Schuette takes hard line on immigration in new campaign ad

click to enlarge Attorney General Bill Schuette and former State Sen. Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will face off in the general election for Michigan governor.
Attorney General Bill Schuette and former State Sen. Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will face off in the general election for Michigan governor.

Attorney General Bill Schuette has made immigration a cornerstone in his campaign for governor as he increasingly mirrors President Donald Trump.

In a new attack ad against Gretchen Whitmer, the Republican portrays his opponent as permissive of illegal immigration and in favor of getting rid of Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (or the agency known as ICE).

The 30-second spot, titled "Whitmer is too extreme," claims the former state lawmaker “voted 10 times to give taxpayer-funded benefits to illegal immigrants.” It says also that she wants to abolish ICE, "the law enforcement agency that deports criminal illegal aliens."

According to the Detroit News, the first statement is not quite true. An analysis by the paper
of the votes referenced in the ad showed Whitmer merely voted against a series of bills that would have added or clarified citizenship requirements for some state university grants and scholarships.

As for the second statement — Whitmer campaign press secretary
Nicole Simmons calls it "a flat-out lie,” but a video posted to YouTube Aug. 8 suggests otherwise. In the clip, presumably recorded while Whitmer was locked in a primary battle with two opponents to the left of her, Whitmer is asked if “we should abolish it [ICE]?” After some pressing, she eventually says, “Yeah. I think our Governor needs to stand up.”

ICE, of course, is a controversial agency that a good deal of Democrats support getting rid of and replacing with something less extreme. Last year, ICE rounded up more than
100 Iraqis in metro Detroit in an effort to deport them. Over the summer, it was the agency that separated immigrant families and put kids in cages, prompting protests across the nation, including an "Occupy ICE" campout right here in Detroit.

Schuette's attack ad is one of the first in a general election cycle in which some thought he might move to more to the political center. Evidently, that is not the plan.

The Republican candidate
has touted his relationship with Trump as far back as February 2017 when he posted a photo with the President in the Oval Office. President Trump endorsed Schuette in September last year, tweeting “Attorney General Bill Schuette will be a fantastic Governor for the great State of Michigan. I am bringing back your jobs and Bill will help.”

Curbing immigration was a focal point of the Trump campaign and has continued to play a major role in his administration. Between December 2015 and June of this year, President Trump tweeted about ICE nine times. But since June 21 — following the family separation saga and as the midterms approached — the President has tweeted about ICE 18 times while also frequently labeling Democratic primary candidates as “weak on the border.”

According to the latest available U.S. Census data, about 2 percent of Michigan residents report Arab ancestry, the highest in the United States, and according to the American Immigration Council, nearly 7 percent of Michigan residents are immigrants and nearly one in 12 residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. The American Immigration Council also reports that Mexico is the top country of origin for immigrants in Michigan, making up 11.5 percent of all immigrants.

Lucas Maiman is a Metro Times fall editorial intern.

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