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A key official in President Donald Trump’s administration decided Wednesday to inject Detroit into the immigration reform debate, saying “an endless flow” of unskilled immigrants unfairly compete for jobs with the city’s unemployed.

The president supported on Wednesday proposed Senate legislation that would create a merit-based immigration system that would give green cards to more high-skilled workers, rather than low- or unskilled workers, and require that they speak English and financially support themselves.

Stephen Miller, senior White House adviser, said Detroit is among the areas of the country where American workers are suffering from having to compete with unskilled illegal and legal immigrants for jobs.

“Go to an American city that has labor force problems, wherever that may be, say, Detroit,” Miller said at Wednesday’s White House press briefing.

“How is it fair or right or proper that if, say, you open up a new business in Detroit, that the unemployed workers in Detroit will have to compete against an endless flow of unskilled workers for the exact same jobs, reducing pay for those positions and reducing their chances of getting those jobs, while at the same time, ultra-high-skilled workers are in the back of the line to get into the country.”

But a spokesman for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan noted the city’s unemployment rate has dropped to 7.5 percent, its lowest level in 17 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“What that means is nearly 20,000 more Detroiters are employed today compared with 2013,” John Roach told The Detroit News. “So it’s pretty clear that being a welcoming city has not negatively affected our efforts to get Detroiters back to work.”

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market-oriented research group in Midland, has said federal data also show that about two-thirds of the jobless drop in Detroit can be attributed to a smaller labor force -- that is, fewer Detroiters looking for jobs.

cferretti@detroitnews.com

mburke@detroitnews.com

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