Michigan Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a proposal on Thursday that calls for the U.S. government to allocate 50,000 special visas over the next five years to lure highly skilled immigrants to live and work in the bankrupt city of Detroit.The theory is that attracting a critical mass of high-skill, high-education immigrants to Detroit would create many jobs by attracting talent-seeking employers as well as stimulate entrepreneurship and new businesses founded by the immigrants.
Here in the Valley, political leaders are pushing for a different program that would provide green cards to immigrants after 5 years of low-paid farm labor.
Detroit and the Central Valley are two places in the U.S. struggling with economic woes and municipal bankruptcies. The Governor of Michigan, with the endorsement of Detroit's mayor, wants to use immigration to stimulate entrepreneurship, attract new industries and change the local economy. In contrast, Valley leaders are looking for immigration reforms to attract a low-paid labor force to help its largest and most-profitable existing industry.
The contrast is interesting, special visa programs can be seen as a way to create a new economy or preserve an existing economy. Immigration is complicated and involves much, much more than economics, so this shouldn't be seen as an endorsement or rejection of either proposal.