MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Family-friendly policies, sweatpants and a space to ‘geek out’: What we’re thankful for this year

Added November 22nd, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry

Ask anyone at the League what they’re thankful for, and it won’t take us long to think. We work for an organization whose values match our own. We work with colleagues who have heart. And we work with numbers. We really like numbers.

Here’s just a snapshot of what we’re grateful for right now:


Julie Cassidy

Julie Cassidy

Julie Cassidy, Policy Analyst

As a new parent, I’m thankful to work for an employer that provides paid leave for both mothers AND fathers and is so supportive of my family’s needs as we adjust to our new normal. Having flexible hours and a private, clean place to pump breastmilk, as well as being able to work from home on occasion, allow me to be a good worker and a good mom.



Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse

Victoria Crouse, Policy Fellow

This year, I’m thankful that my grandmother became a U.S. citizen and celebrated her 88th birthday this month! I’m also thankful for the team of hardworking and passionate advocates both at the League and across the state who tirelessly fight for the rights of all Michiganians.



Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren

Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Director

First, I am grateful for my family, friends, community and wonderful co-workers. I appreciate all of the amazing child advocates working tirelessly throughout the state every day and our funders who help support our work to improve the lives of kids and families in Michigan!




Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill

Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Vice President

The last year has been rough for those of us who advocate for public policies that lift up our state’s most vulnerable residents. I’m so grateful for my colleagues at the League; they continue to work hard and to support one another during these times.





Gilda Z. Jacobs, President & CEO

Gilda Z. Jacobs

Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO

I’m thankful for the resilience of our amazing staff who get up every day to fight the good fight!





Phyllis Killips

Phyllis Killips

Phyllis Killips, Assistant to the President

I am thankful I was able to work part time for 24 years while raising my family and was still receiving health benefits, sick time and vacation benefits. Most jobs would not allow that.




Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne

Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Director

I am thankful all of the amazing activists and leaders in my community who are tirelessly fighting for equity and justice. I am thankful for the courage I have witnessed and gained in this terrifying year.





Tillie Kucharek

Tillie Kucharek

Tillie Kucharek, Graphic Designer

This probably sounds like a cliché but I am grateful to have great, fun people to work with and interesting projects to challenge me. I also have a wonderful support system with my family and friends. Oh, on the fun side I am grateful for toilet paper.



Mary Logan

Mary Logan

Mary Logan, Administrative Support

I am grateful that I am in the habit of contemplating every day about what I am grateful for!





Harriet McTigue

Harriet McTigue

Harriet McTigue, Kids Count Research Associate

I’m grateful for sweatpants, family and friends, young people running for office, carbs, dry shampoo, and Amy Poehler.





Laura Ross

Laura Ross

Laura Ross, Communications Associate

As someone who has worked directly with kids for most of my professional life, I’m so thankful to work with people who truly care about making Michigan a better place for all families, regardless of race, place or income. Though we’re living in contentious times when vitriolic tweets fly all around us, the League is a warm, comforting space where truth and equity are valued over politics and egotism. I’m incredibly grateful that I get to be part of this organization.



Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman

Alex Rossman, Communications Director

I’m thankful for my wonderful wife, family and friends; my smart and dedicated coworkers; the League’s amazing supporters , especially the people that read our blogs and like and share our social media posts to spread the word on our work; and elastic waistbands, Adam Sandler’s “Thanksgiving Song,” turkey naps and the fact that the Lions always play (and usually win) on Thanksgiving.



Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards

Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

As a parent, aunt, and (much) older sister, I am grateful to work for an organization that not only examines–and tries to fix–what is going on in our state today but takes a long-view approach of those problems and solutions so we know that our children, and our children’s children, will be better off. (Plus it gives me an appropriate outlet to geek out on tax policy without boring my friends and family too much.)



Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark

Peter Ruark, Senior Policy Analyst

I’m grateful that I can come in every day to a job that I am passionate about, and that I see our positive influence on state policy on behalf of vulnerable populations.




Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf

Emily Schwarzkopf, Policy Analyst

I’m thankful for our partners in the Protect MI Care coalition who have helped us fight off four attempts (so far) to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And perhaps this is cliché, but I’m also thankful for my friends, family, and co-workers – they are simply the best and I am nothing without their love and support.




Carolyn Wreggelsworth

Carolyn Wreggelsworth

Carol Wrigglesworth, Bookkeeper

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for the help and comfort from friends and colleagues this past year. For me the assistance was a warm and bright ray of light representing good and caring people who are attentive to the struggle of others. Your caring gives me strength. Thank you so much, with blessings and great feelings of gratitude.




