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Posted on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 10:37 a.m.

Rick Snyder to lobby Congress for federal immigration reform for talented immigrants: 'It's the right thing to do'

By Nathan Bomey

(Related story: Rick Snyder unveils proposals to redesign Michigan's workforce development programs)

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said today that he would jump into the national debate over U.S. immigration law, describing the recruitment of talented immigrants as an economic opportunity for the state.

Snyder said he would become actively involved in a lobbying effort to convince Congress to allow more entrepreneurial immigrants and foreign students who graduate with high-tech degrees from U.S. universities to stay in the country.

In an address this morning at Delta College south of Bay City that was live streamed online, Snyder acknowledged his immigration position "has some controversy."

"I’ll get feedback on that," he said, "but it's the right thing to do."

It's a particularly notable move for Snyder, a Republican who has largely declined to share opinions about national political issues since becoming governor Jan. 1.

"We’re setting a different course than most of the rest of the United States," Snyder said. "I’m proactive on immigration — legal immigration for advanced degree people. They come and get a fabulous Michigan education, and we have a federal environment that basically says now that we’ve educated you, you’ve got to leave."

He added: "They like being here, they’re being successful here, we should keep them here. They’re creating companies and they’re going to create jobs."

Snyder, who has discussed his intention to encourage more legal immigration to Michigan on several previous occasions, today outlined a few specifics of his initiatives. As a founder and previous chairman of economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK, Snyder spent time on several initiatives trying to attract more immigrants to Washtenaw County companies.

Today, he:

--Said he would work with Michigan's congressional delegation to eliminate the federal government's cap on H1-B visas for foreign immigrants who earn a master's degree from a U.S. university. He also called on the U.S. government to "permanently raise the cap" on other "immigrant professionals." Snyder called federal caps on H1-B visas "arbitrary" and said they "fail to recognize the harm done to local economies when states are forced to send away talent they have spent years developing."

--Called on Congress to create a way for foreign students who earn graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) to earn an "education green card" that would allow for permanent residency in the U.S.

--Said he would lobby the U.S. to make permanent the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center program and amend the corresponding requirements so that the person could stay in the U.S. by investing $500,000 in a startup and create at least five jobs here.

"We cannot afford to lose these valuable members of our talent base to overseas competitors after years of development," Snyder said in a 14-page address delivered digitally to the state Legislature.

--Said he's directing the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Department of Civil Rights to create a "Cultural Ambassadors" program to recruit and retain talented immigrants for the state. He cited major Michigan companies like Dow Chemical, Meijer and Masco as examples of how immigrants create jobs in the U.S.

Snyder's proposals drew swift praise from Michigan's Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform, which distributed a press release through the liberal group Progress Michigan applauding the announcement.

“On immigration, Gov. Snyder gets it," said Ryan Bates, the alliance's director, in a statement. "The best and the brightest come from all across the world to study at our incredible universities. Let’s keep these talented young people here so they can build companies and raise their families. Business people from all across the world are knocking at America’s door—let’s make it easier for them to invest in Michigan and create jobs." 

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Himalia Jones

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

Rick Snyder's approach reflects two stereotypes which really don't help Michigan. The first is that immigrants are better than Michiganders and the second is that college educated people are better entrepreneurs than non-college educated people. These stereotypes are used to rationalize sending US jobs overseas and replacing US workers with college educated people from overseas. Gateway computer in which Rick Snyder was prominent is a perfect example of this attitude. The company started in a Michigan barn using Michigan employees as an entrepreneurial effort. Thanks to Snyder and others, the company now belongs to Acer, a Taiwanese company and no longer has a Michigan presence. The hypocrisy of doing this can only be rationalized with the stereotypes mentioned, and I am uninterested in starting more businesses of this sort. Its not clear where future opportunities lie for Michigan. It could be in agriculture or tourism. I am not particularly optimistic that it will be in high-tech. Michigan's economy is shrinking because manufacturing has moved overseas, and we need a government in Lansing that reflects that reality and will step up to managing the transition and develop the necessary consensus. Importing labor into a shrinking job market will only further divide the state and make consensus more difficult. We need to think about the Detroit-Grand Rapids corridor opening into a megacity with appropriate transportation and communication infrastructure to support this. The necessary political institutions need to be established so this can be managed and the region can compete with the other megacities of the world. So for me it's very disappointing to hear that our governor's big push is to import talent and subsidize low-impact, high-tech businesses in enterprise zones when there are so many better opportunities for leadership.

