IDs for undocumented workers? And other surprises from Michigan Democrats

With less than one month left until primary voters choose their gubernatorial candidate, these Democratic candidates still had some surprising things to say.

August 2018 update: Gretchen Whitmer wins Democratic primary for Michigan governor

Extending state services to immigrants without documentation. Solving recessions with shovels. And debate over when best to raid Michigan’s cash reserves.

Those were among the surprises last week, when Bridge Magazine and its media partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative sat down with three Democrats running for governor: Former Detroit Health Director Abdul El-Sayed, Ann Arbor businessman Shri Thanedar and former Sen. Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Here are five intriguing takeaways from the hour-long interviews:

Give undocumented immigrants access to state resources

Michigan has been slowly growing over the last several years, but many worry that this limited population growth is not enough to hold on to all 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. One possible solution to that, some say, is to attract more immigrants to Michigan.

El-Sayed is on board, but takes it a step further: He favors making it easier for more than 97,000 people without documentation living within the state’s borders to access state resources.

He outlined several ways he would advocate for immigrants — including the promise that Michigan “will not expend a dime of state taxpayer resources enforcing federal immigration policy that at best is incoherent and at worst is heartless” — before throwing his support behind allowing undocumented immigrants access to certain state resources.

“We’ve also got to make sure that in this state we are not discriminating by documentation status,” he said.

“Now if you’re undocumented, you don’t get access to a driver’s license, so you’re stuck. You don’t get access to a lot of the basic things the state offers everybody else. And I think that’s ridiculous, so I think we’ve got to stop discriminating that way.”

It became illegal to issue driver’s licenses to undocumented Michiganders in 2008. There is now a bipartisan bill introduced in the state House to change that, but it has not left committee.

A $30 billion bond

All of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates have said they would expand government services and invest in various projects, including many plans that would bear a hefty price tag.

Thanedar’s proposals include plans to remove all of the state’s lead service lines, provide universal childcare and pre-K, increase funding for K-12 education, make college free for some students, forgive college debt for those who become teachers, eliminate the state income tax for lower-income families, give free healthcare to those affected by the Flint crisis and more.

That’s a dramatic growth in government. How would he pay for all that? Through a $30 billion bond over 30 years “serviced by the corporate graduated income tax on ultra-rich and corporations,” Thanedar said. “So, we would also minimize any tax incentives, tax giveaways to big corporations. And some of that, we will have over $500 million of savings. We would have some savings from our prison reform and that would also be used for servicing the 30-year bond.”

When asked twice to specifically describe how much his programs would cost, Thanadar couldn’t say.

When is it raining? It’s hard to say.

Michigan has a savings account dubbed the “rainy day” fund, which is intended to stabilize the budget during a recession. During the Snyder administration that fund has been built up to nearly $1 billion.

When asked whether spending those savings before a recession was a wise, Whitmer said a surplus doesn’t help Michiganders who are suffering now.

“It’s raining for people in Flint. What does that mean? Does building up and having a great credit rating mean much if you have a city full of families that still doesn’t trust the water coming out of their taps?” she said. “Does it mean much if your roads are turning to gravel? Does it mean much if you’ve got 100 communities that can’t drink their water? My answer’s no.”

But Whitmer walked back her call to spend and protect practically in the same breath.

“I’m not suggesting that we use that to fund all the priorities I’m talking about,” she said.

Combating recession with orange cones

Michigan’s economy is steadily growing, but experts say the state is overdue for another recession. So how best to prepare?

Thanedar is pinning his hopes on construction projects.

“Michigan really needs a huge amount of infrastructure improvement,” Thanedar said. “As the recession begins, I would use some of the ($30 billion) bond money to initiate jobs in the construction industry that would generate hundreds of thousands of jobs which would counteract any economic downturn that we may see.”

He concluded by saying he is the only gubernatorial candidate with a proven history of creating jobs.

How to fund roads? Wait and see.

“Fix the damn roads” has been one of Whitmer’s campaign calling cards, as she tours the state touting a plan requiring $20 billion in state funds over 10 years.

“I would fund it through perhaps some of these mechanisms that I’ve cast votes on during my time in the Legislature,” she said. “My commitment is that there will be $2 billion built into the budget next year” for road funding — an increase of $1.5 billion from current funding structures.

How? Well, let’s wait and see, Whitmer said.

Snyder “proposed all sorts of user fees and those were all pieces of it,” she said.

“The Legislature could look very different next year. The environment could be very different next year,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I think it’s important to tell you what my commitment is but all the different pieces of it may change based on how the environment changes.”

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 07/19/2018 - 1:47pm

Amazing that one wants to give benefits to illegals when so many citizens need help of some sort. It would be better for Michigan citizens if ICE was called and the illegals deported, instead of spending limited resources on them.

