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Business, Economic Leaders Say Immigration Reform Imperative for Economy

Wednesday, July 9, 2014   (0 Comments)
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Stephen RapundaloGlobal Detroit, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Michigan Office for New Americans, the Michigan Manufacturers Association and other business and economic leaders joined the National Day of Action to call on Congress and the President to support a broad framework for comprehensive immigration reform as an imperative for the economy. 

While these leaders spoke at the Detroit Regional Chamber—hosting Michigan’s only National Day of Action event—similar groups gathered in 24 other states and national leaders from the Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE), the US Chamber, the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, National Farm Bureau, and other national organizations gathered in Washington, DC. 

“We want our national elected officials to understand that especially in Metro Detroit and across Michigan, and in other urban centers, in the nation’s heartland, immigration reform is a critical component of a prosperous economic future,” said Steve Tobocman, Global Detroit Director.  “I am amazed at the unanimity of support for some form of comprehensive immigration reform among corporations large and small, urban and rural economic development leaders, and mayors from across Michigan’s landscape,” Tobocman added.

The Michigan event focused on economic opportunities that were lost because of current immigration restrictions that Michigan corporations face in hiring skilled immigrant workers. A recent PNAE report highlighted Metro Detroit as having the 4th largest number of H-1B applications denied in 2007-08, with over 5,300 denied on an annual basis. Several economic studies have demonstrated that skilled immigrant workers hired under the H-1B create additional jobs of all types for U.S.-born workers. Using statistical predictors the PNAE report estimates that approval of these visa applications would have generated an additional 3,600 to 15,000 jobs for U.S.-born workers in Metro Detroit, adding $44 million to $135 million in wages for existing U.S.-born computer workers in Metro Detroit.

Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, one of the largest and most respected chambers in the nation, noted that “a broken immigration system is hurting business growth across the nation. Meaningful immigration reform impacts a breadth of economic sectors from technology to agriculture to health care. As a national and regional economy, we are far better off when we put the education and expertise of highly skilled immigrants to work for U.S.-based companies, as opposed to having them compete against us in the global marketplace.” 

“We need to speak out on why immigration reform is critical to our national interest. We need our federal immigration system to support the resurgence of manufacturing we are experiencing here in Michigan and across the industrial heartland,” said Chuck Hadden, President and CEO of the MI Manufacturers Assoc.

Stephen Rapundalo, President and CEO of MichBio, knows firsthand the challenges immigration laws pose for his industry having come to this country to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research. “The U.S. biosciences industry is the acknowledged global leader in biomedical and life science technology innovation, as well as an engine of economic growth and job creation, but this leadership is increasingly under threat. We want to see immigration reform that will keep skilled, foreign talent here in our high technology sector,” he explained. 

The press conference underscored that it’s not only international tech workers who contribute to Michigan’s economic growth. Michigan cities thrive when immigration is strong. And Michigan’s food and agriculture industry contributes more than $96 billion each year to Michigan’s economy, while comprising 22 percent of the state’s total employment.  Michigan needs at least 49,000 seasonal agricultural workers annually to maintain our current growing levels.  In 2012, labor shortages on farms across America led to $3.3 billion in missed GDP growth and $1.3 billion in lost farm income. “The food and agriculture industry is the second largest industry in the state of Michigan, so it is key for immigration reform to address this issue and include these workers,” said Karen Phillippi, Deputy Director Michigan Office for New Americans.

“Michigan farmers depend on an abundant seasonal workforce for harvesting fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products—jobs most Americans have, time and again, shown little or no interest in,” noted John Kran, Associate National Legislative Counsel, Michigan Farm Bureau. “We look to Congress to enact common-sense immigration reform that fixes our current, broken system and addresses the needs of agriculture. Without reform, we will ultimately be forced to import food from overseas while our crops go unharvested.”

Global Detroit, a program originally housed at the Detroit Chamber, has helped build the foundational infrastructure for Metro Detroit and Michigan’s economies to capitalize on immigration in a manner that generates jobs and economic opportunity for everyone in the region. The innovative programs in micro-enterprise, welcoming immigrants, retaining international students, and helping skilled immigrants have helped to position the Michigan economy to lead the nation, if immigration reform passes. These programs already provide tangible benefits to Michigan residents, including to non-immigrants. 

For further information on Global Detroit, go to www.globaldetroit.com. For more on the Partnership for the New American Economy and its H-1B Impact study go to www.renewoureconomy.org.

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