A report released by the state Wednesday says immigration boosts Michigan's economy, helping the state emerge from a lengthy recession, and suggests many of the estimated 126,000 undocumented immigrants in Michigan should be made legal.
The report "The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan" was released by the Michigan Office for New Americans, which Republican Gov. Rick Snyder created in the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The state office said it partnered in the release of the report with the bipartisan Partnership for a New American Economy's "Reason for Reform" campaign, which is pushing for immigration changes and a less-restrictive federal immigration policy.
“Immigration has proven to be a driver of job creation and economic growth in Michigan,” Snyder said in a news release.
“As a welcoming state, we know and value the cultural diversity, professional contributions and entrepreneurial skills offered by foreign-born residents. We look forward to working with our federal partners toward making immigration reform a reality to create more jobs for families and enhance the quality of life across Michigan.”
A spokesperson for Michiganders for Immigration Control and Enforcement, which pushes for greater controls on immigration, could not be reached for comment.
The report was released as immigration policy has become a significant issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. Democrat Hillary Clinton supports immigration overhaul with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Republican Donald Trump has called for several measures to tighten immigration, including a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., suspending immigration from countries tied to terrorism, and construction of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The new state report estimates Michigan is home to nearly 642,000 foreign-born residents, and Michigan's immigrant population grew to 7% of the state's total population in 2014, from 4% in 1990.
Between 2010 and 2014 Michigan’s foreign-born population grew by 60,000, or by 10.2%, compared to the national average of 5.8%, "making the state a standout from others in its attraction to new Americans," the report says.
"New Americans arriving in Michigan have helped mitigate some of the negative effects of the state's economic downturn and loss of population during the Great Recession," the Office for New Americans said in a news release.
But despite the recent surge, the 7% of Michigan's population made up of immigrants still trails the national average of 13%.
The report says households led by immigrants in Michigan earned $19.6 billion in income in 2014 and paid $5.4 billion in taxes, including $1.5 billion in state and local taxes. It highlights the role of immigrants in entrepreneurship, job creation, strengthening the housing market and filling Michigan's growing demand for jobs in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
It says federal restrictions on H1-B temporary visas for highly skilled workers are costing the economy jobs.
State Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, said in an e-mail to the Free Press that "people of good will likely agree that Michigan should welcome legal immigrants who respect our laws, constitutional values, and culture," but "people with common sense would likely agree that that shouldn't include immigrants from terrorist-dominated countries where national security officials say there is no means of vetting individuals who plan to use immigrant status as a cover for terrorist activity here."
Glenn did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about his views on a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
As for undocumented workers, the report says the existence of large numbers of such immigrants "undermines law and order, permits a shadow economy that is far harder to regulate, and is simply unfair to the millions of people who have come here legally."
However, "as these immigrants spend years and decades in America, they get further integrated into our economy" and "in Michigan, there is evidence that undocumented immigrants are playing a small but critical role in the workforce."
Undocumented workers in Michigan "contribute to a range of industries that could not thrive without a pool of workers willing to take on labor-intensive roles," representing 5.8% of all workers in Michigan's accommodation and food services industry.
"Giving legal status to undocumented immigrants would increase their access to a variety of public benefits — resulting in potentially higher costs for federal, state and local governments," the report says.
"But because legalization is expected to increase the earning power of undocumented immigrants and give them access to a wider array of jobs and educational opportunities, it would have the opposite effect as well, potentially allowing them to spend more as consumers and pay more in taxes each year."
The report says the fact that undocumented immigrants have assimilated into the population makes it "less likely that mass deportation will ever be a realistic option."