Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)
Washington — Gov. Rick Snyder traveled here Friday, decried a “dumb” immigration system and challenged Washington to reform the rules so foreigners are more welcome in Detroit and elsewhere.
“We need comprehensive immigration reform,” Snyder said at Washington’s National Press Club. “That’s the bottom line. To be blunt, we have a dumb system.”
The immigration reform event sponsored by business and GOP-related organizations comes as Congress continues to debate reforming the country’s immigration system. Divisions on border security and granting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants have stalled progress.
A day earlier, Snyder announced an effort to seek 50,000 work visas over five years solely for Detroit to lure highly educated immigrants to repopulate the city.
Snyder’s plan was met with praise by fellow panelists at the immigration forum: former U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“I’ve never thought of a better idea,” Bloomberg said of Snyder’s plan to bring new residents to the Detroit.
Under the Snyder’s proposal to the Obama administration, one quarter of the country’s 40,000 annual EB-2 visas would be set aside for immigrants with advanced degrees who commit to live and work in the bankrupt city of Detroit.
An immigration reform package passed the U.S. Senate last year, but has been held up in the GOP-led U.S. House, where leaders want to tackle the issue in a piecemeal approach. Gutierrez, the former Kellogg Co. CEO, argued Friday that immigration is needed for the country’s continued economic growth.
“Immigration reform and immigration is a requirement for economic growth,” said Gutierrez, a Republican and former Michigan resident.
Bloomberg said he is encouraged the House GOP plans to unveil its set of immigration principles.
“Our current immigration laws are national suicide,” Bloomberg said of America’s risk of falling behind other countries in accommodating more foreigners. “I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.”
Snyder said Detroit is rebuilding but bringing highly skilled immigrants to the city and retaining international graduates from Michigan’s universities would “turbo charge” the recovery of the city by creating jobs.
The Obama administration has pledged to help Detroit as it grapples with the largest municipal bankruptcy in America, aside from a bailout. Snyder said Friday he wants to take the administration at its word and hopes the Detroit visa plan will be approved.
“This doesn’t require budget dollars. Here’s a way to turbo charge the economy. Let’s go,” Snyder said.
The event was sponsored by Republicans for Immigration Reform, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Partnership for a New American Economy.