Protesters, politicians weigh in on immigration, ACA repeal

 

Immigration wasn’t the only thing on the minds of protesters Monday as hundreds of people gathered in front of congressional offices in Troy and Brighton to voice their dismay with the policies of President Donald Trump.

The Affordable Care Act and Republican efforts to repeal the signature policy initiative passed during the presidency of Barack Obama brought out nearly 200 people to protest in front of U.S. Rep. David Trott’s office in Troy, while nearly 100 protesters headed to Brighton to deliver messages and petitions to U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

“My son was 22 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma,” Edward Weberman of White Lake Township, said outside of the office of Trott, R-Birmingham. “Right now he’s healthy and productive, but he’s got a lifetime cap (on insurance coverage) to worry about. He’s got a pre-existing condition he has to worry about.

“He understands that he’s not the only one who has to worry about these things, but healthcare is a human right,” Weberman added. “The president thinks everyone is fine because people are silent, but we’re not silent anymore.”

Trump promised throughout his campaign and during the first week of his presidency that he will move to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but a replacement plan hasn’t materialized yet. Both Trott and Bishop have said they support a repeal and replacement of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and voted for a procedural move that would allow for the defunding of the health care initiative.

The U.S. House of Representatives was in session on Monday, so both Trott and Bishop were in Washington D.C.

"Reforming our nation's healthcare system is about making healthcare work for every Michigander,” Trott said in a statement. “I have heard from doctors, patients, and families from across my district about their struggle with dwindling coverage and skyrocketing costs. Restoring their and all of my constituents', access to affordable, high-quality care is my utmost priority."

Bishop added: “All of us can agree our nation’s healthcare system is far from perfect. While Obamacare has undoubtedly helped some, it has made things far worse for others,” he said in a statement. “When a law has unintended consequences, Congress has an obligation to address it.”

Kelly Breen, a Novi attorney, said she attended her first protest because she fears a repeal of the ACA will harm many of her clients, who were injured on the job.

“How are they are going to get back on their feet,” she said. “If they have no job and no healthcare, they’re stuck in a horrible cycle. They’re going to end up losing their homes.”

While the rallies in Troy and Brighton were focused on the ACA, Trump’s executive order on limiting immigration and refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations also raised the ire of protesters. Trump signed the order Friday banning the State Department for 90 days from issuing visas to immigrants from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also stops all refugees from entering the country for 120 days. A federal judge issued an emergency stay for people with valid visas who had arrived at airports or were already on their way.

Amelia Gotwals of Howell carried a sign reading: "No ban, no wall."

"I feel strongly that all of our lives are enriched by diversity, and I think by keeping out certain types of people we're limiting our country,” she said at the Brighton rally, adding she felt the immigration order was, “a fear mongering tactic.”

Both Trott and Bishop said they supported Trump’s executive order, but Bishop also said that the order needs more clarity, “to ensure this order is not carried out in a way that infringes on civil liberties and the protections guaranteed by our Constitution.”

One thing that everyone could agree on at the protests: Trump’s frenetic first week in office, full of executive orders and tweets, helped fuel the turnout at protests Monday and over the weekend.

“We remained active even in the off years. We worked on Wall Street reform, we working on all those issues. But I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Mona Dequis, a Waterford resident and one of the organizers of the Troy rally. “People are coming out of the woodwork. It’s an organizers dream right now.”

On the state level, several Democratic legislators who are descendants of immigrants spoke out in opposition to the immigration order and state Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who is the great grandson of  Eastern European Jews who fled to the United States to escape the anti-Semitism of the Holocaust, introduced a resolution calling on Trump to reverse his order.

“The anti-refugee rhetoric exhibited during the 2016 presidential election was the most despicable part of the presidential contest, and I’m dismayed that the campaign rhetoric is beginning to find itself enshrined in policy proposals by the Trump administration," he said in a statement. "When Jews say ‘never again,’ we mean never again for everyone, including those in Syria and other unstable parts of the world who are seeking relief and safety from violently oppressive governments."

Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said on social media that the order is meant to keep Americans safe.

"The United States must have an immigration policy that provides safety and security for our nation, that is hopeful to all new Americans and which discriminates against no one," he said on facebook. "President Trump's Executive Order is not a ban on Muslims, and he is placing the security of Americans first."

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