Susan Reed, Managing Attorney at Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, spoke with MPP students on Thursday, October 18 about her experience with Michigan’s immigration policy & being an advocate for critical immigration legal issues. Reed described the challenges of coalition-building between civil rights organizations and advocacy groups. She explained how working with different stakeholders can be difficult due to differing values and priorities. In her role as a legal supervisor, Reed deals with a variety of legal issues for immigrants, such as wage theft, work status, and the rights of unaccompanied minors.
Her work has grown in size, scope, and public engagement since Reed entered the immigration policy arena in 2007. There used to be less general public interest in immigration issues, Reed explained, but with the recent family separation policies by Trump Administration, public engagement has increased. Reed believed it is heartening to have more public support behind her work with immigration legal advocacy in Michigan; her organization was even invited to speak in seven different Michigan cities over the past year.
Reed advised MPP students to stay grounded in their core values and to not to betray one’s constituents with intersectional identities by partnering with coalitions who promote policies which may harm them. Reed emphasized the importance of recognizing the social, cultural, and economic contributions of immigrants, but cautions against simplifying immigrants’ contributions to solely their economic impacts. Immigrants, those with legal status or otherwise, deserve human dignity.