'Action' Celebrates Accomplishments, Sets Agenda

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There was plenty of celebrating and smiling at the Cristo Rey Church in Lansing Sunday. But perhaps no one was smiling as wide as Ramiro Estrada, who stood in front of the audience, drivers license in hand.

"It's just a good feeling to know that I don't have to be afraid of who I am and what I've become," he said.

Thanks to immigration reform that Action helped lobby for, Estrada, who immigrated from Mexico ten years ago, says his life is changed. He can drive; he can collect pay stubs; he can pay taxes. As he puts it, he can be like everybody else.

"You just don't have to worry about getting pulled over or getting immigration called on you," he said, adding he can relax when he returns home to his wife and infant daughter instead of worrying about being separated. "Basically it's all about fear."

Immigration reform was hailed as one of Action's greatest accomplishments of the past year Sunday, but leaders were clear there's still plenty more to be done.

"Oh you've never done enough!" said Rev. Kit Carlson of the All Saint's Episcopal Church in East Lansing. "As long as somebody's civil rights are infringed, as long as somebody's living in poverty, there's never enough. But we're trying to do the piece we can do to make Lansing a better place for everybody."

Father Fred Thelen, co-president of Action, says the group still has to focus on what he calls an "unacceptably high" school drop-out rate for Lansing public school students.

"If we're going to have a strong community we need to have more people graduating, so we're concerned about that," he said.

Increasing access to local, specialty health care for children is a concern too, as is increasing the number of quality and affordable places to live.

Active members said they were staying positive and focused on their mission of bringing social justice to Michigan's capital city.

"One of the things I've realized after this meeting is we actually are making progress," said Carlson. "Dr. [Martin Luther] King said the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Sometimes it feels like that moral arc is really long, but after today I feel like we've got some really significant victories."

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