Blue Eyes

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Oh no, I won't outsource Michigan jobs - instead he wants to bring in the outside to do Michigan jobs! Hey Rick how about using all of those unemployed US CITIZENS to do the work - or better yet, maybe we could send you to foreign countries and you can outsource their jobs to us! Voted for you once but never again - dumbest thing I ever did!

Lac Court Orilles

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

What about my son and my daughter getting the same consideration as Snyder's favored immigrants? What about all of the AMERICAN students who's applications to Michigan are rejected to allow space for immigrants to be admitted to our PUBLIC school that Michigan residents pay taxes to support? What about all of the bogus Chinese students who were later discovered be members of the Chinese Red Army who stole our technology at The University of Michigan ? ? ? ? ? ? ? This involves an issue of national defense in addition to admitting American students over foreign students. For more information about theft of our technology by Chinese students at Michigan click on As for me, I am sick of Rich Snyder's stupid ideas . . .

Himalia Jones

Mon, Dec 12, 2011 : 2:48 p.m.

The social engineering implied by "re-engineering Michigan's workforce" isn't helpful. Why not let the free market engineer Michigan's workforce?


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 4:47 p.m.

Lac, I can appreciate your frustation with affirmative action regarding student applications at the University. I can also apprectiate your anger towards foreign students taking research back to their own country. What I fail to understand is your inability to accept that our roots came from other lands, and our families were offered opportunity on this soil. Industry and technology was developed by immigrants on our soil. I have had the opportunity to develop relationships with individuals that are studying at the U from other countries. Not only do they pay for their tuition(Undergrad), but if they are given a fellowhip(Masters and PHD), or work from a granted stipend, they also pay taxes that are comparable to self-employment taxes. I will recommend seeking out some of these students, and asking them about the trial and tribulations they experience while studying here. Many of these "foreigners" develop a great love of our country and would give their eye teeth to stay. Most of them that get to stay do so by selling their soul to get a work visa. They live in a perpetually limbotic state of anxiety. On another note, the name you use is French, so even if you are full-blood Native American, you except the fact that European explorers renamed your Anishinaabe (orginal band, also known as Ojibwe)reservation. If you are Native American, your children have no problem getting accepted in any college, and for free, compliments of our Federal Government. Cheers, Louhi


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:39 p.m.

cook 1888 Your are exactly right. Fill our University's with Michigan Students rather than over seas transplants. Michigan Students would like to stay here, if they could get and education and a job when they are finished with school.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

This is disgusting. How about hiring our own talented university graduates. We have tons of them leaving the state because they can't find work. This is just another way of "out-sourcing" our jobs. No, no. and no.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:13 p.m.

How about growing our own talent right here in Michigan. Sound like another form of outsourcing to me. If it looks like a rat, smells like a rat and sounds like a rat, that's what it is-A RAT!


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 9:31 a.m.

Unless one hires people who do must return home, such as (say) Indian programmers whose living expenses here are covered but pay is withheld by Indian contract agencies until they do, it is not cheaper to hire foreign PhD's and the like, only more convenient. But it takes years to grow one home-town PhD, so maybe he's going for the fast fix.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 2:46 a.m.

He wants to out source jobs right here in the United States.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.

Snyder, lets define "talented." What about those immigrates who are needed to pick produce and fruit each season since it appears that American workers don't want those jobs. What about the thousands African-American youth whose unemployment numbers tends to be higher than the general population who might be educated but can't find jobs. Heck, what about the regular American's in your state who can't find work? Sure, Snyder, jump in the national debate all you want, however, try looking into your own backyard.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 9:06 p.m.

Try educating the students here so you don't have to look overseas to find qualified employees.

5c0++ H4d13y

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 7:36 p.m.

We should defiantly close our doors to the best and brightest that want to come or stay here.

Rork Kuick

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

I don't think it's as black an white as some others, at least for H1-B. Balancing this is difficult. If we could get some of the most awesome foreigners in AA to stay and become citizens, I would be pleased. Some are simply brilliant. That is common knowledge in our town. It might be good for the economy as a whole. However, greater immigration depresses the wages of technically literate folks - it quite plainly picks our pockets, but we are a relatively powerless minority, and not very cuddly. It's a dis-incentive for our kids too. Why should they do hard things if the pay sucks? We need legions of young folks with great skills, but have been terrible at growing them. K-12 math is dumber now than what I got in the 1970s. That's insane. Many kids think, and parents (and even teachers) let them think "I don't need to know that".


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 6:06 p.m.

