Michigan governor urges 50,000 visas for skilled Detroit immigrants

DETROIT Thu Jan 23, 2014 2:31pm EST

Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder gives his annual State of the State address to the Assembly at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan January 16, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder gives his annual State of the State address to the Assembly at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan January 16, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Rebecca Cook

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a proposal on Thursday that calls for the U.S. government to allocate 50,000 special visas over the next five years to lure highly skilled immigrants to live and work in the bankrupt city of Detroit.

Snyder's plan, which would need to be implemented by the U.S. government, is aimed at bringing jobs to the city while stemming an exodus of residents.

Detroit's population has fallen to about 700,000 from a peak of 1.8 million in 1950, and Snyder highlighted the amount of opportunity available to newcomers to Detroit.

The EB-2 visas would be aimed at individuals with advanced degrees and exceptional skills in fields like the auto industry, information technology, healthcare and life sciences, Snyder said at an event announcing the proposal.

EB-2 visas allow individuals with special talents to enter the country without a job offer.

There is no precedent for special visas to be issued for a specific geographic area, Snyder said. But he compared the program to a current one that grants visas to physicians who agree to work in under-served areas.

To move forward with his plan, Snyder would need the support of the Obama administration and to accomplish an expansion of immigration policy at a time when immigration reform is one of the most contentious political issues.

Snyder, who will be in Washington on Friday, said he would meet privately with Obama administration officials. Though "it's really early in the process," Snyder was hopeful the administration would be able to act unilaterally without requiring legislation.

"It's really taking up the offer of the federal government that they want to help more," Snyder told reporters. "Again, they made it clear they don't have dollar resources to necessarily help, but isn't this a great way that doesn't involve large-scale financial contributions from the federal government to do something dramatic in Detroit?"

The Republican governor was joined by Detroit's Democratic Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit city council members to announce the plan.

Snyder is asking that 5,000 visas be issued in the first year, with 10,000 in each of the next three years, and 15,000 in the fifth year.

The program would target individuals looking to move to the United States as well as those already in the country.

Snyder called attention to more than 25,000 international students who study at colleges and universities in Michigan, which has faced the problem of a "brain drain" of recent college graduates.

"Where else in the U.S. could you find a house or a lot for the prices you're going to find here? It's a good deal," Snyder said.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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Comments (6)
COindependent wrote:
Much like you cannot legislate and plan the economy, granting visas with specific geographic limitations is absurd. Michigan and Detroit have to adopt a massive suite of reforms relative to starting businesses and taxation to make it more attractive. They’re best bet, after adopting these changes, would be to attract businesses from Illinois.

Jan 23, 2014 3:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
TheNewWorld wrote:
If the jobs were there people would go there. The jobs must be available, and domestic unemployment should be around 3%-4% before you bring in foreign workers. The GOP is willing to sell out the US worker to make industry/corporations happy.

Jan 23, 2014 3:14pm EST  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
Mass immigration impacts ALL U.S. citizens; we don’t live in a vacuum What might be good for Detroit might also be bad for other cities. With 20 million unemployed and underemployed citizens (including many engineers), such a selfish geographic centric approach is absurd. Each city or state can’t just create its own immigration policies.

Jan 23, 2014 3:17pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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