Snyder: Immigrants are innovators, entrepreneurs

Symposium focuses on immigration as a tool of economic development

By Steve Thorpe

Legal News

As he answered questions from the audience at a symposium on immigration, with the shouts of several hundred protestors outside still ringing in his ears, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder thanked the audience for their civility.

"These are a lot more polite than some questions I've faced lately!" he said.

Snyder was addressing the "Global Michigan: Immigration and Economic Growth" Law Review Symposium sponsored Friday by the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law at the Detroit Athletic Club. The symposium focused on immigration as a tool of economic development.

"If you make a short list of the policies and philosophies that made this a great country, immigration would be on that list," Snyder said during his remarks. "Specifically, being proactive and positive about immigration. It's unfortunate that so many people have forgotten that."

Other speakers at the forum included leaders from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada.

UDM School of Law Dean Lloyd Semple introduced the governor and reminisced about their long association.

"The governor and I go back a long way," Semple said. "We used to ride the elevator together at Tower 400 of the Renaissance Center when he was a young partner at Coopers Lybrand and I was a slightly older partner at Dykema."

When Snyder's focus turned to politics, Semple was not exactly encouraging.

"More recently, after he became a businessman in venture capital, he said to me, 'Lloyd, I'm thinking of running for governor,'' Semple said. "Over the next few minutes, I tried to say as artfully and politely as I could that he was nuts! Other people told him the same thing I did but, fortunately, he didn't listen to any of us. He listened to the people of the state."

As if to emphasize the rough and tumble of politics, protestors from groups associated with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson and local groups chanted along with a bullhorn as they marched in front of the club. They were primarily protesting Snyder's recent announcement that an emergency financial manager will be appointed for Detroit, but signs criticizing recent right to work legislation were also spotted in the crowd.

The all-day immigration event also included three panel discussions: Local Approaches to Immigration: Rolling Out the Welcome Mat; High-Skilled and Low-Skilled Immigrants: Can Both be Valued and Promoted?; and The "Friendly" Border: Economic and Human Rights Issues on the Canada-U.S. Border.

In his speech, Snyder particularly reached out to the young law students in attendance.

"To all you students, thank you for your interest in immigration," he said. "Be loud and proud. Stand up and say, 'By working together, we can reinvent our state and make the world a better place by building bridges and relationships.' "

Snyder also tried to debunk what he said was the most destructive myth about immigration.

"People believe that immigrants are taking jobs from someone when, in fact, the evidence is clear that they create jobs," he said. "They are net job creators. They're innovators, entrepreneurs and they're making jobs happen."

Published: Mon, Mar 25, 2013