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Things to know about immigration in Michigan

November 21, 2014

DETROIT (AP) — President Barack Obama announced plans Thursday to shield as many as 5 million immigrants from deportation. The broadest action stemming from his executive authority could extend deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as long as those parents have been in the country for five years. Republicans plan to fight against it. Here’s a look at where things stand in Michigan:

A SMALLER POPULATION

Michigan doesn’t have as sizable a population of immigrants living in the country illegally as other states. Michigan has somewhere between 75,000 and 150,000 people falling in that category, according to groups that study the issue. The Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute says the actions Obama is expected to take could affect about 35,000 in the state — far fewer per capita than other states, including California or Texas.

A MORE DIVERSE GROUP

The story of illegal — or unauthorized — immigration in the United States is largely a Latin American story. But not exclusively, and Michigan’s mix is different and more diverse than many other states. Michigan’s largest group of those in the state illegally comes from Mexico, but in second place are those from India, and others hail from Iraq and China. “I think it’s important to highlight this isn’t just a Mexican-American experience, or a Latino-Hispanic experience,” said Susan Reed, supervising attorney for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center in Kalamazoo. “This will impact Arab- and Asian-American communities. There’s going to be a lot of response to this.”

SERVICES AND BENEFITS

In 2012, Obama announced a policy letting people who have entered the country illegally illegal apply for temporary work permits if they were brought to the U.S. as children. Michigan originally was among a small number of states that resisted allowing those immigrants to have driver’s licenses, but Secretary of State Ruth Johnson changed her mind after the Obama administration clarified the younger immigrants’ legal status. Civil liberties and immigrants’ rights groups also sued. This time around, Reed hopes that state officials will process licenses based on the same interpretation. She doesn’t expect many other public benefits or programs to apply, since cash assistance and Medicaid require residents to have held a green card for at least five years. A green card means they are legal permanent residents and can eventually apply to become citizens.

WHAT’S NEXT

Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokesman Dave Murray says the Republican leader “has been a strong supporter of legal immigration” but stresses the importance of bipartisan efforts “on long-term, comprehensive reforms to our nation’s immigration policy.” Still, Snyder isn’t fighting Obama like many other Republicans, preferring to work with the White House on immigration-related efforts that benefit Michigan. Snyder announced in April that the federal government approved his request for Michigan to host a center aimed at attracting foreign investors to create jobs and live in the United States — only the second such center in the country. And the governor is awaiting word from the Obama administration on another request: Snyder asked the U.S. government to designate tens of thousands of work visas for Detroit to attract highly skilled, entrepreneurial immigrants to the city.

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Follow Jeff Karoub at https://twitter.com/jeffkaroub

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