns.

Some people like getting a large tax refund every year. Others like seeing bigger paychecks, even if they may mean a higher tax bill come April. Personally, my goal is to result in a refund (or payment) as close to $0 as possible. I admit that I’m not always that successful, but using the calculator helps get me closer.

Also, if you haven’t done your taxes for 2017 yet, be sure to check out our Money Back in Michigan tax credit guide.

ITEP_MIgoptrumpfinal2_Resized2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(A COMMENT ON TAX FAIRNESS: While your paychecks may be going up now and you may be thinking that the federal tax plan is not so bad, remember that you could be seeing a tax hike by 2027 in order to pay for significant permanent corporate tax cuts. Also know that the tax plan changes that are giving some of you a few hundred dollars back this year are saving millionaires around $60,000 annually. The tax plan’s benefits are not all bad…yet—they’re just not at all fair.)

–Rachel Richards

Waiter, there’s a rotten policy in my soup

Added March 12th, 2018 by Julie Cassidy | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Julie Cassidy

Food metaphors abound in the realm of public policy—the economic pie, the Medicare doughnut hole, and of course, making sausage. So when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a letter to states concerning Medicaid work requirements, I couldn’t help but think of another, lesser known political food analogy: the policy primeval soup, in which political actors store their desired policy solutions in search of problems while they wait for the political stars to align in their favor.

The CMS letter correctly acknowledges that health status is about more than access to healthcare, pointing specifically to education, employment and income as important social determinants of health. Unfortunately, CMS uses this fact as a convenient front to scoop up the work requirement, a misguided and overly simplistic policy idea that’s been floating around in the soup for decades, and spill it all over state Medicaid programs.

Poor Health Alphabet Soup 350x272It’s obvious that this move isn’t really about improving anyone’s health, as a report released by the League this week points out, especially when viewed in the broader context of Republican proposals to decimate the federal services that have a positive impact on virtually all social determinants of health for people with low incomes.

Since we’re already on the subject of food, let’s talk about hunger, which triggers a domino effect of poor health outcomes with high social and economic costs. This year, President Donald Trump is calling for a number of devastating cuts and changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that would leave children, seniors and people with disabilities without enough to eat.

Despite the critical connection between housing and health, the president wants to cut safe, affordable housing programs and increase the burden on participating families. To make matters worse, by slashing the corporate tax rate, the recently enacted tax bill reduces the value of the low-income housing tax credit—a move that’s expected to discourage the construction of 250,000 affordable units, which are already in alarmingly short supply, over the next 10 years.

Regarding education, the president wants to slash billions of dollars from K-12 and funnel millions into unhealthy abstinence-only sex education programs. Furthermore, he seeks to expand the use of taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, which have been shown to largely benefit families that can already afford to send their children to private schools and enable discrimination that drives educational and health disparities.

If this were really about health, the president wouldn’t prioritize law enforcement based on the toxic ingredients of xenophobia and racism or let healthcare providers discriminate against their fellow humans in need of medical care.

Don’t be fooled: the Medicaid work requirement is merely a pretense for kicking people off Medicaid, something conservative policymakers have wanted to do for a long time. Combined with the proposed cuts to all of the other services that help struggling families maintain a basic standard of living, it will only reinforce the very economic conditions that create health disparities in the first place.

Poverty and its associated health impacts are complex problems that can’t be solved by simply requiring people to work. We need policies and budgets that actually promote living wages, job training, educational opportunity, healthy food access, healthy housing, transportation, quality child care, freedom from violence and trauma, and racial equity. If this were my favorite cooking competition show, I’d say the chef who created this disingenuous policy soup should be chopped in the appetizer round.

— Julie Cassidy

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

Added March 7th, 2018 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

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

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