Jaffe Raitt Heure & Weiss, Southfield
One of the challenges of reviving Michigan’s economy is finding a way to create jobs. And there’s one avenue of employment growth that has hit a roadblock, as the federal government is scrutinizing work visas among both highly-skilled professionals and foreign graduates attending American universities. The problem is so acute that although many talented immigrants can work here or attend school here, they are often forced to live in Windsor because of visa restrictions.
“Given the 2008 national recession, it has become very easy to fan the flames of unhappiness [regarding] illegal immigrants and apply [those feelings] to well-educated foreign nationals who want to start up businesses, open an American division, or relocate a company entirely,” says Eli Maroko, a partner with Jaffe Raitt Heure & Weiss in Southfield. “We’re not talking about illegal immigrants,” Maroko says, “we’re talking about people who will create jobs in Michigan and across the country.”
As chairman of the Michigan Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Maroko says lawmakers in Washington, D.C., generally support allowing more highly-skilled immigrants into the U.S., but few will speak up about the effort for fear of tripping up their re-election campaigns. Meanwhile, the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have been slow to approve visas, especially over the last two years.
“We have a shortage of leaders in Congress, while the State Department and the embassies are denying applications without so much as a reason,” Maroko says. “The very fabric of this country’s success comes from immigration, and now we’re turning our back on a core strength.”
According to Global Detroit, a 2010 report by former State Rep. Steve Tobocman, “Many of today’s immigrants arrive ready-made to perform in a knowledge-based, global economy. They’re often the best and brightest from back home, certainly the strivers. They have the risk-taking personalities of entrepreneurs, and they dream big and work smart.”
Maroko, who served on a Global Detroit committee, says the report is required reading for immigration officials. “Look at nearly every company that was created in the United States and I will show you that the founding was directly linked to immigration,” he says. “Our legislators need to make a concerted stand to open our doors to immigrants who will invest here, live here, and create jobs here.” —R.J. King