The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance has been following the growing need for immigration reform within the United States and Michigan. In 2011, twenty eight percent of small businesses in the United States were started by immigrants. In Michigan alone over the last decade, one third of high tech businesses were created by immigrants. This is on par with the Governor asking for “the federal government to designate an additional 50,000 employment-based visas for skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs during the next five years.” According to the Governor’s office of the New American “the visas would seek to attract highly-skilled, entrepreneurial, legal immigrants who commit to living and working in Detroit, thereby contributing to its economic and population growth.”
In Michigan there is not only the need for immigration reform for STEM themes but also for tourism, as well as agribusiness which continues to be one of the Midwest economy’s dominant sectors. This is not only a humanitarian issue, but holds the fate of a million skilled working immigrants that wait for visas.
Michigan has also been designated as a regional center for processing EB-5 visas – a visa program which encourages high dollar investment and job creation from foreign investors. Michigan is only the second state (Vermont being the first) to receive such a designation, and could pave the way for investment in economic development projects across Michigan.
Unfortunately, Congress did not act on immigration policy before it left for August recess, and the chances of the House of Representatives taking action by the end of this year has become increasingly unlikely as a result of disagreements over boarder security and the issue of what to do with immigrants already in the country illegally. The primary election loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), who was seen as the bridge between opposing sides on immigration reform in the House, also hurt the chances of action at the Federal level.
We will continue to watch Congress’ actions while also waiting to hear from the President’s administration regarding the potential for executive orders in the coming months.