Finley: Killing jobs is not a Michigan value

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Is Michigan on its way to becoming a sanctuary state under new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses attendees with Judge Damon J. Keith.

The governor is blocking the sale of a shuttered prison in Ionia to a for-profit detention company that hoped to use it to detain immigrants who are arrested for being in the country illegally.

The decision is based entirely on Whitmer’s liberal views on illegal immigration, rather than on the needs of the state and its workers.

The project, negotiated by former Gov. Rick Snyder, would have restored nearly 300 jobs that were lost when the state closed the Deerfield Correctional Facility. 

But the governor says allowing Deerfield to reopen to house those detained by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would run counter to “Michigan values.”

Presumably, Whitmer takes her election as governor last fall as indication that the state’s population shares the open borders stance of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. But before that, Michigan voters helped elect Republican Donald Trump as president, and he certainly holds a much different stance on the matter. It’s fair to say the state’s “values” are not so easy to discern. 

More: Whitmer: 'Michigan values' led to blocked sale of shuttered prison

Whitmer also says she would not sell state property to build a facility that would separate parents from their children. But Michigan operates a number of detention facilities that keep parents and children apart. They’re called prisons. 

According to a 2016 report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 10 percent of Michigan children have had a parent who’s been incarcerated.

Rather than try to project her political values across the entire state, Whitmer should focus on whether the sale is sound policy. It passes that test.

Deerfield was closed by the state in 2009 and is owned by the Michigan Land Bank, which has been unable to find another use for the eyesore and the 47 acres it sits on.

Allowing Immigration Centers of America to reopen it to house 500-600 detainees would create 264 jobs in a community that has been hit hard by Michigan’s shrinking prison population.

A spokesman for the governor says Whitmer doesn’t believe “building more detention facilities (would) solve our immigration crisis.” Solving the immigration crisis is above the governor’s pay grade.

Her job is to bring jobs and economic development to Michigan. Blocking the sale won’t alter the nation’s immigration policy. A detention center is going to be built. If not in Michigan, it and the jobs it creates will go somewhere else.

Ionia Mayor Daniel Balice calls the governor’s decision “discouraging.” Deerfield is one of two closed corrections centers in Ionia, a community that has traditionally been a prison town. Selling it to a private company would have put it on the tax rolls and boosted a struggling local economy. 

“The loss of the property tax revenue is significant,” Balice says.

I’m not sure where Michigan’s “values” are on detaining illegal immigrants, and I doubt Whitmer can define them with any certainty, either.

But I do believe Michigan residents don’t value sacrificing 300 jobs in a tough-luck community just so its governor can deliver a rebuke to President Donald Trump.

At the least, Whitmer should tell the people of Ionia how she intends to replace those lost jobs.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.