Gov. Rick Snyder has been clear in his support of new immigration policies since his first State of the State message, and in the face of continued gridlock at the federal level for immigration reform, last week described a path around that gridlock in creation of a new Office for New Americans. It has become “Snyder style:” where one road is blocked he forges a new path to the goal. The goal to get highly skilled workers and foreign investment is crucial to Michigan’s continued economic recovery. The governor’s specificity in regard to EB-5 visa targets was truly a remark heard round the world.
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 research shows it would take as long as another generation to affect the dismal number.
Grand Rapids attorney Susan Im, of Im Law, is recognized as one of the top immigration law talents in the U.S., and explained that Snyder “is one of our greatest immigration governors in history. …The EB-5 focus is brilliant; it’s a win-win.” An appraisal shared by The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs.
The Van Andel Institute and many West Michigan engineering and manufacturing firms have all been impacted and stymied by immigration policies. Im noted that the H1B visas for those skilled in the STEM categories (science, technology, engineering and math) are “out” on the first day applications are offered by immigration services (April 1). The VAI researchers, for instance, who have been able to get the visa are then limited to a 6-year maximum time limit, checked at three-year levels, which impact continuous streams of research on cancer and Parkinson’s prevention. The VAI’s current lead Parkinson’s researcher, Dr. Patrik Brundin, directs the Neuronal Survival Unit at Lund University in Sweden, and is in Grand Rapids for limited portions of time.
But as Im knows, federal regulations even further restrict scientists and researchers from India and China, and she sees a tremendous impact on West Michigan companies to which she is contracted. Im said she has been working with a number of West Michigan companies specifically attempting to bring talent from China, as well as India.
The Associated Press reported after the speech the Snyder administration has 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. Im explained to the Business Journal an immigrant on such status is providing a minimum of $1 million of one’s own funds to invest, and must create 10 full-time U.S. jobs. The investors get permanent U.S. residency for themselves and their families.
“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 said.
Snyder’s remarks were preceded by days when Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in his State of the City speech Jan. 11 asked 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.”
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.