(AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s plan to suspend immigration is distracting from efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and part of “inconsistent messages” that scare people and put the public in greater danger.
The Democrat said pronouncements about immigration policy at this time are “scary” for immigrants, family members hoping to immigrate to the U.S., farmers who rely on seasonal migrant workers and Canadian nurses who work in Michigan.
“These broad statements that come out are so problematic and counter to what we need right now more than anything — fact-based, scientifically proven best practices and an optimistic vision of where we are headed and the thrust to make it a reality,” Whitmer told The Associated Press in an interview.
The first-term governor also said “of course” she would participate in vetting to be presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, if asked.
Whitmer also said that several states’ decisions to start reopening the economy without enough COVID-19 testing gives her “great pause.”
The focus, she said, should be on using the Defense Production Act to compel increased manufacturing of testing swabs.
“This is what we need right now — not additional new things to be upset about or fearful of or mad about,” Whitmer said. “We need to throw all of our energy into fixing the problem that we’re confronting, and new immigration policy doesn’t do that.”
Over 1 million Michigan residents – about one quarter of the state’s workforce – have filed for unemployment since the outbreak began. Whitmer said the state has the resources to pay unemployment benefits “for now,” but that Michigan, like every other state, will need more help from the federal government.
Whitmer, who has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Biden and is a national co-chair of his campaign, would not address the potential political fallout for Trump, Biden or herself if unemployment rates do not improve significantly. Michigan is a critical battleground for the November election, as Democrats try to win back a state that flipped in 2016 to help Trump become president.
“The politics will take care of themselves,” Whitmer said. “We’ve got to do the right thing right now, and not care about what it might mean in six months or a year and six months when I’m on the ballot again.”
But Whitmer said that if she is asked to submit information to Biden’s team to be vetted as a vice presidential pick – which she has not been asked to do – she would do so. Biden’s campaign has said the formal process of choosing a running mate is expected to begin soon.