State - Inclusion-- Bias Awareness Week planned October 17-21

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

The Washtenaw County Bar Association (WCBA), will host Bias Awareness and Inclusion Week October 17- 21 with a variety of events focused around the theme of immigration.

Immigration reform is a complicated issue that ignites passions on all sides, notes WCBA President Ashwin Patel, an attorney with University of Michigan Student Legal Services in Ann Arbor.

"It's an understatement to say that Arizona's SB 1070, which was signed into law on April 23, 2010, has stirred up heated debate this summer," she says.

Michigan's House Bill 6256, "Immigration Law Enforcement Act," mimics the Arizona law in some ways and differs in some ways, according to Patel. Resolutions have been introduced in Michigan in support of the Arizona law, HR 295, and in opposition to the Arizona law, HR 291. Both resolutions have been referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

In light of the debate regarding immigration, illegal immigration and immigration reform, the WCBA Bias Awareness and Inclusion Week Committee, in conjunction with Women Lawyers and Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association, has planned a series of events involving immigration issues.

Activities get under way on Sunday, Oct. 17, and end with a dinner on Thursday, Oct. 21.

"Having a theme for bias awareness week is a great idea, since immigration is a timely topic," says committee member Kelly Flint, an attorney with U-M Student Legal Services in Ann Arbor.

"The events we planned will help facilitate a better understanding of how bias and inclusion issues tie into immigration issues.

"The Sunday workshop, in particular, should help people gain a better understanding of: how implicit bias about racial or ethnic groups can color immigration reform policy proposals and implementation, whether training can mitigate the effects of implicit biases, and the effect stereotyping, prejudice and bias in immigration matters has on the community. We hope the workshop will fuel discussion for the roundtable meetings and facilitated panels taking place Monday through Thursday."

The Sunday event, sponsored by Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association kicks off at 4 p.m. at Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor, with a framing of the issues and a workshop that will aid participants in examining implicit bias about racial or ethnic groups. Immigration attorney Mayra Rodriguez from the law office of Marshal E. Hyman & Associates in Troy, Ann Arbor City Council member Sabra Briere, and State Representative Rashida H. Tlaib will provide legislative updates.

Attorney Eli Maroko, chairman of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Michigan Chapter, will then facilitate a workshop on bias and inclusion issues in immigration law. Maroko, a partner in the Southfield office of Jaffe, Raitt, Heuer, & Weiss, is the Practice Group Coordinator of the firm's Immigration Practice Group, specializing in immigration and nationality law, business matters and commercial and probate litigation.

The committee received assistance from the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, a nonprofit civil rights organization in Detroit that brings together community leaders from government, law enforcement, education, faith, grass roots organizations and business to understand different points of view and overcome impediments to inclusion and equity.

Rita J. Crooks, manager for Cultural Competency with Michigan Roundtable, is guiding the committee in planning activities for the workshop, Flint says.

"Rita designs and develops individual, team and organizational training initiatives, provides support to special events and assists with organizing community inclusion efforts. Eli Maroko and I are working with her on the best way to facilitate the bias and inclusion topic as it relates to immigration, to prepare the attendees for the programs taking place during the rest of Bias Awareness Week. Her assistance has been invaluable," Flint says.

The Women Lawyers Association of Michigan will sponsor a breakfast program, 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 18, at 200 N. Main Street (lower level conference room) in Ann Arbor. Panelists Margaret Harner, Cynthia Nunez and Susan Reed will take part in a discussion addressing the impact of immigration laws on women and children.

The Washtenaw County Bar Association will sponsor Tuesday's brown bag lunch program, noon at the Learning Resource Center, 4135 Washtenaw Ave. A panel discussion on the application and constitutionality of immigration laws and the impact on issues of race, gender and ethnic bias will include immigration lawyer George Mann from Farmington Hills; Reginald Pacis, an immigration attorney with Butzel Long in Detroit; Detroit immigration lawyer Ron Walker; and ACLU Staff Attorney Jessie Rossman.

The Wednesday event is the Eleventh Annual "Enhancement of Police and Community Trust" (ENPACT) Public Forum, developed and sponsored by the ENPACT Coalition (Ann Arbor & Ypsilanti-Willow Run Branches of the NAACP, the Black Employees Association of Washtenaw County Government (BEAWCG), Citizens for Justice, the Huron Valley Association of Black Social Workers, the ACLU of Michigan, the ACLU of Washtenaw County and the Washtenaw County Bar Association's Criminal Law Section - all in collaboration with the WCCJA (Washtenaw County Criminal Justice Association) and the Union Presidents of the various law enforcement agencies throughout Washtenaw County. Ypsilanti Police Chief Amy Walker will be the guest speaker. Washtenaw County Public Defender Lloyd Powell will moderate the program, which begins at noon at the Learning Resource Center.

"The Sunday through Wednesday events are open to the public, and the WCBA encourages community participation," Flint says. "Bias Awareness and Inclusion Week extends well beyond the practice of law - the activities the committee planned are meant to offer insight into a topic that affects us all on many levels."

The week culminates in the annual dinner meeting during which Vanzetti Hamilton Bar

Association will present its Fredrick Douglas Award to Ann Arbor attorney Fulton B. Eaglin and the Washtenaw County Bar Association will present its MLK Jr. Award to Circuit Court Judge Melinda Morris.

For additional information, call (734) 994-4912 or visit

Published: Thu, Oct 14, 2010