Metro Detroit activists, Rashida Tlaib speak out against anti-immigrant speech

Following separate visits to the southern border by President Biden and former President Trump, advocates for immigration rights in metro Detroit spoke for the millions who’ve crossed into the United States in hopes of a better life.

"So, when you hear people (saying) that immigrants are rapists, thieves, murderers, (it) hurts my heart, my soul because we are good people," said Priscilla Rodriguez, a Venezuelan immigrant living in Michigan.

Tears streamed down Rodriguez’s face as she spoke about her journey – with U.S. congresswoman Rashida Tlaib by her side.

Tlaib and the advocates believe politicians on both sides unfairly use the bad actions of a few immigrants to paint a broad brush over the majority who arrive here peacefully.

Rodriguez spent 12 years and $20,000 seeking asylum in America. She is just one example of why advocates spoke in downtown Detroit on Monday – demanding humane treatment for asylum seekers, an easier path to citizenship, and better protection from border agencies.

"People are people are people wherever they live in the world," said Pastor Paul Perez. "Each and every one of us is a person of sacred worth and dignity who deserves not only to survive, but to thrive."

Since Jan. 2018, the number of monthly encounters at the U.S. southwest border has jumped from nearly 36,000 to more than 300,000 in Dec. 2023. The most recent number of encounters stands at 176,000, which was in Jan. 2024.

Local activists called out both presidential front-runners – Biden and Trump– to make a tangible difference in immigration policies.

"Every president that I can remember, from democrat or republican, has promised to be tough on border," Tlaib said. "And yet here we are, still talking about our so-called broken immigration system. The wall is still being built y’all. The kids are still in cages."

Activists say the harmful rhetoric is endangering the lives of people trying to become citizens.

"People need to be heard and people need to be treated humanely," said Sergio Martinez  with Michigan United. "We need to address the issue of 11 million undocumented people who are still here. We are not going anywhere. We’ve been here for 30-plus years."