Government, Human Resources, and Law

5 facts about immigration in Michigan

December 1, 2014
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President Barack Obama's recent executive action on immigration may protect millions of people illegally living in the U.S. from deportation. Here's a look at where immigration policies stand in Michigan:

1. Who’s affected in Michigan

Michigan is home to an estimated 75,000 to 150,000 immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, a tiny population compared to states like Texas and California, according to the Migration Policy Institute and other groups that study the issue. Obama's latest executive order could affect about 35,000 such immigrants in Michigan.

Michigan's largest population of such immigrants are people from Mexico, followed by immigrants from India, in addition to large populations from Iraq and China.

2. Driver’s licenses

Michigan only provides driver's licenses to people who can prove they are legally living or working in the U.S. The state will maintain that policy and rely on the "federal government to tell us who is legally here in the United States and who is not," Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's spokeswoman said last week.

Michigan was among a few states that initially resisted giving driver's licenses to immigrants illegally living in the U.S. when Obama announced in 2012 that they could apply for temporary work permits if they were brought to the U.S. as children. Johnson changed her mind after the Obama administration clarified the immigrants' legal presence in the country. Civil liberties and immigrants' rights groups also had sued.

3. Medicaid and other state services

Immigrants can apply for assistance such as welfare and Medicaid in Michigan if they have held a Green Card for at least five years. The federally issued card reflects legal permanent status and holders can eventually apply to become U.S. citizens.

4. In-state tuition

Michigan hasn't enacted laws to allow or prohibit in-state tuition rates for immigrants living illegally in the U.S. But some of the state's 15 public universities, including the University of Michigan, have been able to allow such immigrants to pay in-state tuition. The schools are independent under the Michigan Constitution.

5. Governor’s position

Gov. Rick Snyder has said he strongly supports legal immigration and stresses the importance of bipartisan efforts to improve the nation's immigration policy.

The federal government has approved Snyder's request for Michigan to host only the second center in the U.S. aimed at attracting foreign investors to create jobs and live in the U.S.

He also has asked the Obama administration to designate tens of thousands of work visas for Detroit to attract highly skilled, entrepreneurial immigrants.

Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing contributed to this report.

Recent Articles by Jeff Karoub - AP

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