Thousands of protesters gathered yesterday at Detroit Metro Airport and in Dearborn, Hamtramck, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor to demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s ban on immigrants from seven majority Muslim countries.
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Michigan is uniquely affected by this executive order. Southeast Michigan is home to one of the largest Middle Eastern populations in the country, as well as major universities that attract international students and researchers.
This, for our political leaders, is a time that calls for bold…. reticence.
Since the announcement of the ban, there has been a somewhat reservedness from many Michigan Republicans, including Governor Rick Snyder.
Snyder has had an interesting relationship with the issue of immigration and refugee resettlements. He once called himself the most pro-immigration governor in the country.
In fact, it was just a little more than a year ago that Snyder asked the Obama administration to increase the number of Syrian refugees re-settled in Michigan. But that was before he, then, called for a “pause” in refugee resettlements following terrorist attacks overseas.
So, one wonders, is this new ban what Snyder wanted? Or, at the very least, does he support it?
When asked, Snyder’s office released this statement over the weekend, “Governor Snyder believes that legal immigration has helped build a strong and diverse talent base and culture in Michigan. We will work with the Trump administration on the best way forward to keep Michigan a welcoming place while ensuring the safety of all residents.”
On Tuesday, four days after the ban, Snyder, then, offered another statement:
"I support safe and secure borders. As the governor of Michigan, I also know 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. Michigan has been one of the most welcoming states for legal immigration and properly vetted refugees. Michigan is the best place to live the American Dream and I will continue to encourage people to move here from other states and countries to fulfill their visions and find success.
“I plan to reach out to other governors and the presidential administration to completely understand the security processes and procedures in place and how the new executive orders might affect people trying to legally enter Michigan. The President’s 120-day reassessment period is leading to a much-needed national dialogue on immigration policy, and I plan to be part of that discussion."
So, what does that mean? Does the governor support Trump’s executive order?
Snyder did call for a pause. But he’s also said Michigan needs immigrants. In fact, earlier this month, he said it’s an element of his plans to make Michigan a state of more than 10 million people again. “I’m gonna continue to promote Michigan as a welcoming place for immigrants, in particular, that’s something that’s important that ties right into my theme of growing Michigan in terms of our population.”
Snyder’s plan included refugee resettlements in Michigan - welcoming people with advanced educations who’ve been displaced by war in their home countries.
Is it still?
And what do the ideas advanced by Donald Trump’s administration portend for Snyder’s plans.
The events of the past few days are not happening in a vacuum. Rick Snyder is in the final two years of his term with ambitious plans for urban renewal, infrastructure, and education. And immigration. All of these will be affected by decisions made by a still-unpredictable Trump administration.
And the wrong word can set a lot of those plans awry.
It’s one of the great challenges of political leadership: leaders have to know what they want to say. They have to know the right time to say it. And they have to know how to say it.