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Faith and community leaders take turns denouncing Trump's plans

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No matter what President Donald Trump says or what he does with his executive power, immigrants in Metro Detroit say they are here to stay.

That’s the message from a coalition of faith-based, community and civil rights groups that gathered Thursday to denounce the Republican president’s illegal immigration enforcement orders. Trump is expected to wield his executive power again with the directive to dam the refugee flow into the U.S. for at least four months, in addition to the open-ended pause on Syrian arrivals.

“I know a lot of people are scared right now. I know people are in fear of what to do next ... Courage means to act out even if you are afraid,” Sergio Martinez of Michigan United said. “No matter what Donald Trump says we are here to stay.”

The president’s upcoming order is also expected to suspend issuing visas for people from several predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — for at least 30 days, according to a draft executive order obtained by the Associated Press.

More than 50 people of differing races crammed into the Michigan United offices on Michigan Avenue in Detroit, holding American flags and signs that read “Stop Separating Families.” The group rallied to protect immigrant and Muslim communities in opposition to Trump’s recent executive orders that opponents say fly in the face of religious freedom.

Rev. Paul Perez of the United Methodist Church said Trump’s divisive and harmful rhetoric is becoming a reality with every pen stroke.

“We stand here and refuse to believe that making America great again means closing off our nation with walls, detaining men women and children, striping cities of federal funds, and tearing families apart with deportation. We stand here refusing to believe putting American first means putting the rest of the world last,” Perez said.

“This is not greatness. It is weakness. It is not American first. It is America afraid,” he said.

Immigrant families and community leaders said the orders would strike down religious liberty and endanger people here and abroad by threatening refugees and poisoning relations between immigrants and law enforcement.

Jasmine Lomeli, a young undocumented immigrant who was brought to the United States as a child, lives in Detroit and is now a mother of three American children.

Lomeli said she is no longer afraid to be separated from her children or drive to work because of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a policy started by former President Barack Obama in 2012 allowing certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation.

The Trump administration has not made a decision on the DACA policy.

“We are here to stay, and we are going to fight discrimination of people of different religions, races or regions. I am going to fight for my children,” Lomeli said.

Detroit Council member Raquel Castaneda Lopez said Detroit is a “sanctuary city” and stands behind an anti-discrimination ordinance it passed in 2007. She called on everyone to stop implementation of Trump’s orders.

“Detroit has been a safe haven and is committed to providing sanctuary to all those who seek it,” she said. “We won’t back down despite Trump’s executive orders. And we remain committed to defending all of the communities in the city of Detroit.”

The office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan seemed to counter that stand on Wednesday, with Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley saying, “We do cooperate fully with all federal agencies during the course of criminal investigations, regardless of a person’s immigration status.”

Brendan Wu of the Asia Pacific Institute said people might wonder why a Chinese American from the suburbs is speaking up for Muslims from other countries.

“If you think they are just after Muslims and you are OK, remember these policies are just the start,” Wu said, referring to internment of Japanese Americans ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after the start of World War II.

jchambers@detroitnews.com

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