Snyder: Michigan will continue to welcome immigrants

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday touted Michigan as “one of the most welcoming states for legal immigration and properly vetted refugees” but said a controversial new order by President Donald Trump has prompted a “much-needed national dialogue” on immigration policy.

“I plan to be part of that discussion,” the Republican governor said in a statement, indicating he will also “continue to encourage people to move here from other states and countries to fulfill their visions and find success.”

Snyder issued the statement from Israel, where he is on a trade mission.

Trump on Friday signed an executive order that imposes strict new immigration restrictions on seven majority-Muslim countries, suspends all refugee admissions to the United States for 120 days and indefinitely closes the door to all Syrian refugees.

The president has argued the immigration order does not amount to a “Muslim ban” because many majority-Muslim countries are not affected and it applies to all residents of the countries regardless of their faiths. It applies specifically to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

“This is not about religion — this is about terror and keeping our country safe,” Trump said Sunday as protests sprung up around the country, including airports, where some green card holders were temporarily denied return entry into the country.

Snyder, who has called himself one of the most immigration-friendly governors in the country, said he plans to reach out to the Trump administration and other governors “to completely understand the security processes and procedures in place” and how the president’s executive orders might affect people trying to legally enter Michigan.

Snyder said he supports “safe and secure borders” but knows “firsthand the strong economic and entrepreneurial culture that has developed in our state because of the vast number of immigrants who have settled here for generations.”

The governor, who did not endorse Trump and previously called some of his campaign comments about banning Muslim immigrants “absolutely inappropriate,” did not criticize the sitting Republican president in his latest statement.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who voted for Trump after indicating in October he was withholding support following the release of controversial 2005 comments by the candidate, on Tuesday downplayed the idea that the immigration order is a ban on immigrants from the seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“It’s not really a ban. They said they’re going to suspend it for a limited period of time,” Calley said, calling for people to “reserve judgment” until the new administration cements itself.

“When we have disagreements, that will be clear and we’ll fight like crazy for what we believe is right,” Calley said. “But at the end of the day, we have to have a good working relationship. And this administration had a good working relationship with the previous president even though we didn’t see eye to eye on a whole lot of things. And we will work hard to make sure that we have a good relationship with this president as well.”

But other state officials have been more overtly critical of the executive order.

Michigan Department of Civil Rights Director Agustin Arbulu encouraged the Trump administration to reconsider the breadth of the order. The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Tuesday also released a critical statement from the Michigan Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs.

Snyder did not directly sign off on those statements, but “there has been an ongoing dialogue” between the governor’s office and both commissions since Trump issued the order on Friday, said spokeswoman Anna Heaton.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette defended Trump’s executive order Monday evening. The Republican appeared to be pushing back against Michigan’s congressional Democrats who had called on him to join a group of Democratic state attorneys general challenging its constitutionality.

“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,” Schuette said in a statement.

“President Trump’s Executive Order is not a ban on Muslims, and he is placing the security of Americans first.”

Metro Detroit is home to one of the largest concentrations of Muslim populations in the United States, meaning a travel ban could have a larger effect in Michigan than other parts of the country.

Thousands of protesters gathered Sunday at Detroit Metro Airport and in Hamtramck to speak out against Trump’s executive order.

Michigan state Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, is expected to introduce a resolution Tuesday to denounce what he called “anti-refugee policies” and urge Trump to reverse his executive order. Without blessing of Republican leadership in the state House, the resolution is unlikely to advance.

Moss, whose great-grandfather was a Polish Jew who escaped Europe in the early 1900s, compared the temporary refugee ban to an incident in 1939 when the United States turned away a ship carrying more than 900 Jews who had fled Nazi Germany. They were forced to return, and many died in the Holocaust.

“Just supplant Jew for Muslim in 2017,” Moss said. “It sickens me that we cannot learn from our history, that we have not learned from our mistakes.”

Detroit News Staff Writer Michael Gerstein contributed