This Thanksgiving, Republicans in Congress offer a recipe for disaster

Added November 20th, 2017 by Rachel Richards | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Rachel Richards

Regardless of how much you love your family, the holidays are always stressful. The turkey is either raw and salmonella-inducing or dry and burnt, someone always gets sick, at least one kid has a meltdown, and someone’s feelings inevitably get hurt. The holidays, as fun as they are, are always a little uncomfortable—even if it’s just from a tight-fitting waistline.

Politics often get brought up and tempers flare—and federal Republicans’ tax bill that is their “must-pass” bill of the year threatens to make it worse.

This tax bill is moving fast (it has already passed the U.S. House), and there’s a good reason for that. Congress wants you to focus on their lip-service rather than just how bad the bill is. Much like a relative’s Thanksgiving mystery dish, Republicans don’t want you to know what’s in it and are completely ignorant of how little it’ll actually be enjoyed by anyone.

This tax plan will not help most Michigan residents—and the people who need the most will get the least. The truth is that this deficit-increasing tax bill gives massive tax cuts to the wealthy and profitable corporations, provides little benefit to the rest of us, and puts important services we all rely on in jeopardy.

For example, in the first full year of implementation of the U.S. Senate’s bill, taxpayers in the top 1%—those making more than about $515,000 a year—would see an average tax cut of $46,100. On the other hand, taxpayers in the bottom 60% percent—those making less than about $70,000—would see an average tax cut of $390. In fact, some Michigan residents could even experience tax increases in order to pay for cuts to the wealthy and businesses. By 2027, taxes on low- and middle-income Michigan taxpayers would be raised while highest- income earners would still enjoy fairly sizable tax cuts. (For more information on how the tax plans will impact you, please head over to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy to check out their analyses of the U.S. House and Senate bills.)


What’s even more surprising is that the U.S. Senate bill fundamentally changes healthcare for our residents. The bill repeals the individual healthcare mandate to pay for huge corporate tax rate cuts. This “sneaky repeal” is just as bad as the “skinny repeal” that was defeated earlier this year. With this change, 398,000 Michigan residents will become uninsured by 2025, premiums on the marketplace would rise by $1,520 for a family of four, and Michigan could experience a cut to Medicare nearing $1 billion.

Finally, the tax plan would drastically increase the deficit to the tune of around $1.5 TRILLION. As the deficit grows, federal lawmakers will feel the pressure to “right-size” the budget, and, believe me, this would mean cuts felt by all of us. This would just mean fewer Michigan residents with healthcare, with access to high-quality educations, with safe roads and bridges, with food regularly on the table and in their cupboards, and with vibrant lives. So in the end, we all suffer to make the wealthiest more comfortable.

Over the past year, we’ve had to fight many uncomfortable fights. But I’m asking you to fight one more. We can do something about the uncomfortable situation we are all in.

Federal Republicans are hoping they can catch us sleeping from the tryptophan and sneak this bill through before we wake up to see what it really means for most of us. We need to call our federal lawmakers and ask them all to go back to the table and create a tax bill that works for everyone. We can support our lawmakers who continue to lift up the problems with this bill. We can show Congress just how uncomfortable this tax bill makes us all, and we can and must stop it.

— Rachel Richards, Legislative Coordinator

Michigan is letting African-American children fall through the cracks in our education system

Added November 16th, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Casey Paskus

Casey Paskus

All children deserve a quality education in order to reach their potential, but the 2017 Race for Results data shows that education equity is not a reality in Michigan. Children of historically underserved communities in Michigan, including African-American and Latino families, fared the worst in education indicators. Michigan’s children, especially our children of color, are being left behind on the national stage and we aren’t doing enough to help them.

According to the Race for Results Index for 2017, Michigan children of all racial and ethnic groups are falling behind their national peers in educational attainment, with Michigan’s African-American children coming in last in many educational indicator. Further, Michigan ranked 41st overall in educational outcomes in the national 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Index scores mi and usWithin the state of Michigan, African-American children fared the worst overall on educational indicators. Only 4% of Michigan’s African-American children are reading at their grade level in fourth grade, and only 5% are performing grade-level math in eighth grade. These low scores for educational attainment are part of the reason for Michigan’s African-American children receiving the lowest child well-being score of all African-American children in the country.

Historical Legacies

The educational disparities between African-American children and other racial groups in Michigan stem from structural discrimination, including segregated housing practices that persist to this day. Throughout the 1960’s many historically white neighborhoods would refuse to allow African-American families to move in by writing neighborhood charters specifically excluding African-Americans. Historical legacies of segregation are still present today, and manifest in our school districts and school funding policies.

