Michigan Governor Says It's Time to Embrace Immigrants

 Michigan Governor Says It's Time to Embrace Immigrants

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DETROIT — Speaking at the conference, Immigration and Michigan's Economic Future, Gov. Rick Snyder said in addition to cultural diversity, immigrants bring jobs to America. "Make no mistake about it, they are job creators, and we should be embracing that," he added.

Snyder said Arab Americans reinvented Dearborn, and he also made note of the contributions Chaldeans have made to the seven mile area of Detroit and to Macomb County. This was the governor's first time speaking in length on the topic. Snyder said immigrants made Michigan successful in the past and can do the same for its future. It was hard working immigrants who built Mexican Town and Greektown, he pointed out.

Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) announced during the conference at Wayne State University on July 18 that he is working on legislation to introduce a bill that makes it easier for immigrants to settle in the United States if they're willing to invest and create jobs in Detroit. "So immigration is good for Detroit because immigration is what has made the United States of America an enormous successful country in just 200 years," Clarke said. He says immigrants are willing to take risks and see opportunity in circumstances that would appear challenging to most.

The conference, presented by New Michigan Media in collaboration with Global Detroit, included panel discussions and presentations from business, philanthropic, academic and community leaders and was attended by more than 600 people.

According to Welcoming Michigan Statewide Coordinator Martha Huckabee, who spoke as a panelist, in 2005 Arab American owned businesses accounted for $7.7 billion in Detroit and generated $544 million in tax revenue. The businesses also created 141,000 jobs. Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News (TAAN) spoke about how strong ethnic media helps the regional economy and said former Michigan governor John Engler stated many times that without the Arab community Wayne County would have suffered financially.

Huckabee also said Asian Americans own 15,000 businesses in Michigan, and their 2002 sales receipts show over $5 billion. In 2009 Latino consumers spent $9 billion in the state.

"So in terms of the popular perception of losing jobs because of our immigrants, we have to overcome that. One of the focal keys to job creation in our country is to embrace immigrants in a positive constructive way and let that entrepreneur spirit work," Snyder said.

The governor said there are still refugees coming to Michigan particularly from the Middle East that may already have advanced degrees, and a system to help them succeed in their profession hasn't been created. "Quite often we make it difficult, and they may be delayed and have to go through a whole series of…hurdles so they can practice their profession."

Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) said in 2007 she started keeping track of anti-immigrant legislation being introduced, including having English only requirements for all state government documents and a citizen check box on driver licenses.

"There are so many people that don't want to talk about policy. They don't need to. They have been so brainwashed about what is going on regarding who immigrants are that I think we need to get to the basics," Tlaib said.

Siblani said immigration has never been a bigger issue than it is today and it's because the face of America is changing with people of different color, religion and ethnic origin coming to the United States. "Is this something that scares America? It's not supposed to be. But there are people who are scaring America out of this change," he said. "In 1984, during my naturalization ceremony along with more than 150 others, late president Ronald Reagan was the keynote speaker. He addressed the newly sworn citizens urging them to keep their culture and enrich America with it and never forget where they come from and build economic and cultural bridges between their homeland and America."

New Michigan Media Chairman Hayg Oshagan said while religious and community centers provide a sense of belonging to immigrants, ethnic media are the bridge between worlds for most communities that provide news about their homeland.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke about immigration at the conference through a video presentation. "Immigrants create the jobs, not take them," he said. Bloomberg says there is no evidence that any place suffers in America from immigrants, and it would be national suicide to try and close the border. Bloomberg is the co-chair of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a national bipartisan coalition of over 300 mayors and business leaders who believe immigration reform can boost the economy and create jobs.

Global Detroit Director Steve Tobocman said the conference is an opportunity for the region to put itself on the map as the most welcoming city and state in America. "I believe the New Michigan Media conference will mark the first step on Michigan's path to national leadership in this area," he said.

Other speakers included Compuware former CEO Peter Karmanos, Jr., Detroit City Councilman Kenneth Cockral, Jr., Martin Manna, executive Director of the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce and co-publisher of The Chaldean News, Ahmed Chabbani, Chairman of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce and Wayne State University President Allan Gilmour.

New Michigan Media is a network of ethnic and minority media in the state striving to enhance its more than 140 ethnic and minority media outlets which represent hundreds of thousands of readers, listeners and viewers.

Its board is comprised of the publishers and editors of the five largest ethnic media in Michigan including The Arab American News, The Jewish News, The Michigan Korean Weekly, The Latino Press and The Michigan Chronicle. The circulation of the papers combined is 130,000 — almost equal to that of the Detroit News.