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Detroit-to-Lansing Pilgrimage Highlights Immigration Woes

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The group Michigan United is pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and a case-by-case approach to deportation. (Erik Shelley)
The group Michigan United is pushing for comprehensive immigration reform and a case-by-case approach to deportation. (Erik Shelley)
May 16, 2018

FARMINGTON, Mich. – Dozens of people are taking part in a pilgrimage of sorts, walking 90 miles over nine days from Detroit to Lansing to draw attention to the plight of specific, undocumented immigrants facing deportation – those who have lived here many years.

The marchers started Tuesday in Detroit and held a rally in Farmington Hills that night, focusing on the case of an Albanian man from Southgate, Ded Rranxburgaj, who fled communism in Albania 17 years ago. The Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt Zundel of Central United Methodist Church in Detroit let the Rranxburaj family live at the church for the past few months.

"I think it's horrible. I think it's immoral. I think they're separating families and it's ridiculous," she said. "And if they deport Ded, then his 15-year-old son will be having to take care of his mother, who has MS, and so, literally bathing her, dressing her, feeding her, all of that."

The march is to continue for five to six hours a day until next Tuesday, when they arrive at the state Capitol building. Tonight, a rally is planned for 6 p.m. at James F. Atchison Memorial Park in New Hudson.

Rranxburgaj initially was denied refugee status, but was granted a humanitarian visa so he could care for his wife. That visa was revoked in October, and in January, Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement calling him a "fugitive" who must now return to Albania.

Caitlin Homrich-Knieling, the immigrant family defense organizer for the nonprofit Michigan United, also said she thinks it's unjust for the Trump administration to break up families by deporting people whose only crime is being undocumented.

"He was not a target for deportation until now," she said, "because in January 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that basically said that anybody who could be deported is a priority for deportation and must be deported."

Michigan United is calling on ICE to return to making decisions on a case-by-case basis. It's also calling on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform that would grant undocumented people the right to stay and a legal path to citizenship.

More information is available on a Facebook page. The Trump administration's immigration order is online at whitehouse.gov.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - MI