Predominantly African-American and immigrant areas have much lower property values, so schools in these areas receive less funds from property tax millages. Housing segregation and the resulting disparity in school funds persists today, as evidenced in the 2017 Race for Results data.

African-American children in Michigan are over 70% more likely to live in high-poverty areas where schools lack the resources to meet the needs of all students. These numbers are in stark contrast to the 82% of White Michigan children living in low-poverty areas and the 18% of White Michigan children living in high-poverty areas.

The 2017 Race for Results data can help us better understand the ways in which race and underfunded schools are inextricably linked because of legacies of segregated neighborhoods and the dependence of schools on property tax millages.

Education 9 percentSteps in the Right Direction

There is good news: Michigan has programs in place working to close the funding gap between schools in affluent areas and schools in struggling areas, and the legislature has approved increased funding for these programs for 2018.

Per-pupil funding will increase by $60-$120 per pupil, with more funding for districts with families of low income. The legislature also increased funding for the At-Risk School Aid program by $120 million. This program specifically assists school districts with a large number of children from families with low incomes who receive temporary cash or food assistance or who are homeless, who are disproportionately children of color.

More to Do

Despite these positive steps, there is much more work to do to ensure that children of color, especially African-American children, have equal access to quality education within Michigan. The state of Michigan must increase funding to schools that are struggling to make up for the disparity in property tax millages between affluent school districts and school districts with families of low income.

Many creative solutions to educational disparities and underfunding are coming from grassroots community organizing. Detroit-based group 482 Forward is a coalition of neighborhood organizations, parents, and youth working together to make sure that all children of Detroit have access to a quality education, regardless of socioeconomic status or race.

Lawmakers should look to local, community-led groups such as 482 Forward for a better understanding of bottom-up strategies to combat structural inequities and economic disparities to better support all children in Michigan, particularly children of color.

— Casey Paskus, Kids Count Intern

Nowhere to go but up on racial equity

Added November 9th, 2017 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

I had the privilege recently of chaperoning my daughter’s fourth-grade class to our local children’s museum for two days in a row. Wow, they are amazing little people, who are also full of an enormous amount of energy (Thank you to all the teachers who care for these kiddos every day of the school year!).

"Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren hopes to watch her daughter grow up in an equitable world."

“Kids Count Director Alicia Guevara Warren hopes to watch her daughter grow up in an equitable world.”

Our school district is one of the most diverse districts in the state—something we are very proud of! As a woman of color raising a child of color who has friends of many backgrounds (and as a data geek), I couldn’t help but think about all of the data on racial disparities as I observed this group of bright and curious elementary students. The experience magnified for me the importance of working to help implement strategies to start changing outcomes for all kids, but especially for kids of color who disproportionately face barriers to opportunity.

A report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and national KIDS COUNT project, Race for Results, revealed some very disturbing information: African-American kids in Michigan fare worse in child well-being than their peers in every other state in the country. That’s right, worse than Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama—states that all fall in the bottom rankings nationally for overall child well-being. Out of a child well-being index score of up to 1,000, African-American kids in Michigan score 260, while the national average—albeit troubling as well—was 369. That’s a difference of over a hundred.

When we look at how most kids of color in Michigan fare compared to their White peers, not only are their index scores significantly lower, but their well-being by key milestones in early childhood, education and early work experiences, family resources and neighborhood context are also worse. How did we get here and how do we change this?

A quick look at history shows how many disparities were created and perpetuated over time. And many of today’s policy decisions have led to the overrepresentation of people and kids of color in the child welfare and justice systems, disparate job and educational opportunities and unfair targeting in immigration policies. This has to change. Michigan’s future depends on how well we care for all children, and that includes eliminating current racial and ethnic disparities that appear in just about every indicator of child well-being.

UpdatedMI_RaceForResults_social-index-state_v4We need to urge our policymakers—at all levels of government—to use a racial and ethnic equity lens to review current and proposed policies. Some local governments in Michigan, like Grand Rapids and Washtenaw County, have started taking those steps by joining the Government Alliance on Racial Equity to use tools to address and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their communities.

As child advocates we can also support efforts like “Raise the Age” to address racial disparities in the justice system. The most recent figures show that while kids of color make-up only 23% of the 17-year-old population in Michigan, they are 53% of the total number of 17-year-olds entering our state’s corrections system. By raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old, we can ensure that kids are treated like kids and receive age-appropriate treatment and services and begin reducing the lifelong consequences that these youth of color endure with an adult criminal record. This is only one example of how we can start addressing disparities in outcomes for kids of color. There are many others.