So now we want to reform immigration for "talented immigrants". We also want to improve immigration for "non-talented immigrants". You know, for doing those jobs that "Americans just won't do". Sounds like a bunch of complete bull to me. Enforce the immigration laws as they stand now. Limit handouts to U.S. citizens (welfare, etc.) so that the shift of the next generation knows the value of hard work and education to succeed. That's what really needs to be done.

Silly Sally

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:52 p.m.

@cook1888 has it right, "fill our graduate schools with Michigan residents." This is especially true for the business schools. But, if we do educate foreigners, keep 'em here. We should not educate them and then send them to China or India. The H1b visa program is a way for companies to hire educated people on-the-cheap, drivinmg down labor costs, making it easier for big michigan businesses to lay off engineers and scientists and then use the H1b program to get more. Ford, GM Pfizer... its a long list. We do not need hords of undeucated Mexicans and other third-world people while at the same time we export manufacturing jobs. That is how we get a bi-polar soceity of have and have-nots.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

If this doesn't prove Slick's intent of increasing profits to corporate owners by driving down wages for working people then I don't know what does. I guess the "more and better jobs" that slick was peddling were really for those willing to work for nothing. I'll bet Slick will be generously rewarded by his real 0.1% constituency when we finally kick him out of office.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:19 p.m.

Let the xenophobic comments pop up again. Current immigration rules already imply the Ellis Island scenario portrayed by another reader above. Snyder can't be blamed for that and one shouldn't blame him for favoring talent over "need", "compassion" or "love". How many "patriots" here know the basics of the USA? -So many middle- or upper-class Americans have no clue on the US geography, history, economical or political system. -So many "patriots" sabotaging the US with their careless, unsustainable lifestyle, often tossing more food that they eat. -So many habitual criminals and adicts imposing growing costs with their court-no-shows, police chases, endless hearings, parole errands and a self-fooling judicial system. None of these facts prove "love" for your country. Regardless of governor's good intention, the problem is that his proposal mostly consists of expanding caps of current procedures. That's flawed and won't really help the country. As an example, raising the cap on H1B will only bring more pseudo-entrepeneurs from India who in reality are nothing more than intermediaries. Keep in mind that just posting a job on craigslist on behalf of a client doesn't count as creation of jobs.

Ron Granger

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5 p.m.

Snyder's agenda is to lower wages for his business buddies. It's a race to the bottom. He couldn't care less if lower cost immigrant labor undermines the job market in Michigan. And he'll use your tax dollars to push his agenda. Notice that the old talking point, "Americans don't want these jobs", is no longer being used.

Rork Kuick

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 6:35 p.m.

Garsh cinnabar: we aren't even talking about illegal immigration. Wanna try again?


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

Ron you have it all wrong, people with talent dont start at the bottom of the pay scale. It's the people on welfare with no talent or skills that start at the bottom. Either way if they broke the law getting here, they need to go home, and that includes Obama's auntie.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

"talented immigrants" just gives me a mental image of Rick Snyder holding some version of "Immigrants got Talent" reality show on the Detroit side of the Ambassador Bridge.

David Briegel

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:10 p.m.

Rick will do anything to drive down wages for his big business cronies. As if cutting their taxes wasn't enough! And let's cut education even more to improve the skills of our workforce. There just aren't enough smart and rich kids in America, they must imported! Rick Dale, gettin' r done!


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

How about filling our graduate schools with Michigan students and hiring them? How about hiring all the talented Michigan residents that have been laid off? Help our residents and our children get the education, training and jobs!

average joe

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

If you filled "our graduate schools with Michigan students", these michigan students couldn't afford the cost of college as the school wouldn't realize the premium tuition associated with admitting out of state/country students, and would pass the loss on to in-state students.

tom swift jr.

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

Something in my heart just broke as I read this article. Really, Rick? We're now determining if we want to open the doors of freedom and opportunity to people based on their "talent", not based on need, or worth, or love, or compassion? Do people not see what this communicates about our leaders, and, as a result, about our country? If this had been the philosophy 100 years ago, many of our grandparents would have been turned away at Ellis Island because they were poor, didn't have college degrees, or start-up money. How sad this world has become.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 6:16 p.m.

I agree. What a sad statement from Snyder.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 5:20 p.m.

100 years ago we didn't have the welfare state. Now we need reasonable odds that immigrants are going to be net tax payers. That and it's incredibly dumb to give people a top-tier education and then kick them out of the country. We should be fast-tracking such people for citizenship, at least for STEM degrees.


Thu, Dec 1, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door."