If Not Now, When? Immigration Reform At A Time Of National Crisis

By: Brad Williams, Vice President, Government Relations, Detroit Regional Chamber

“We have the responsibility to (secure the border), but we cannot blame everything on border security. The more we do that, the more we talk ourselves into a false solution,” said former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference.

He went on to add: “If we are 100 percent successful at sealing our border and sealing overstays of visas, then God help us, then we’ll see what a real recession is like.”

With our country in the midst of a recession like nothing we have seen before because of COVID-19, advocates for meaningful immigration reform are a raising key question that strikes at the heart of the effectiveness of our federal government at this point in time.

If not now, when?

Yet amid a time of national crisis, some in the current administration appears to be attempting to shut down one of our biggest economic tools when we need innovation, talent, and job creation more than ever.

The U.S. Chamber recently filed a lawsuit aiming to convince President Trump and his administration to pull back on restrictive immigration policies that threaten to strip our country of one of its historical competitive advantages. It is further evidence of a growing frustration among business leaders partisanship overwhelming meaningful policy, something that dates back years.

That comes on the heels of a different lawsuit filed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that forced the administration to rescind a policy that would have banned international students from staying in the U.S. if their college or university held classes virtually in the fall.

Clearly the politics around immigration have not only stymied long called for reforms, such as revising the visa system to better suit employers’ needs, but have actually started to move toward more restrictive policies.

For business leaders, the region’s and country’s economic recovery from the pandemic must be inclusive to be successful.

In July, the Chamber partnered with city and county leaders, the New American Economy, and Global Detroit to release a report highlighting how immigrants are essential to the region’s COVID-19 response, and its economic recovery.

In 2018, for instance, immigrants had $12.3 billion in spending power and comprised more than 11.7% of all health care workers.

The math is clear amid consistent support and calls for action.

In February, the Detroit Regional Chamber also signed on to the Michigan Compact on Immigration which outlines five principles to guide the discussion in our state.

The Compact very clearly calls on the federal government to take this issue head-on, putting politics aside and charting a sensible path forward that empowers immigrants to strengthen the economy and our competitiveness.

The signatories represent more than 20,000 companies and more than one million employees and calls for a federal immigration system that responds to the needs of Michigan employers and workers in a time when talent attraction and retention are critical to the state’s economic growth.

Of course, back in 2013, Secretary Gutierrez wasn’t alone.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also made the economic case for reforms as the topic was central to discussing Michigan’s competitiveness in the 21st century.

“A path to residency should be made easier so that these great catalytic converters of sustained economic growth pursue their dreams in this country rather than be trained here and shipped back to their country of origin to be our economic competitors,” said Governor Bush.

Unfortunately, the political gridlock since then has resulted in another seven years of stalled reform.

If not then, perhaps now the overdue change will come, as the country deals with a global pandemic that’s challenging it in unprecedented ways.

Former House Speaker Tom Leonard to launch Plunkett Cooney’s government relations group

Former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Tom Leonard has joined Plunkett Cooney – one of the Midwest’s oldest and most accomplished law firms – as a partner and leader of the firm’s new Government Relations, Public Policy and Regulatory Practice Group.

“I’m extremely pleased to welcome the former Speaker to our firm,” said Plunkett Cooney’s President & CEO Thomas P. Vincent. “Tom’s knowledge of the state’s political system and business community will be invaluable in helping our clients navigate legislative and regulatory issues and to create more effective business strategies.”

Plunkett Cooney’s new Government Relations, Public Policy and Regulatory Practice Group will focus on policy development, strategic collaboration, building relationships and coalitions, legislative monitoring, and bill tracking. Leonard will lead a team of Plunkett Cooney attorneys in the East Lansing office who share his passion for public affairs, solving problems and tackling cutting edge issues. To better assist these efforts, the firm will be re-locating its East Lansing office to Lansing in the near future.

“Plunkett Cooney is one of the Midwest’s top law firms, and its reputation is second-to-none,” said Leonard. “This is a tremendous opportunity to lead a dedicated team and build out a top-notch government relations and regulatory practice focused on meaningful policy reforms and long-lasting solutions.

“As a legislator, business owner and now attorney at Plunkett Cooney, my focus has always remained the same – helping propel the State of Michigan toward becoming a Top 10 location for businesses and families. This is the right role at the right time to continue that work and continue to make a significant impact on our State’s future.”

Leonard served three terms in the House of Representatives. In his third and final term, his colleagues unanimously selected him to serve as Michigan’s 75th House Speaker. Prior to running for public office, Leonard served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Michigan and as a prosecutor in Genesee County where he was assigned to the Special Crimes Division. Leonard graduated from Michigan State University College of Law in 2007 and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan in 2004.

As a legislator, Leonard earned a reputation as a straight shooter who often worked across the aisle to solve complex problems. Reforming Michigan’s teacher pension fund, creating a bi-partisan task force to tackle Michigan’s broken mental health system, updating “Kevin’s Law,” ending driver’s responsibility fees, modernizing the State’s health insurance code, and re-writing the State’s preliminary exam law are just some of his signature achievements during his tenure.

In 2019, Leonard founded “MiStrategies, LLC, a public policy development and strategic collaboration firm that partnered with companies, associations, and industry advocates committed to making Michigan a “top-10 state.” The MiStrategies portfolio focused on public policy initiatives like insurance, criminal justice reform, mental health, transportation, infrastructure, tax policy, public safety, and education – all key building blocks for Michigan’s long-term success.

Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is a leading provider of business and litigation services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm employs approximately 140 attorneys in seven Michigan cities, Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plunkett Cooney has achieved the highest rating (AV) awarded by Martindale-Hubbell, a leading, international directory of law firms. The firm was also selected by Crain’s Detroit Business as its inaugural Law Firm of the Year.

For more information about former Michigan Speaker of the House of Representatives Tom Leonard joining Plunkett Cooney as leader of the Government Relations, Public Policy and Regulatory Practice Group, contact the firm’s Director of Marketing and Business Development John Cornwell at (248) 901-4008; jcornwell@plunkettcooney.com.

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Kris Young Joins AT&T External Affairs Team

AT&T Michigan President Jim Murray today announced the addition of Kris Young to the company’s external affairs team.

“Kris brings a wealth of community and policy experience to our organization,” Murray said. “He has many years experience working with leaders in Lansing and in the metro Detroit region, and his personal and professional assets that will enhance AT&T’s strong work and investment in Michigan.”

Young comes to AT&T from the Michigan House of Representatives, where he served as session manager for House Democratic Floor Leaders Rep. Sam Singh, Rep. David Rutledge and Rep. Rudy Hobbs. In this role, he developed and managed action agendas in partnership with representatives on both sides of the political aisle. Before joining the Floor Leader’s office, Young was legislative director for Rep. Maureen Stapleton.

Previously, Young worked as a senior advisor and legislative director for State Sen. Buzz Thomas in both the House and Senate.