My community is important to me—as yours is to you! I want to be sure that as I’m watching my daughter and her classmates grow up that we are doing our best to implement solutions that work to remove barriers for children and families of color, so that all of our kids have access to better opportunities to reach their potential, and so that Michigan is stronger and better for everyone.

— Alicia Guevara-Warren, Kids Count in Michigan Project Director 

A message of gratitude: We’re in this together

Added November 8th, 2017 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs

From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Community. As we prepare to give thanks for all we have this month, I would like to take time to show gratitude for you, our League community. On a rainy October afternoon, hundreds of you gathered at our annual policy forum to share ideas, learn from experts and move forward with a common goal. The work we do each day at the League would not be possible without the strong community of support we have in you!

At the forum, keynote speaker Bob Greenstein from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warned of the dangers in assuming that tax cuts will fuel growth. We’ve seen time after time after time that this is not the case.

We are exceedingly grateful to the sponsor, panelists, speakers and attendees who helped make this year's policy forum a great success.

We are exceedingly grateful to the sponsors, panelists, speakers and attendees who helped make this year’s policy forum a great success.


When we received word of the new U.S. House tax plan last Thursday, we reflected on Bob’s warning, fearing that the passage of such a dangerous plan could come to fruition quite easily during these tumultuous political times. It would be tempting to succumb to these fears and turn them to defeat. But that’s not what we do. What we do is fight. Which brings me back to you. To our community.

After laying out the dangers of conservative tax policies, Bob closed his address with the following statement. And it’s this statement we choose to heed when faced with harmful policies:

“We need citizen engagement to fight these new tax plans, just as we had with fighting for the Affordable Care Act,” he said. And he’s 100 percent accurate.

It’s that high level of engagement that will save us from these disastrous policies, and l know that you, our community, will do all it takes to keep the people of Michigan at the forefront of your minds, just as we do each day in our work. Rather than become mired in negativity, we must unite and fight for what we know is best. Whether you support us by writing a check, talking to your legislator or following us on social media, you are helping to fight for Michiganians.

So this Thanksgiving, we thank you. We thank you for coming together with a common vision to support the work we do at the League. We thank you for keeping your sights on the future, which we know can be bright for all Michiganians. We thank you for being part of this very special community.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO

Personalizing politics: Putting narratives at the forefront

Added November 3rd, 2017 by MLPP | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Lorenzo Santavicca

Lorenzo Santavicca

At a time when we are more connected by online profiles and other technological means of communication, an unintended consequence is that we have become increasingly disconnected in listening and empathizing with one another in person. Many of our politics today—both in Lansing and Washington—are undercutting values that are a cornerstone to our democracy: listening to each other in the process of lawmaking.

By invitation, I recently participated in an inaugural summit called the “Intercollegiate Diversity Congress at the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation. I attended in my capacity as Student Body President at Michigan State University. Dedicated to indexing testimonies in our world history, the Foundation currently has stocked more than 55,000 video testimonies, a bulk of them that particularly expound on the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide. The Foundation’s work in compiling these stories serves as a powerful reminder that we all have a story to tell and a narrative that we live. Our stories cannot be taken away from us, nor invalidated by someone else’s poor policy proposals in a position of political power.

The summit hosted over 20 student leaders from around the country to brainstorm and strategize how we can foster a better culture of active listening with one another and the power of storytelling that follows. Most importantly, we discussed what it means to arrive at disagreement in dialogue in a civil manner, which is especially important in these polarizing times. I could not be more thankful to have been a part of this conference, considering our desperate societal need to reach out and listen to our peers, whether we agree with them or not.

League intern and MSU Student Body President Lorenzo Santavicca joins other members of the Intercollegiate Diversity Congress

League intern and MSU Student Body President Lorenzo Santavicca joins other members of the Intercollegiate Diversity Congress

Through my work at the Michigan League for Public Policy, I have already seen the power of storytelling influencing the ways in which policy faces scrutiny, feedback, and even an end without moving on through the legislative process. A notable example is the consistent measures taken by Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Our ability to push back on the efforts of repealing healthcare through Congress was largely surrounded by discourse by fellow Americans on how the changes would affect their personal health, or someone they loved.

Another challenge to our society, but seemingly less controversial than healthcare, is jobs. One of the participants of the conference was a student leader from West Virginia University. His sentiments during a session of the conference referenced the stereotypes about coal jobs in his home state. While he mentioned that West Virginia largely supported President Donald Trump because of his unwavering support of the coal industry, he indicated that many individuals have expressed interest to find other jobs outside of the coal industry. However, due to a lack of education and other employers for the state, many of these workers are limited to believe their working potential is strictly within the coal industry.

