Michigan Goveror: We Need Highly Educated Immigrants

Like other states in the industrial midwest, Michigan has seen more than its fair share of economic decay, beset by unemployment and the atrophy of the heavy industry that once thrived there. In some circles – one thinks of Michael Moore’s films about the decline of the auto industry, for instance – Michigan’s main city, Detroit, became a byword for post-industrial malaise.

And yet, Michigan may be poised for an economic rebound. The American auto industry, still largely based in Detroit, is gaining on its foreign competitors, after Toyota’s recent quality problems and the concerted efforts of U.S. manufacturers to build better products.

Another sign of a potential turnaround in Michigan’s fortunes is the forward-looking pronouncement of its governor, Rick Snyder, in his State of the State speech last week. According to the Detroit News, Governor Snyder said Michigan should bring in more highly-educated immigrants to help grow their economy, arguing that “…immigration made us a great state and country…” and that “…We need to be a place that openly encourages investors and entrepreneurs to come to our state, …” (See Snyder: Welcome Highly Educated Immigrants to Boost Economy, by Paul Egan, The Detroit News, 20.Jan.2011.)

The Detroit News reported that Governor Snyder plans to embark on a “… new initiative to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to come to Michigan to work and live… ,” pointing to the critical role immigrants played in building California’s Silicon Valley into an economic powerhouse. For a Michigan governor to speak openly about the benefits of immigration is a mark of progress in that state’s economic development, a mark of economic rationality triumphing over the politics of fear. Perhaps the anti-immigrant forces in the southwest will find a lesson in that.

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