Despite the fact that the state is struggling with a higher than average jobless rate, Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is pushing for immigration reform in an effort to rejuvenate Detroit’s paralyzed economy with thousands of highly skilled immigrant workers.
Snyder’s plan is to attract 50,000 immigrants over five years, according to an NPR interview.
"They're job generators for Americans," Snyder said of skilled legal immigrants. "So this could be a huge economic boom to help accelerate, jump start the comeback of Detroit."
Snyder emphasized that opportunities for highly educated foreign workers abound in the city.
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"Why don't you just move to Detroit? We have demand for engineers, IT professionals, life sciences, health care people. Come move to Detroit as part of this 50,000 visa program, set up shop and help generate ... more jobs for the people of Detroit. That's a pretty cool concept."
Snyder’s plan depends on federal immigration reform to give out more work visas to immigrants. He will request 5,000 visas for highly skilled immigrnats in the first year, 10,000 in the second, third and fourth years, and 15,000 in the fifth.
Michigan's unemployment rate is at 8.4 percent. Even so, Snyder says, skilled immigrant workers would be a boon to Detroit’s stalled economy by helping create jobs for other workers.
"We're doing those retraining programs and we're going to continue 'em," Snyder said. "But it's not just about having the retraining program. If we can create much more economic activity by having these engineering centers, these IT places come, there's great demand to hire a lot of Detroiters and bring down that [unemployment] rate even faster and better by having even more people come."
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Business owners are on board with the governor’s proposal. Tim Bryan, the CEO of tech company GalaxE Solutions, says immigrants will help Detroit become a hub of innovation.
"We have a lot of individuals in our international offices that would be very interested in coming and living and working in Detroit," Bryan told MLive. "... And that means making their homes here, paying taxes here and supporting the local economy and continuing the growth of Detroit as an IT hub."
Bryan’s company is working to hire 500 new workers in its Detroit office. Foreign workers bring different education and skills to the workforce, he says, which help advance the tech scene both in Detroit and nationally.
"There is a tremendous demand for skilled workers," he said. "It’s in all of our interest to have the skilled workers living and collaborating and innovating inside the United States.”