West Michigan protesters rally for immigration reform

Posted at 6:15 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 18:15:21-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Protesters in Kalamazoo and at other West Michigan locations joined a nationwide protest Thursday asking the U.S. Supreme Court to order a stop to the deportation of immigrant families and called on the court to extend programs thea help immigrant families before the next president takes office.

This comes shortly after presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslim immigrants from entering the United States. He previously asked that a wall be built along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Those rallying today said immigration reform isn't about politics but rather economic opportunities for undocumented people. Roberto Torres, Director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, said immigrant families are what this country is founded on.

"Immigrants are the lifeblood of our country, so we need to take the politics out and talk about the economic opportunities that exist with these immigrants that come to this country," said Torres.

Thursday's rallies stem from the case Texas v. the United States, Texas and 25 other states sued the Obama administration in 2014 for an executive order implementing the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs.  Those programs are aimed at helping immigrant families obtain jobs.

The executive order allows parents of US-born children and legal permanent resident children to remain with their families on a deferred action basis.  This means parents won't be deported without their children.

If a decision is made in favor of the executive order, undocumented individuals will be able to work, drive, or even walk around without fear of deportation.

Faith leaders, business owners, and city officials throughout the state of Michigan rallied Thursday asking Congress to act fast on comprehensive immigration reform.

Vanessa Gutierrez benefits from the president's executive order, and she said her family wouldn't be able to survive without it. "Before DACA, we were not able to work or drive, and now with it we’re able to do those things and have access to health care," said Gutierrez. "I have a doctor, and I'm able to travel freely around the country. It’s been a great benefit."

Advocates are asking that a decision be made before the next president takes office.

Those attending the rally said Trump's statements are frightening immigrants. "Every time you see in the rear view mirror the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle, you think it’s your stop," said Torres. "So it’s not living in that fear, even though this is the country that you adopted and this is where you raised."

Those rallying in Kalamazoo are looking for support from West Michigan.

"We’re all human beings, no person is illegal," said Larry Provancher, represents the 10th district as a Kalamazoo County commissioner He the time for reform is now. "I personally take offense to the term 'illegal.'  No human being is illegal. They’re undocumented, but they’re not illegal."

Those calling for legislative action said they won't stop until their voices are heard.

If the Supreme Court hears the case, a decision could come as soon as June 2016. Advocates are hoping for resolution of this issue as soon as possible to prevent further deportations and to keep families together.