Ann Chih Lin is an associate professor of public policy at the Ford School. Her research focuses on immigration policies, such as guest worker programs and legalization, and the political beliefs of American immigrants.
Michigan's Governor Snyder wants to bring 50,000 high-skilled immigrants to the state over the next 5 years. It's a way to double-down on the success of the University Research Corridor, on the rebirth of the auto industry, and the growth of life sciences in western Michigan. Governor Snyder's numbers however seem to be unrealistic. He suggested bringing 10,000 investors to Michigan a year, but the U.S. only allows 10,000 new immigrant investors to the whole country a year. Michigan's not going to get all of those investors for itself.
I'd rather see Governor Snyder work with his fellow governors to promote a plan like Canada or Australia have, in which provinces and states actually get to set their own priorities and select their own immigrants with approval from the federal government. In those cases, immigrants get permanent residence visas, but they make an agreement with the province or state that selects them to settle in that state for a certain number of years. That way, states actually have an investment in the success of the immigrant system, and immigrants have a stake in the success of the state or province that brings them in. A state-centered approach to immigration really has the potential to break the logjam that's prevented immigration legislation from passing in Congress for all of these years.
In Michigan, we need immigrants, both on our farms and in our laboratories. A state like Michigan would want to create a state-sponsored immigration program, would want to be able to recruit the kinds of immigrants we need to help our economy grow. We should be able to put together a program to recruit the best people to Michigan, and the federal government should be able to help us do that.