Snyder: Immigrants are innovators, entrepreneurs


– Photos by Steve Thorpe

PHOTO #1: Gov. Rick Snyder spoke during a symposium on immigration held recently at the Detroit Athletic Club.

PHOTO #2: University of Detroit Mercy School of Law Dean Lloyd Semple (right) recalled getting to know Snyder during their time serving on the Nature Conservancy Board.

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.”

Semple also talked about how varied and wide Snyder’s public interests were, even before he entered politics.

“We really got to know each other when we both served on the board of the Michigan chapter of the Nature Conservancy,” he said. “When I was the chairman, we got all the states that abut the Great Lakes together in a concerted effort to preserve that great asset. Rick was the key man in that presentation that started something very important.”

And when Snyder’s focus did turn 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.”