New Initiative Would Open Doors to 50,000 Immigrants in Detroit

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Gov. Rick Snyder proposed today a new initiative that would bring 50,000 high-skilled immigrants to Detroit over a five-year period to create more jobs in the city.

“When I talk about bringing immigrants to Detroit, to Michigan, they’re going to have jobs as part of this process,” Snyder said at a press conference. “But (what) you should be focusing on are all of the jobs they’re going to create for Detroiters, for Michiganders…Roughly every immigrant job with high skills coming into this country creates over 2.5 additional jobs.”

Snyder’s proposal asks that the federal government approve an allocation of employment-based visas for professionals holding advanced academic degrees and workers with exceptional ability. It would require the immigrants who receive an employment-based visa under this plan to reside and work in Detroit.

During the conference, held at Ideal Group, a multi-faceted enterprise in southwest Detroit that offers contracting services, property management, and safety products, Snyder pointed out that Michigan colleges and universities host more than 25,500 international students who contribute more than $750 million to the state’s economy each year.

“I believe our universities give (these students) a world-class education,” Snyder said. “But then what do we do? We have a federal program that tells them to get out. How dumb is that? Shouldn’t we welcome them?”

Specifically, Snyder’s proposal requests the application of a National Interest Waiver under the Employment-Based Second Preference (EB-2) visas to 50,000 individuals over five years for employment-based visas. Detroit would be allocated 5,000 employment-based visas in the first year; 10,000 each year in the second, third, and fourth years; and 15,000 in the fifth year.

Immigration reform can boost local tax revenue while recognizing the role that immigrants play as entrepreneurs and employers in Detroit, said Brenda Jones, president of the Detroit City Council. “From 2000 to 2010, foreign born immigrants founded 30,223 businesses in Michigan. That makes up 10.4 percent of all Michigan businesses and accounts for a total net business income of $1.8 million,” she said.

In his State of the State address last week, Snyder announced that he is creating the Michigan Office for New Americans to attract more skilled immigrants to the state. He also is urging Washington to approve Michigan’s application to become only the second state (after Vermont) with a state-sponsored EB-5 regional center to attract investment and create jobs for Michigan workers.

Frank Venegas, chairman and CEO of Ideal Group, and the grandson of Mexican immigrants, cited the importance of expanding opportunities for skilled workers from foreign companies. “I have seen firsthand how the strong work ethic and diverse set of ideas migrant professionals bring with them foster innovation and creativity in the business community,” Venegas said. “In order for Detroit to be successful we need more contributions from workers all across the world.”

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