During the late 60s and 70s, Wayne State students used the campus to protest wars, racial and sexual discrimination and political corruption. Much of today’s news cycle mimics the same issues from those eras.

Samantha Magdaleno, the director of One Michigan for Immigrant Rights, is working to ensure that Michigan’s communities can come together to tackle a politically controversial issue: immigration.

One Michigan was founded in 2010 as a grassroots movement to empower immigrant youth. As time moved on, it became clear the youth were not the only people in need of empowerment and protection. The organization evolved into a resource for all immigrant communities and their allies.

An Immigration 101 for Allies event was hosted at the WSU Law School Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium on July 27. The event aimed to teach people about the history of immigration, and how people can help the immigrant community and undocumented residents. 

“I’m really excited to see a lot of allies show up,” said Magdaleno. “And it’s different allies from different communities — not all white allies.”

Gary Zirulnik grew up on the northwest side of Detroit in the 1960s. He said he has seen many changes in the city over time, but a strong immigrant community has always been constant.

“I just felt like I needed to do something to help with the immigration struggle,” said Zirulnik, a WSU grad who returned to complete his degree in 2012. “To know that there are people on the ground actively struggling inspires me to want to learn how to help.”

During the half-day of training, participants were introduced to One Michigan’s history. Founder, Jose Franco, was on sight to discuss the organization’s infancy. As he described hurdles that undocumented residents face day-to-day, several participants cried silently throughout the audience.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib presented slides on her earliest experiences with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement from the perspective of a state legislature. 

“I had to speak out and say, ‘ICE isn’t working,’” Tlaib told the audience while describing an incident in which the government unit illegally targeted her neighbors and constituents.

The day’s training was interactive and allowed participants to ask questions and offer their insights on aiding and protecting Michigan’s immigrant communities. One man challenged Tlaib’s affiliation with the Democratic party.

“I am a proud Democratic-Socialist,” the congresswoman said. “That Democratic party belongs to all of us… it’s like family when you have one person who is out of control and everyone else outnumbers them. Go out and outnumber our family who isn’t getting it right.”

One Michigan functions almost entirely through volunteer work. Magdaleno said she hopes the day’s training will add to their numbers.

“One Michigan has been notorious for being able to pull off things in the last minute, with little-to-no resources,” she says. “It was important for me to try to build capacity.”

Youth organizer and WSU student, Khadega Mohammed, asked that all participants remember the strength in their collective numbers.

“People of color in this country are not a minority. We are [collectively] the majority. And that’s why people are scared,” Mohammed said.

More information on the nonprofit is available on their website, http://1michigan.org/.


Ellen Chamberlain is a reporter for TSE. She can be reached at dv7693@wayne.edu.