From the Director: Obama’s Administrative Relief

By Steve Tobocman

President Obama Delivers Remarks On Executive Action Immigration ReformLast night, President Obama announced the most sweeping reforms in U.S. immigration policy in nearly 30 years. His action to try to integrate millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents is bound to fan the flames of political firestorms that surround our broken immigration system.

The President is absolutely correct when he stated that “welcoming immigrants from around the world has given [the U.S.] a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities”.

The actions spelled out by the President (allowing those here more than five years with legal citizen or resident children to register, pass a criminal background check, and pay their fair share of taxes) are sound economic policy and they will benefit companies that play by the rules and middle-class workers, who will no longer be undercut by an underground economy which exploits workers (both through wage theft and abusive working conditions), shirks tax responsibilities, and violate other rules and regulations to protect consumers, the environment, and our communities.

The President’s actions will be the subject of much of the political debate. Most informed observers agree with the President’s policies, as well as the bipartisan bill that passed the U.S. Senate in July 2013. Some of the discussion will center on whether the President should have moved forward without the Congress, but the reality is that he got tired of waiting on the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who had spent the past 18 months without bringing the bipartisan Senate bill to a vote. And the potential for sensible immigration reform seemed to have only shrunk after the election.

Over the past five years, I have had the pleasure of spearheading Global Detroit, a regional economic development effort to help Detroit and the region create more jobs and raise incomes by welcoming, integrating, and capitalizing on the contributions that immigrants make to our economy.

Global Detroit is eager and supportive of efforts to reform our broken immigration system. And we have moved forward to help launch new entrepreneurship programs for immigrants in Detroit, new efforts to help international students stay in work in Michigan after graduation, and a variety of additional programs that reach out and include the immigrant community in Metro Detroit in new and exciting ways. These programs help our region under current immigration laws and help us prepare the region for even greater success after the President’s actions (or Congressional action) are put into place.

While we await the details on the President’s promise to initiate actions that “will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy,” we know that these effort also will help grow Metro Detroit’s economy—an economy that has significantly benefited from the contributions of international talent. In fact, nearly one-third of Michigan’s high tech start-ups are estimated to have an immigrant founder and co-founder. Michigan’s immigrants appear to have entrepreneurship rates at three times the state average. And international students are a critical component of solving our economy’s thirst for STEM talent.

Today, the Michigan Global Talent Retention Initiative (GTRI) will host is Michigan’s Global Future Conference in downtown Detroit where it will help some 350 international students (70% of whom are graduate students and 85% of whom are majoring in STEM and business) learn about how they can stay and work in Michigan and build careers and families that will help our economy grow.

Please look to the Global Detroit website for upcoming details about the President’s plans as they are rolled out in detail. We are optimistic that the actions announced last night will move the nation and our community forward.

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