Thu, 07/19/2018 - 11:06pm

I will vote this election for candidates who prioritize citizens over illegal aliens, those who oppose sanctuary cities, amnesty and taxpayer funded in state college tuition discounts for illegals. That means NO Democrats.

When will politicians and people in general figure out that when you reward illegal immigration with jobs, amnesty, drivers licenses, discounts for college tuition, scholarships encourages MORE illegal entry.. Illegal immigration negativity effects our economy from employment to use public services. Just debating this in congress is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars..... again, thank the parents.

People fleeing persecution? or people fleeing for freebies? they sure don't stay in Mexico when they reach "safety" or ask for political asylum in Mexico. Why? because Mexico will give them nothing. So they make the long journey to our border, our giving liberals and our tax dollars.

The current migration at our southern border is costing taxpayers a Kings Ransom. Not mentioned is 70% of children at the border arrive either alone or with a non parent. We have 20% of children in America living in poverty and 450,000 children in foster care. Democrats have allowed 45 million children to be killed in abortions yet we are to believe they care about 2,000 illegal alien children?

Just a few examples of the more outrageous costs associated with illegal immigration, we will pass this burden on to our children and grand children as has been passed on to us

The cost of educating illegal aliens children is staggering. From K-12 it costs taxpayers $122,000 for EACH illegal alien student. This does not include the billions spent on bilingual education for illegal aliens.

*Currently city, and state officials are appropriating millions of taxpayer dollarsfor legal fees to to file law suits and in defense of illegal aliens being deported and to sue our own Government..

*2014 illegal aliens sent home $62 BILLION in remittances back to their countries of origin. This is why Mexico is getting involved in our politics.

*30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.Does not include local jails and State Prisons. At $21,000 per year expense per inmate in Federal Prison U do the math.

*$3Million Dollars a DAY is spent to incarcerate illegal aliens, I repeat 3 MILLION a DAY to process Illegals in the Criminal justice system.

*$2.2Billion dollars a year is spent on is spent on food assistance programs such as SNAP (food stamps) WIC, & free school lunches.

Michael Cox
Fri, 07/20/2018 - 10:39am

This comment, by Mira, is exactly the form propaganda takes in 2018. On July 9th, 2018 Mira Dean posted nearly the same article, certainly with an identical opening line and overall theme.

Alicia Wally
Mon, 07/23/2018 - 1:03pm

Nice plagiarism Megan.

Personally, I would want to look DEEPER into WHY a candidate would want to allocate funds or resources to these "undocumented" people. If we really looked into it, with open eyes instead of with simple disdain for "illegals", we may find that ID's and allowing undocumented people access to certain resources would perhaps save other state money/resources. I mean, seriously, it's people who think like this that think these border detainment centers are a good idea. How much do you think the utilities, rent, caretakers, food, healthcare, etc at these detention centers is actually costing us, versus allowing undocumented/illegal/amnesty-seekers in until their review with electronic monitoring (EM)? Are you even aware how much it costs to house/feed a person in prison....yeah, it's just like that. We all have to remember, there is MORE to every story and every political "stance".

Alicia Wally
Mon, 07/23/2018 - 1:15pm

For those who would like to understand "why" a candidate would advocate for undocumented ID's and's some background as to how it could be a GOOD thing for Michigan (nice to learn more about a subject before screaming DEPORT DEPORT).

Excerpt from Detroit Free Press article: "Immigrant advocates said that mass deportations could disrupt businesses across Michigan and lead to population losses; Michigan is the only state in the U.S. to have lost population over the past 15 years and has struggled to attract newcomers.

The report by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of 500 mayors and business leaders, said that undocumented immigrants in Michigan "contribute to a range of industries that could not thrive without a pool of workers willing to take on highly labor-intensive roles."

More than 7% of all workers in Michigan's farm industry are undocumented, 6% of all employees in the accommodation and food services industry are undocumented, as are 3% of all manufacturing workers, the report said. About 40% of Michigan's undocumented immigrants own their homes, and 5,100 undocumented immigrants are self-employed. In 2014, they contributed about $158 million to Social Security through taxes on their individual wages.

A separate report released in 2013 by the liberal group Center for American Progress said legalizing undocumented immigrants would create a $10 billion increase in gross state product in Michigan, with a half a billion increase in taxes from undocumented immigrants in Michigan.

But the conservative group FAIR said in a 2011 report that Michigan is harmed by undocumented immigrants; it says they cost taxpayers in the state about $897 million in 2010, including $377 in education costs and $143 million in public assistance.

Legal immigration also could be at stake as Trump during his campaign talked of reducing the number of immigrants who should be allowed into the country.

Many businesses in metro Detroit rely on high-skilled labor from legal immigrants.

Foreign students contribute more than $1 billion to Michigan's economy, making up 40% to 70% of graduate students in fields involving science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM fields, said Steve Tobocman, a former state representative from southwest Detroit who now heads the immigrant advocacy group Global Detroit."