Immigrants Drive Michigan’s Economy; Governor, Other GOP Leaders Support Reform

Communications Associate

July 10, 2015

In a state that has seen its share of economic struggles, executives from the Grand Rapids mayor to the state’s governor recognize the importance of immigrants and immigration. Immigrants are a key part of the state’s business development, and business and evangelical leaders are among the key constituencies who support immigration reform.


“Over the last decade, immigrants created one-third of the high-tech businesses in our state, at a rate six times the rest of the population. We need to encourage immigration in Michigan. That’s how we made our country great.”

Gov. Rick Snyder

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder Strongly Supports Immigration Reform, Knows How Vital Immigrants Are to His State

Gov. Snyder is a prominent advocate for comprehensive reform and has long urged Congress to act. A fact sheet compiled by the governor’s office underscores immigrants as “powerful job creators.” In it, Snyder calls for an additional 50,000 employment-based visas for skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs during the next five years. Snyder also created the Michigan Office for New Americans to coordinate the state’s efforts to welcome immigrants and entrepreneurship.

And on the local level, leaders in diversifying cities such as Grand Rapids recognize that immigrants are helping reinvigorate their communities. “Our new Americans are a crucial part of our community and its economic vitality,” Mayor George Heartwell wrote in 2013. “These new Americans buy homes, revitalize neighborhoods, open businesses and create jobs, all benefiting the broader community. Side by side, we work together for the American dream.”

Michigan Immigrants Innovate, Sustain the Economy  

Foreign-born Business Owners: Immigrants founded at least three of Michigan’s marquee companies, Dow, Meijer and Masco. In 2010, 10.4 percent of all business owners in Michigan were foreign-born, generating $1.8 billion in total net income. Between 2006 and 2010, 30,223 immigrants became new Michigan business owners.

H-1B High-Skilled Visas and STEM: In 2011, 7,411 H-1B visas were issued to Michigan residents. In 2009 “non-resident aliens” earned 35.1 percent of master’s degrees and 47.9 percent of doctorate degrees in STEM fields. Also as of 2009, 36.6 percent of Michigan’s foreign-born population age 25 and older had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 24.7 percent of native-born people age 25 or older. Two-thirds of the University of Michigan’s patents had at least one immigrant inventor, and more than 60 percent of Michigan engineering Ph.D. graduates were foreign-born.23

Michiganders Support Reform

A poll last year by Harper Polling found that 64 percent of voters would support a 2016 presidential candidate from a party that supports reform. 86 percent of voters believed our immigration system needed to be fixed with 66 percent supporting comprehensive reform. Further, 71 percent believe Congress needs to act on immigration reform.

In addition, Michigan faith, business and education leaders have added their voices to the nationwide call for Congress to act.

Evangelicals in Michigan

According to the 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study by the Pew Research Center, about 25 percent of Michigan’s population identifies as white evangelical. Among evangelical Christians in Michigan and nationwide, support for immigration reform is growing. In 2014, Michigan evangelical leaders joined a large delegation from across the country in Washington to urge Congress to act. Below are quotes from two of the leaders; find more at the previous link.

Brian Bennett, Pastor, Overflow Church, Benton Harbor:

“Immigration reform is important to me as a Christian community leader because of Jesus’ command to love our neighbor and the clear heart God has for love, mercy, and justice found throughout Scripture. I also have friends who are affected personally by the current debate, who are waiting for a visa, and whose lives in this generation are being affected by the failure of the previous generation to properly address the issue.”

Adam Lipscomb, Lead Pastor, City Life Wesleyan Church, Grand Rapids:

“Immigration reform is important to me because undocumented immigrants are my neighbors, friends, colleagues in ministry and part of our church. They have become part of the fabric of our community. And when they are deported, it rips not only their own families apart, but leaves a tattered hole in many of the communities that I love.”

Michigan Faith, Law Enforcement, Business Media Availability:

Bing Goei, Owner and CEO, Eastern Floral; Director, Michigan Office for New Americans

Ron Haddad, Dearborn Police Chief

Susan Im, Immigration Attorney

Rev. Kate Kooyman, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Bill Rudd, Senior Pastor, Calvary Church of Muskegon

Joe Laurent, Vice President of Human Resources, Agility Health

Bill Rudd, Senior Pastor, Calvary Church of Muskegon

Please contact Cathleen Farrell to arrange interviews.