Snyder Takes High Road over Alabama, Arizona

AIR Op Ed Dec 2011

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder moved boldly last week when he announced a series of immigration proposals that would help stimulate Michigan’s economy. The proposals would attract highly talented international students and workers, as well as investors. The potent mix of talent and investment would jump-start the state’s high-tech economy and create more jobs for all.

Snyder has chosen a progressive path, welcoming those who want to contribute to our state. We need more Republican governors to follow this example, especially in light of the controversial anti-immigrant laws passed in other states that have undermined both civil rights and the economy. We should turn away from these divisive politics, and focus on practical ways to create jobs. Snyder’s immigration proposals do just that.

The proposals address two key groups: international investors and international students with hightech degrees.  Snyder will request Congress to change visa rules (the EB-5 program) to make it easier for foreign investors and entrepreneurs to start businesses in Michigan, provided that they create at least 5 jobs.

Many investors would love to start a new life in America, but are unable to get the appropriate visa.  We should make it as easy as possible for those jobs to come to Michigan.  The Governor also wants Congress to authorize special Green Cards for international graduates of Michigan colleges with degrees in science, technology, engineering or math. The current system makes it very difficult for these students to stay in the United States, and most often they must leave the country and use their advanced degrees to work for foreign competitors. These changes could create an influx of investment and talent to Michigan, helping to fuel high-tech jobs for the whole state.

Michigan was the only state in the last census to lose population. Many of our big cities have seen their populations shrink rapidly. Tax rolls are declining and schools are standing empty. We certainly need policies to support our current residents’ needs, especially in urban areas, however immigration must also be a key strategy to address this population crisis.

Snyder’s proposals set up a stark contrast to states like Arizona, Alabama and Georgia, where harsh anti-immigration laws have hobbled their state’s agriculture industries, leading to millions of dollars in losses and many lost jobs. By choosing a practical approach to immigration instead of petty politics, we can boost new industries, rebuild neighborhoods, and put Michigan on track for growth and prosperity. Governor Snyder should be applauded for taking the high road, and Congress should support his proposals.