July 14, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Possible housing of Central American children meets with protest in small Michigan town

Vassar — For the second time in two weeks, several conservative groups from around the state gathered in this small community Monday to protest the possible housing of Central American children.

About 50 demonstrators, two armed with semi-automatic rifles, carried American and tea party flags as they marched one mile, from city hall to a social services facility that would shelter the young undocumented immigrants.

“We must act,” said Tamyra Murray, a resident of Blumfield Township near Saginaw, who organized the protests. “We must save America and stand up against this invasion.”

The Pioneer Work and Learn Center is under consideration to house up to 120 of the children, who are part of the massive influx of undocumented immigrants who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border since the fall. The minors, ages 12-17, would remain at the facility up to four weeks while their cases move through the immigration system.

One week after 75 protesters gathered at city hall, the smaller group returned to the spot Monday clutching signs while several motorists honked their support.

“Go Home. We’re full,” read one sign.

“No gang members. No terrorists,” read another.

Most demonstrators were from other towns, belonging to pro-gun and anti-illegal-immigration groups.

“We the people are standing up and saying we will not allow illegal immigration,” said Matt Krol, a Linden building contractor.

Some residents were displeased to see the return of the protesters.

Cindy Jaruzel shooed them off her yard and took their photos as they walked from city hall to the Pioneer facility.

She chided them for not being from Vassar. When one demonstrator said he was from the town, she cried out sarcastically, “We found one!”

“What difference does it make?” asked another marcher. “I’m an American citizen.”

Jaruzel, who lives near the Pioneer facility, said she wouldn’t mind if the Central American children stayed there.

“I feel safe,” she said. “I have no problem with them.”

Earlier in the day, Murray attended a special Vassar City Council meeting that wasn’t related to the immigration issue.

When she raised the issue at the end of the meeting, council members told her there was nothing they could do about the immigrant children.

Murray said she believes otherwise and has retained an attorney to look into blocking zoning that would allow the children to stay at the facility. Gov. Rick Snyder has said housing the children in Vassar is a federal issue.

“The council kept this plan a secret,” she said during a press conference before the march. City officials weren’t available for comment.

Congresswoman Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, sent a letter to the Obama administration Friday asking whether local and state officials have been informed about efforts to relocate Central American children in Michigan communities including Vassar.

The letter asked, among other questions, whether the children will have access to local services and whether the state or communities would “bear any costs” for the “undocumented alien children.”

fdonnelly@detroitnews.com

Leszek Sulanowski of Deford, Mich., holds up a sign during the rally against the proposed location for refugees from Central America. / Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News
Bonnie Fackler of Vassar, Mich., holds a sign during Monday's protest. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)