Legislators need to rectify the immigration situation

November 14, 2014
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As President Barack Obama digs his heels into executive powers and swears to achieve immigration reform before the new year, the all-too-familiar response from the majority party in the U.S. House and Senate is to assert “who’s in charge” and spend time orchestrating new defensive plays.

What is lost is that it isn’t about who’s in charge; it’s about accomplishing necessary reforms and marshaling the resolve to create those reforms.

It was against that very backdrop one year ago that Gov. Rick Snyder stepped out of the fray and created a plan for Michigan to utilize the most important aspects of immigration policies that directly impact the state economy. He created the Michigan Office for New Americans and told the world Michigan’s door is wide open. By February, Snyder had appointed Grand Rapids business leader Bing Goei to head the office.

At the time, Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones attorney Nathaniel Wolf told the Business Journal: “I think the most important part of what Gov. Snyder is doing is he is putting this on the forefront of what he wants to do, and other states should follow suit with what he is doing, putting pressure on the federal government to actually make some real changes.”

Snyder said in January: “If someone has the opportunity to come to our country legally, let’s hold our arms open and say, ‘Come to Michigan, this is the place to be.”

Snyder’s remarks were preceded by Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in his State of the City speech Jan. 11, asking rhetorically: “Why can’t we pass a reasonable and fair immigration law that provides a clear path to citizenship for those who want to be Americans? Congress, it is time to act. Don’t let this stain on our national spirit continue for another year. Pass immigration reform.”

As Snyder also noted, the number of adult Michigan residents with a college degree continues to give the state bottom-tier placement among the 50 states. Michigan Future Inc. research shows it would take as long as another generation to affect the dismal number.

The Snyder administration also applied to make Michigan the second state government (along with Vermont) to run a regional center for the EB-5 visa program, with the goal of attracting talented immigrant entrepreneurs. The EB-5 program designates businesses to recruit foreign investors for development projects.

Grand Rapids attorney Susan Im, of Im Law, is recognized as one of the top immigration law talents in the U.S. She noted such an immigration status mandates that the immigrant provide a minimum of $1 million of his or her own funds to invest and create 10 full-time U.S. jobs. The investors receive permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their families. “The EB-5 focus is brilliant; it’s a win-win,” Im said.

It’s an appraisal shared by The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs.

The torch for such reform must now be unwaveringly carried to the U.S. House and Senate by Michigan’s elected representatives with equal dedication.

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