As the debate over comprehensive immigration reform rages on, the business community remains one the issue’s strongest supporters. In fact, according to a recent survey of 500 business leaders in the Midwest conducted by the Chicago Council of Global Affairs, nearly 65 percent of business leaders strongly support the Senate immigration reform bill.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, that businesses stand behind comprehensive immigration reform. Tech giants such as Microsoft and Facebook have long championed the cause – hoping to make it easier to recruit highly skilled employees from abroad. In 2013, Mark Zuckerberg started FWD.us, an advocacy group for immigration reform. While in 2007, Microsoft opened new offices in Canada, a country where it’s far easier to hire foreign employees. Nor is this push restricted to individual organizations – Governor Rick Snyder recently announced his plan to bring 50,000 immigrants to the struggling city of Detroit over a period of five years.
Since the 1950s, Detroit’s population has fallen more than 60 percent, from 1.8 million at its peak to just 700,000 today. Should the federal government approve Snyder’s plan, Detroit would offer visas to 5,000 highly educated immigrants in the first year ramping up to 15,000 visas in the fifth year, all under the stipulation that the recipients live and work in Detroit. Snyder’s thinking is not that unusual either, as similar pushes are already underway across the Midwest in Chicago, St. Louis, and Dayton, Ohio.
The thinking behind this goes as follows: the easier it is for educated immigrants to enter or remain in the country the more the national economy will benefit from their work and innovation; producing new enterprises, new jobs and a more stable tax-base — a change that advocates claim would also benefit long-term residents, such as the 38% of Detroit’s residents currently living below the poverty line.
America was built on the hard work and ingenuity of immigrants, and as the baby boomers steadily leave the workforce there is ample opportunity for a new generation of workers – both domestic and foreign – to lead the way. With 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country and many more interested in working here, comprehensive immigration reform could represent a key aspect of the country’s long-term economic growth. And as business leaders already know, the sooner comprehensive immigration reform is passed the more drastic its benefits will be.