Proposal to house illegal immigrants in Michigan town sparks protests

Posted at 1:14 AM, Jul 15, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-15 13:24:50-04

VASSAR, Mich. — As the immigration crisis at the U.S. Mexican border continues to play out nationally, the spotlight is also shining brightly on the small town of Vassar, located in the thumb area of the state near Saginaw.

Currently the federal government is in talks with Wolverine Human Services, a facility in the town which houses juveniles, to finalize a contract which would allow the facility to temporarily house illegal immigrant children fleeing to the U.S. from Central America. The non-profit group could potentially house up to 120 teenage boys as the government works to figure out where to put the hundreds of thousands of illegal refugees crossing the borders each day.

Monday’s protests were organized by a group known as “MICE” — Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement. Dozens gathered Monday afternoon outside Vassar City Hall, peacefully holding signs before marching about a half mile down the road to protest in front of the Wolverine facility.

“I’m going to fight, whatever it takes,” said Bernard Raymond. “It doesn’t matter if this is the little town of Vassar, it’s coming your way,. It’s going to hit everybody.”

Many in the group expressed their concerns about safety and their fears that refugees might bring violence or encourage gang activity in their town.

“With everything we know about the gang violence and drug connections, why would we want to import that to our country?  said one protester who didn’t want to share her name. “Why don’t we have a sensible immigration policy and find contributing members of society?”

However, for some like Lashawna Duckworth, who lives in Vassar, the fight to oppose such a proposal doesn’t make much sense. “It’s freedom, all they want is freedom. They’re coming here because they’re running away from something horrible,” she said. “It makes me sad, because they are just being hurtful, and there’s no reason to be hurtful.”

Duckworth argued the majority of the people protesting weren’t actually residents of the small town to begin with.

“They’re not even from Vassar,” she said. “They’re from surrounding areas. I’m heartbroken, we’re supposed to be fair. Everybody’s supposed to have a chance.”

Duckworth said she’s working to personally reach out to officials with Wolverine to offer her support and to try to donate supplies or items. She said wants to make the refugees feel welcome when and if they do eventually make their way to Vassar.

As of Monday, no proposal had been finalized and contract has yet to be signed.