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Homeland Security Secretary Kelly set to visit Detroit

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly will visit Detroit on Monday, where he will meet with local immigration stakeholders as well as members of the Arab-American community.

The Department of Homeland Security said Kelly will be joined by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Kelly and Peters will also meet with Homeland Security personnel in Detroit and observe northern border operations, including stops at the U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s Fort Street Cargo Processing Facility.

A spokeswoman for Peters said they will also visit Homeland Security facilities at the Ambassador Bridge, which is the busiest border crossing for trade in North America.

There were no initial plans for Kelly to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday, according to Snyder’s office.

Kelly’s visit comes at a time when President Donald Trump’s administration has sought to bolster border security, but has focused mainly on the southern border, where a construction of a security wall or fence is planned.

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland this month put Trump’s revised travel ban on hold. In federal court in Detroit, a lawsuit brought by the Arab-American Civil Rights League and ACLU of Michigan is pending. The groups say the executive order is unconstitutional because it discriminates against Muslims by restricting travel from six majority-Muslim countries.

The plaintiffs include Muslims from Yemen unable to join their families, a Sudanese man waiting to be married and a 2-year-old girl stranded in Malaysia with her mother.

Trump has said his administration will appeal the restraining orders imposed by the courts in Hawaii and Maryland and take the matter to the Supreme Court, if needed.

Nabih Ayad, a founder of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, said he would be at a closed-door meeting in Dearborn with Kelly along with eight community leaders from the American Arab Chamber of Commerce at an undisclosed local location.

“There had been some discussions about not meeting with Kelly,” said Ayad. “But this is very important. With their policies, they (Homeland Security) are doing PR for those who want to damage the U.S.

“Groups like ISIS are trying to tell Muslims, ‘See they don’t care about you,’ when there is discrimination and restrictions put on people just because they are Muslim,” said Ayad. “It creates a negative attitude we don’t want.”

Ayad said he hopes topics will include the travel ban and discriminatory practices toward Muslim-Americans at the U.S.-Canada border.

“No one wants to be treated like second-class citizens,” Ayad said. “It is unacceptable.”

Ayad said he also has concerns about accountability by Homeland Security and how many Muslim-Americans may be rebuffed at the U.S. border.

Dawud Walid, executive director of Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan said Sunday that neither he nor his organization plan to meet with Kelly.

“This is the first I have even heard about it,” said Walid when asked if his group would attend the meeting with Kelly. “Maybe its because we have a pending litigation against Homeland Security. If they are not planning on meeting with any key members of the community then they aren’t really serious about fixing any problems in the department.”

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Detroit News Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed.