Michigan is no stranger to welcoming people who have had to flee their home countries. As the fourth-ranked state in the nation for receiving refugees in the last decade, Michigan has admitted 30,467 refugees from 52 countries since 2010, according to the U.S. Department of State. Asylees and asylum seekers are also an integral part of our state: Between 2019 and 2022, nearly 8,000 asylum cases were being processed in Michigan’s immigration court in Detroit.
Our state has welcomed people fleeing persecution from Iraq, Burma, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syria, Afghanistan, Albania, Guatemala, China and many other nations across the globe. These individuals have enriched our communities and helped strengthen our economy, especially as Michigan faces a labor shortage and a rapidly aging population.
If we are to continue to be a state and a nation of welcome for those fleeing violence and persecution, we need Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, who are both Democrats, to take a stand for asylum now.
In April, the Biden administration announced its plans to put an end to the recent invocation of the controversial Title 42 policy, which has been used under the guise of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic to block migrants at the U.S. southern border from seeking asylum. Since it was first invoked under the Trump administration in March of 2020, there have been more than 1.7 million expulsions of migrants. These policies incite fear in a population that has suffered endlessly. It sends the message that they are not welcome here when they need our support the most.
Echoing the wisdom of public health experts, researchers, advocates and Democratic leaders, we know that Title 42 has had no impact on limiting the spread of COVID-19. It has instead been used to harm and discriminate against Black and Latinx migrants seeking refuge, and it is justified with anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric. Using the false pretense of public health to vilify, reject and expel asylum seekers at their most vulnerable is an insult to our state’s and our nation’s values.
On May 20, a U.S. district court issued an injunction that stopped the administration from ending Title 42 on May 23 as planned. Furthermore, the Senate is considering a plan to force a vote on legislation that would keep Title 42 in place, indefinitely blocking people from their legal right to seek asylum. While the injunction is in place, little will change at the border — but a vote in favor of this legislation will clearly demonstrate which Senators want to rebuild our asylum system and which want to continue the anti-immigrant agenda of the previous administration.
In Michigan, where the entire state is considered a “border zone” for immigration enforcement, and as long-standing advocates for immigrant justice in our state and beyond, we have been fighting since long before Title 42’s inception for a restored asylum system. To honor our national, international and moral obligations to those seeking asylum, we must take a stand against all efforts to destroy our country’s welcome mat. Now is the time to create immigration policies that welcome with dignity — not exclude with cruelty.
Sens. Peters and Stabenow, we need you to reject any and all legislative efforts to keep Title 42 in place. We urge you to take a stand for people fleeing persecution and for a restored asylum system. If we are to continue to be the welcoming state we say we are, we need your vocal support today. The people of Michigan are ready to continue our commitment to welcome, and we urge you to join us. Contact Sens. Peters and Stabenow to urge them to restore asylum and reject efforts to maintain Title 42 using this call script and email action from Welcome with Dignity.
Fernanda Lima Cross, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work.
Ashley E. Cureton, PhD, MSW is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Education.
Joel Lucio, LLMSW, is a Bilingual Therapist at Amplify Colectivo where he provides mental health services to Black, Brown, Queer, gender expansive and Spanish-speaking communities. He is a Research Assistant to Dr. Fernanda Cross at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work, where he received his MSW.
Melissa Stek, MSW, is a Communications Consultant for the Interfaith Immigration Coalition and other immigration advocacy organizations. She is a 2016 graduate of the University of Michigan School of Social Work.