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Detroit — Labor, faith and civil rights activists from across the country met Tuesday in Detroit to push for immigration reform and a shift in enforcement activities.

About 100 attendees made the plea for change during the 2014 Northern Borders Conference. The day-long event was organized by a social justice group, the Northern Borders Coalition, and held at the UAW-Ford National Training Center on Jefferson Avenue near Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.

Based in Dearborn, the Northern Borders Coalition is made up of civil and human rights organizations from along the United States’ northern border.

“When Border Patrol is spending its time chasing after workers, families and students, they’re not spending time going after drug dealers and human traffickers,” said Ryan Bates, the two-year-old coalition’s co-chairman. “We don’t want bad people coming into the country, but by undermining the community’s trust with law enforcement, it makes it harder for both the Border Patrol and police to do their jobs.”

Bates also is director of Michigan United, a civil rights advocacy organization based in Dearborn that is a member of the Northern Borders Coalition.

The conference featured panel discussions on several topics, including immigration reform nationally and in Michigan; the federal “no-fly” list; and local law enforcement agencies’ treatment of undocumented immigrants.

Lena Masri, an attorney with the Michigan Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the problem with the no-fly list is the government can place anyone on it. She also said a disproportionate number of Muslims and people with Arabic names are on the list.

“Anyone who is added to the list (isn’t) given any notice or any opportunity to contest the designation or challenge the evidence used to put them on the list,” she said during a panel discussion.

Adonis Flores, an immigrant organizer for Michigan United, said the concern of undocumented immigrants in Metro Detroit has shifted from being picked up by U.S. immigration enforcement agents to being stopped by suburban police officers.

“It’s the biggest issue we have,” Flores said. “Police pull over undocumented immigrants who don’t have a driver’s license and the officers’ first reaction is to call immigration or detain them until immigration (agents) come to pick them up.”

cramirez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2058

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