Detroit Immigrants' Rights Rally Draws Hundreds

Hundreds of people gathered at a historic church to speak against proposed state and federal laws and policies that they say discriminate against immigrants.

Speakers representing Latino, Arab-American and African-American groups addressed several hundred people Sunday at the over 300-year-old Ste. Anne de Detroit Catholic Church, calling for a united struggle against racial profiling, punitive immigration bills and greater access to education.

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The meeting came as Congress and the state Legislature consider proposals that would affect hundreds of thousands of immigrants in Michigan and millions nationwide.

Congressional lawmakers are grappling with two sharply different immigration bills. The House of Representatives' bill would make all illegal immigrants subject to felony charges while the Senate version would set up a guest worker program to bring in new foreign workers and offer a chance at citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.

"Today there is a flurry of laws being passed that lead to racial profiling, and we need to stand up against it," Ismael Ahmed, executive director of Arab Community Center of Economic and Social Services, was quoted as saying by The Detroit News.

In Michigan, home to one of the country's highest concentrations of Arab Americans, lawmakers are also considering bills that would deny undocumented immigrants access to state services — policies which critics say are discriminatory, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Edith Castillo, executive director of Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, said that undocumented workers are unable to qualify for college loans, grants or scholarships and must pay out-of-state tuition rates if they do make it into college.

Castillo argued that affording such graduates access to the lower in-state tuition rates for universities would help the state develop a better-educated work force.