Michigan Economic Center Critical of GOP Plan to Reduce Legal Immigrants

Aug 2, 2017

Some Michiganders are pushing back on President Donald Trump's endorsement of GOP-backed legislation to restrict “legal” immigration. 

President Donald Trump embraced legislation Wednesday that would dramatically reduce legal immigration and shift the nation toward a system that prioritizes merit and skills over family ties.

Trump joined with Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas to promote the bill, which has so far gained little traction in the Senate.

Perdue and Cotton's legislation would replace the current process for obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards, creating a skills-based point system for employment visas. The bill would also eliminate the preference for U.S. residents' extended and adult family members, while maintaining priority for their spouses and minor children.

Overall, immigration would be slashed 41 percent in the legislation's first year and 50 percent in its 10th, according to projection models cited by the bill's sponsors. The bill would also aim to slash the number of refugees in half and eliminate a program that provides visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration.

Michigan Economic Center director John Austin told WKAR News that such a policy would mean trouble for Michigan.

"If it weren’t for legal immigrants in Michigan, we would have had no population gain," said Austin. "We’d still be losing population in the last decade. If not for the 25.5 percent increase in our 650,000 legal immigrant population, we would have still lost people when Gov. Snyder has made growing Michigan’s population to ten million one of the goals before he leaves office."

"It's important for folks to understand – our immigrants are well educated. They are much more likely to be starting a new business and be an entrepreneur. They’re responsible for hundreds of thousands of other Michiganders being employed in the businesses they create." 

Austin also said immigrant families are revitalizing neighborhoods that people abandoned years ago.

"Look at southwest Detroit, look at Grand Rapids, our Latino populations that have come largely because of family reunification are the main dynamic that’s repopulated communities, that’s provided life and new business on the streets, that’s repaired crumbling neighborhoods."

The Pew Research Center said in 2015 that 41 percent of immigrants who had arrived in the past five years held a college degree, much higher than the 30 percent of non-immigrants in the United States. A stunning 18 percent held an advanced degree, also much higher than the U.S. average.

We’re uniquely a state built by immigrants and migrants all seeking a better life. The same things that the Poles and the Fins and the Dutch and the Germans sought.  Make a job, get a good job, build community, raise their family. That’s what today’s Middle Eastern or Salvadoran or Asian, Pakistani, Caldean or Bangledeshi is looking for. Immigrants are the drivers of our population growth.