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Immigrants a boon to Michigan's economy

Neal Herbert

Immigrants make Michigan's economy stronger and they should be welcomed, not feared.

That's the take-home from the Partnership for a New Economy, a bi-partisan group that supports federal immigration reform. 

The group’s recent study estimates nearly 642,000 Michigan residents were born abroad, and in 2014, they earned $19.6 billion, and paid $5.4 billion in local, state, and federal taxes.

Karen Phillippi is with the Michigan Office for New Americans. 

The office was established by Governor Rick Snyder to encourage and support immigration to Michigan, especially among highly-educated entrepreneurs and people with expertise in science and technology.

Phillippi says the report shows immigrants are more likely to start businesses and create jobs than people born in the U.S. But the federal cap on work visas means Michigan companies sometimes cannot fill certain high-tech positions.

"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services runs out of those visas every fiscal year," says Phillippi.

She says there also aren't enough visas available for agricultural workers, and suggests that people should welcome refugees for what they can contribute to the state’s agriculture sector. 

“The refugees that are coming to our state, there's a number of them coming to our state who are from agricultural communities from their home country.”

Phillippi says her group tries to teach a positive view of immigration, and she believes that kind of education is especially important now, in light of the increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric in politics.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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