Snyder renews push to keep ‘Dreamers’ in Michigan

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is renewing its push to keep thousands of young undocumented immigrants in Michigan as Democrats in Congress try to use budget talks to renew a version of a program that protected them.

The Michigan Office for New Americans and state business leaders hosted a press conference Wednesday calling on Congress to approve the so-called Dream Act and allow about 1.9 million undocumented immigrants eligible for the program to stay in the United States.

In September, President Donald Trump moved to end the President Barack Obama amnesty program that has allowed them to stay. Although he canceled Obama’s executive order, Trump has said he’s leaving it to Congress to now decide the issue.

Snyder, a Republican, has been a longtime immigrant advocate, pointing to immigrants as a boon to the state economy and part of the solution to its sluggish recovery in the aftermath of the 2007-2008 housing market collapse.

But the latest push comes with a renewed urgency as some Democrats in Congress threaten to derail budget talks if Trump doesn’t agree to a deal protecting those eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Republicans may need Democrats to approve spending bills that if delayed could spur a government shutdown as soon as Friday.

About 15,000 young undocumented immigrants in Michigan are eligible for the DACA program, and Snyder “strongly believes that immigrants are contributors to our state’s economic development,” said Karen Phillipi, deputy director of the Michigan Office for New Americans. Snyder created the office by executive order in 2014 to aid in coordinating immigrant services such as licensing, job training, education and housing programs.

About 7 percent of the state’s population is foreign born, said Phillipi, who stressed that immigrants are twice as likely to start new businesses and boost the state’s economy.

“We are firm believers that our lives are enriched by all Michiganders feeling welcomed and included,” she said.

Snyder said in a weekend commentary that immigrants help “make America great” -- a clear allusion and rebuttal to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.

Snyder, who has called himself the most pro-immigrant governor in the country, said he has joined the “Dream Coalition” in support of DACA-eligible immigrants.

In 2016, an estimated 1.9 million people in the U.S. were eligible for DACA, with the vast majority, nearly 1.29 million, from Mexico, according to data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute. Of those, 15,000 in Michigan were eligible for the program.

DACA-eligible residents contribute $27 million in total taxes annually, according to the New American Economy group. About $13.6 million of that is state and local tax revenue.