The Ripon Forum

Volume 48, No. 4

December 2014

The Michigan Example on Immigration

By on December 10, 2014


Thousands of international students graduate from Michigan colleges and universities each year, often with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

They have a world-class education. They have skills Michigan companies are looking for in employees and leaders to grow and thrive, creating more and better jobs. They want to stay in our state.

And our country tells them they must leave.

That just doesn’t make sense.

Our country needs a long-term, comprehensive solution to an immigration policy that everyone knows is broken and continues to hold back our economy. It’s essential that the White House and Congress work together on an innovative approach that will address our country’s present needs as well as those long into the future.

Here in Michigan, we’ve demonstrated how we can work together to solve difficult problems. We’ve made great progress and we aren’t taking our foot off the accelerator as we move forward.

We’ve got a plan that celebrates our diversity, adds to our vibrant cultural fabric and strengthens our growing economy.

We’re proud of our rich heritage of immigration, which has contributed economically and culturally to Michigan’s greatness. Look around our state and you’ll see brands known around the world, like Ford, Vlassic and Dow, founded by immigrants or their families.

Foreign-born residents are proven job-creators and we are looking to tap their entrepreneurial spirit to accelerate our recovery.

Foreign-born residents are proven job-creators and we are looking to tap their entrepreneurial spirit to accelerate our recovery.

Nationally, immigrants start businesses at twice the rate of native-born Americans. During the last decade, immigrants created nearly one-third of Michigan’s high-tech businesses, at a rate six times the rest of the population.

I’ve asked our leaders in Washington, D.C. to approve 50,000 visas over five years for immigrants to put down roots and build their lives and careers in Detroit. It’s a plan supported by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and other city leaders. Together, we believe it will help our state’s largest and iconic city – and all of Michigan.

This plan is about creating jobs for Detroiters, as well as growing the economy and reversing the city’s population decline.

We all want Detroit to thrive. The success of the city’s Downtown and Midtown sections can extend to the neighborhoods. Letting the world know that Detroit is open for business by encouraging legal immigration is an opportunity we should not pass up.

A big part of that is reaching out to people who already have come to Michigan.

Our universities and colleges have more than 25,000 international students. They are three times more likely to major in STEM fields than American-born students. More than 82 percent of the state’s international students who use their student visas to work in the United States earned advanced degrees.

We aren’t looking for these students to take job opportunities away from native Michiganders. There is far more demand for these specialized skills than we have people able to fill them. In fact, each international student retained in the STEM fields creates about 2.5 jobs for U.S. natives.

There are needs for people with specialized skills in other fields, as well, including agriculture, manufacturing and tourism.

There is more that we can do to help people with specialized skills who want to call Michigan home. I’ve created the Michigan Office for New Americans to coordinate with state agencies that provide services for immigrants through programs concerning entrepreneurship, licensing, work force training, education, housing, health care and quality of life.

The office also is leading the Global Michigan Initiative – a collaborative statewide effort to retain and attract international talent – and developing sustainable partnerships with existing community foundations, nonprofits and private-sector service providers already serving immigrant communities statewide.

It’s all a part of making Michigan a more welcoming state and tapping the talent of skilled people who are here and want to stay.

It’s all a part of making Michigan a more welcoming state and tapping the talent of skilled people who are here and want to stay.

We must never forget that the United States – and especially Michigan – remains the land of opportunity that people in other nations dream about.

We also must never forget that we are a nation of laws. Our leaders in Washington need to make sure that our borders are secure, our employers have the ability to verify status and that those who have worked for years to follow the legal path to citizenship are treated fairly. These leaders also have to reform our current, broken system in such a way that legal immigration is the only attractive and viable path for those who aspire to become Americans.

There is no question that immigrants helped make our state great. And there also is no question that legal immigrants can continue to play an important role in Michigan long into the future.

We embrace the cultural diversity and ingenuity that our immigrants have brought throughout our history and can continue to bring under a bipartisan system that addresses our national interests and moves our state and country forward.

Rick Snyder was recently elected to his second term as the Governor of the State of Michigan.

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