Our country has an immigration problem—and it’s not immigrants who are causing it.

Over the past few years, the Trump administration has taken our nation’s approach to undocumented immigrants from bad to worse in an effort to pander to racists in his base and further the agenda of white nationalism.

Families have been separated, refugees are locked up in inhumane conditions, and ICE continues to expand its efforts to hunt down and deport immigrants in our communities. It’s a moral crisis, and people across the country are finally paying attention—and it’s on all of us to fight for a future where immigrants don’t have to live in fear, and instead are treated with dignity and respect.

As far as we are from the southern border, Michigan isn’t exactly the center of the immigration debate—but our state is a huge part of the problem. For one thing, Michigan ranks second in the country in the rate of ICE arrests, more than double the national average. That’s a problem, and it’s tearing communities across the state apart.

An out-of-state company is also working to set up a for-profit detention center here in Michigan, hoping to use the suffering of our immigrant community as an opportunity to make a few bucks. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has blocked the deal for now, but we can’t ignore the horrifying truth that corporations across the country are able to profit off detaining immigrants.

Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants in our state face significant barriers just to live their day-to-day lives. For one thing, Michigan has not allowed them driver’s licenses for more than a decade, forcing people into a choice between forgoing reliable transportation and putting themselves in danger of arrest. 

The truth of the matter is that we need comprehensive immigration reform at all levels of government, and we need policies rooted in compassion and empathy, rather than hate and fear of immigrants. We need to abolish ICE—which has only existed since 2003—and shift our focus from criminalizing immigrants to recognizing their humanity and struggles.

In the meantime, there’s more we can do to further the cause. We can call out racist and xenophobic rhetoric, from public figures, as well as our friends and family. We can step up to protect immigrants in our community, like this Nashville neighborhood who worked together to successfully stop an ICE arrest. We can support local and national groups who provide direct support to immigrants and push for inclusive policies.

The fight for a future where immigrants no longer have to live in fear will be an uphill battle, but it’s a fight we can’t afford to lose.

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