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.

Brad Williams Joined Frank Beckmann on WJR 760 AM To Discuss The ‘Michigan Compact On Immigration’ Plan

March 4, 2020

WJR AM Radio

The Frank Beckmann Show

Listen to Brad Williams, Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations, and his conversation with Frank Beckmann of WJR, where he discusses the new ‘Michigan Compact on Immigration’ plan to reform immigration for legal and undocumented immigrants.

Listen to the interview here.

Business leaders release ‘Michigan Compact’ in support of immigration

March 1, 2020

Detroit Free Press

Niraj Warikoo

Concerned about what they see as divisive rhetoric during an election year, business leaders across Michigan issued a statement last week that stressed the positive role that immigrants play in the state.

Called the Michigan Compact on Immigration, the statement has five principles that call for immigration reform, including a solution for the undocumented immigrant population and also legal immigrants.

The Compact was signed by a wide range of 16 business groups in Michigan, including several Chambers of Commerce and a group of agricultural companies that in total represent more than 20,000 companies and more than one million employees in Michigan. Both the eastern and western parts of the state are represented as well as both Republicans and Democrats, said signatories.

“In Michigan and across the country, immigrants have a huge economic impact,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations at Detroit Regional Chamber. “We want to highlight the importance of immigration reform, and take a different look at immigration that is not just a security issue, but an economic issue and put that front and center.”

One of the top issues for businesses in metro Detroit is “access to talent and that can’t be accomplished without having a robust immigration system,” Williams said.

The administration of President Donald Trump has toughed immigration enforcement, both at the southern border and against immigrants already in the U.S., both undocumented and legal. The Michigan Compact does not mention Trump by name, but takes positions that are more sympathetic to immigrants. A national group, the New American Economy, worked to help develop a similar compact in other states such as Texas, Florida, and Iowa.

“In 2018 alone, immigrants in Michigan contributed $2.1 billion in state and local taxes and held $18.4 billion in spending power,” reads the compact. “Over 33,000 immigrant entrepreneurs generated more than $27 billion in total sales and employed over 167,000 Michiganders. Our ability to attract new citizens will be key to keeping our workforce young and competitive in some of our state’s most important industries, from agriculture and manufacturing to science, technology, engineering, tourism, and the service industry.”

The Compact was announced last week week after White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney reportedly told a private gathering that the U.S. needs more immigrants, which seemed to be in opposition to the Trump administration’s publicly-stated policies of restricting immigration.

“We are desperate — desperate — for more people,” Mulvaney said, according to a report in the Washington Post, based on a recording of the event. “We are running out of people to fuel the economic growth that we’ve had in our nation over the last four years. We need more immigrants.”

The Michigan Compact is about “shifting the focus of the conversation back to the importance of immigrants for our communities, and to our economy, putting real data behind the positive impact that immigrants have on the state,” said Steven Japinga, vice president of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has about 1,100 members. “It’s unfortunate the political rhetoric that’s been divisive on this issue. It’s important to come out and really talk about the positive impact of immigrants to our state.”

There are roughly 695,200 immigrants in Michigan, making up 7% of the state’s population, compared with 13.7% nationally, according to the 2018 Census. More than half of Michigan’s immigrant population, 53.6%, are citizens. The three largest immigrant groups in Michigan are from Mexico, India, and Iraq.

The Michigan Compact is about “shifting the focus of the conversation back to the importance of immigrants for our communities, and to our economy, putting real data behind the positive impact that immigrants have on the state,” said Steven Japinga, vice president of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, which has about 1,100 members. “It’s unfortunate the political rhetoric that’s been divisive on this issue. It’s important to come out and really talk about the positive impact of immigrants to our state.”

There are roughly 695,200 immigrants in Michigan, making up 7% of the state’s population, compared with 13.7% nationally, according to the 2018 Census. More than half of Michigan’s immigrant population, 53.6%, are citizens. The three largest immigrant groups in Michigan are from Mexico, India, and Iraq.

The Compact says “we support bipartisan immigration policy reforms that ensure the federal system meets the needs of our employers and labor market, while providing a permanent solution for undocumented residents who make significant contributions to our state and nation’s economy and enforcing our nation’s laws.”