It seemed to be that individuals in his state were largely fooled by politicians to believe that the best route forward continues to be in the coal industry, even at a time when China and other world superpowers are pulling back from this age-old natural resource. Though Michigan’s industries are different from West Virginia’s, we, too, face challenges in job growth. Specifically with respect to Michigan’s economy, we continue to see a need for greater state support to fund our higher education programs that encourage more individuals to obtain higher diplomas and degrees.

As individuals, we must continue personalizing our politics, and understand that every decision taken by elected officials will affect someone else differently. If we’re able to better understand and listen to the needs of voices, like blue collar laborers who are led to believe their industry is going to survive beyond generations, or the ones that are living on food assistance and face threats from the state with little funding support going forward, we might be able to make a change to support the overall well-being for our state’s economy.

— Lorenzo Santavicca, Intern

“Sabotage.” “What are you saying? Did you say sandwich?”

Added November 1st, 2017 by Emily Schwarzkopf | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Emily Schwarzkopf

I started at the League right before the holidays in 2016. In those early days, when people asked me about the status of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I joked that I thought the ACA would be repealed before I figured out how to use the office microwave. (They even had some time because we had to replace the office microwave a few months ago.)

As we head into fall and I approach my one-year workaversary, the ACA is still here. But while it hasn’t been repealed, it is important that we not ignore the blatant sabotage being done to the ACA and our entire healthcare system.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the things that have been done:

  • On September 30, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired. CHIP provides health insurance to nearly 120,000 Michigan children, and without reauthorization states are forced to pick up the costs or cut off enrollment to the program. The U.S. Senate had agreed to a bipartisan deal before the last ditch effort to repeal and replace the ACA. The House is expected to vote on a bill this week that contains many of the important pieces of the Senate bipartisan deal to extend CHIP but has some concerning provisions intended to produce savings in Medicare and Medicaid. The bill also includes funding to support Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that falls significantly short of the support families need following Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
  • The Trump administration has announced that they will allow employers to opt out of covering contraception for women based on moral or religious objection. This could affect nearly 1.9 million Michigan women.
  • The administration also announced a decision to end health insurance subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, that help low-income and middle-income customers pay out-of-pocket healthcare costs. This will only serve to add to the federal deficit and result in increased premiums. States have already announced decisions to increase premiums as a direct result of these payments being cut off
  • President Trump issued an executive order that calls on federal agencies to consider actions to create a “noncompliant” market that could mean plans that are exempt from ACA rules including pre-existing condition protections and essential health benefits. We will not know the full impact of this order until agencies go through the rulemaking process.
  • The Trump administration significantly cut funding for organizations charged with enrolling people into the ACA along with cutting funding to advertise and promote the open enrollment period.
  • The administration also shortened the enrollment period for people to sign up for health insurance and announced that the website to do so will be down for “maintenance” for 12 hours on Sundays during open enrollment.
Doug Mills - The New York Times

Doug Mills – The New York Times

While the Trump administration continues to find ways to undermine the ACA, there is some good news. Recently, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Patty Murray (D-Washington) announced a bipartisan agreement to stabilize the insurance market. The plan includes continued funding of cost-sharing reductions, restoring portions of cuts to ACA outreach and enrollment, expanding eligibility for “catastrophic plans,” and making changes to waivers that allow states to modify certain provisions of the ACA.

This proposed plan is a starting point and absolutely not perfect; however, in order to ease some of the uneasiness around the ACA and insurance markets, it must be enacted. This is something that remains to be seen, and if the plan does receive action, what—if any—additional reforms or funding might also be included?

As we’ve seen for many years, and especially evident during the first 10 months of the Trump administration, is that healthcare is still highly political. It really is something lawmakers cannot seem to move past. Whether it is the showy legislative attempts to repeal the progress made with the ACA, the less publicized expiration of CHIP or the harmful attacks on the upcoming open enrollment—we promise to make sure you know about it.

BONUS: If you were wondering about the title of my blog, it’s from one of my favorite episodes of The Office—BEACH GAMES!

— Emily Schwarzkopf, Policy Analyst

Big Macs and American dreams

Added October 26th, 2017 by Victoria Crouse | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Victoria Crouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immigrants work hard and are employed across the occupational spectrum.

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

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

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

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

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

— Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow

Keeping people at the center of public policy

Added October 19th, 2017 by Jenny Kinne | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jenny Kinne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jenny Kinne, Community Engagement Specialist

What Muslim ban 3.0 means for Michigan

Added October 17th, 2017 by Victoria Crouse | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Victoria Crouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow

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