While celebrating President Biden ending the ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, Michiganders want to be sure such bans never happen again.
LANSING, Mich.—State Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham)’s family came to the United States after fleeing the Armenian genocide.
Manoogian doesn’t want to be thought of as “the Armenian legislator,” but that is a piece of her identity and defines her. It is what propels her desire to be a true representative of the people, in a way that her family hadn’t experienced. It also makes her keenly aware of what other families fleeing dangerous situations are facing.
“I often think about immigrants’ rights, refugees’ rights, when we’re thinking about opportunities to make a more welcoming and inclusive Michigan,” she told The ‘Gander. “I think one of the proudest moments in my time in politics has been seeing my parents in the gallery when I did a speech on the Armenian genocide for a commemorative resolution we did in the first year of my first term.”
Those rights have been curtailed in recent years by the Trump administration, in particular by a ban on visas and immigration from Muslim-majority countries, like Yemen. That hit home for state Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), who still has family in dangerous living conditions in Yemen.
“My uncle was killed just days before the Trump administration’s Muslim ban was signed,” Aiyash said at a recent virtual press conference. “As a result, his widowed wife and their children did not have the opportunity to come to the United States to escape the war. My mother spent thousands of dollars on paperwork to make sure she had done everything right to bring them to safety in the US, but the Muslim ban denied them that opportunity.”
The Trump-era ban prevented immigration from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. During his first 100 days, President Joe Biden ended that ban, allowing immigration to resume. Biden also extended the temporary legal status for Liberians fleeing war and disease among a host of other immigration orders.
“Now that the ban has been rescinded, we must push for the signing of the NO BAN (National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants) Act so that no president can ever discriminate based on race or religion.”
Aiyash joined Michiganders at an event hosted by the Michigan People’s Campaign that focused on advocating for the NO BAN Act, as well as the Roadmap to Freedom Resolution, two bills being considered now in Congress.
NO BAN would place restrictions on the President’s power to prevent certain groups of people from lawfully entering the United States to prevent a recurrence of the sweeping and heavily litigated Trump-era ban.
The Roadmap to Freedom seeks to refocus America’s immigration system on being an equitable process that keeps families together and looks to address the root causes of migration.
Those proposals build on the work the Biden administration has already done refocusing the US immigration system through executive order. Those orders include focusing on family reunification, strengthening America’s asylum system, and fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (MIRC) “sees promise in the many recent executive actions taken by the Biden-Harris administration to address harm inflicted on immigrant communities during the past administration,” the nonprofit said in a statement provided to The ‘Gander. “As the Biden-Harris administration makes progress undoing the harms of the previous administration, and additional policies emerge to address the longstanding needs of immigrant communities, we will continue to partner with community members and policy makers to ensure immigrants in Michigan experience justice.”
The effort to undo damage that’s already felt in Michigan has real, human impact.
“Although I grew up in Grand Rapids and lived all of my formative years in Michigan, I was deported to Mexico because of the fear mongering, anti-immigrant policies of the previous regime,” said Brandon Reyes at the Michigan People’s Campaign press event. “I was forced to leave my home, friends, family and the life that I built for myself. That life included marriage to my wonderful, very hard-working wife, who is a US citizen. There is hope for families like ours, that we can all be reunited.”
MIRC said Michiganders like Reyes, or those seeking to understand their rights as the legal landscape shifts under a new administration, can contact them Monday through Thursday at (734) 239-6863.