The Compact’s five principles are: federal responsibility, strengthening our economy and workforce, a sensible path forward, stability, and competitive communities.

“Immigrants have always been and remain an important part of our communities across Michigan,” the Compact reads.

View the original article here

Great Lakes Metro Chambers Push for Action on Infrastructure, Immigration and Trade

The Detroit Regional Chamber and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition met with members of Congress and their staff during a two-day fly-in to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss several recently proposed policies that will affect business in the Great Lakes region.

During the visit, the Coalition met with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN 6), and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), among others. This visit primarily centered around advancing three of the Coalition’s top policy priorities: the development of a robust, nationwide infrastructure plan; increasing high-skilled immigration; and supporting the preservation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Coalition members spent much of their time discussing President Trump’s recently proposed infrastructure, immigration and trade policies. The infrastructure policy allocates $1.5 trillion in investment that was proposed in February. The Coalition supports developing comprehensive infrastructure legislation and increased federal funding for key projects, including an upgrade to the Soo Locks.

Regarding immigration, the Coalition continues to support high-skilled immigration. Data shows that immigrants bring the talent, labor, and spending power needed to help grow the Great Lakes’ economy. According to a New American Economy report, in the Great Lakes region alone, immigrants account for half of the population growth over the last 15 years and drove almost two-thirds of the region’s working-age population growth in the same amount of time.

Finally, the Coalition met with representatives to discuss the preservation of NAFTA. Modernization is necessary to improve trade between the United States and its allies, but pulling the United States from NAFTA would be catastrophic for businesses across the Great Lakes region that rely on restrictive-free trade with Canada and Mexico.

The Coalition will continue to engage the administration on improving infrastructure, immigration and trade regulations to help grow the region’s economy.

For more information on the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, visit http://greatlakesmetrochambers.com.

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez to Keynote Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference

DETROIT, February 19, 2013 Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber announced that former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and former Chief Executive Officer of the Kellogg Company, the Honorable Carlos M. Gutierrez will provide a keynote address at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference. Held Wednesday, May 29 through Friday, May 31, the Conference will spur a comprehensive dialogue on cultural change, education and the 21st century global market.

“As a relentless advocate of immigration reform, Secretary Gutierrez continues to challenge our nation to cut through the politics and address immigration in a fashion that creates opportunity for people and country alike,” said Chairman, President and CEO of ITC Holdings Corp. Joseph L. Welch, chair of the 2013 Conference. “Immigration reform is a major strategic opportunity for Michigan and the rest of the country, and we are eager to have that conversation front and center at the Mackinac Policy Conference.”

Secretary Gutierrez served as the 35th U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009 under President George W. Bush, regularly traveling internationally to visit with foreign government and business leaders to discuss ways to enhance trade and promote U.S. exports. He served as the Bush administration’s point person on immigration reform and played a key role in passage of Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), a landmark agreement that strips away trade barriers and expands export opportunities and boosts opportunity in Latin America.

Before his government service Secretary Gutierrez was chairman and CEO of the Kellogg Company. He currently serves as vice chairman of the Institutional Clients Group for Citigroup and is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. The Secretary is also a former member of the board of ImmigrationWorks USA, an organization dedicated to achieving comprehensive immigration reform.

“Secretary Gutierrez worked tirelessly with President Bush to convince Congress of the need for smart and comprehensive immigration reform,” said Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah. “While both political parties offered resistance, there is no doubt that the Bush administration’s efforts, led by Gutierrez, were prescient in understanding the economic, social and political implementations of not fixing our approach to immigration.”

The 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference’s pillars are cultural change, education and the 21st century global market. To learn more about how the Conference aims to create a more business-friendly climate in Michigan and drive economic growth, visit mpc.detroitchamber.com.

Detroit Regional Chamber 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference
The Mackinac Policy Conference – the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual event – brings together business and government to re-energize Michigan. Since 1981, the Conference has provided access to Michigan’s top business professionals, legislative leaders, corporate CEOs, entrepreneurs and veteran regional champions. Approximately 1,500 attendees will gather for the 2013 Conference, held May 29 – May 31 at the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

About the Detroit Regional Chamber
With over 20,000 members and affiliates, that employ over three quarters of a million workers, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission is carried out through business attraction efforts, advocacy, strategic partnerships and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

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