DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder asked the federal government Thursday to set aside thousands of work visas for bankrupt Detroit, a bid to revive the decaying city by attracting talented immigrants willing to move there and stay for five years.
The Republican governor routinely touted immigration as a powerful potential force for growing Detroit’s economy, saying immigrant entrepreneurs start many small businesses and file patents at twice the rate of U.S.-born citizens.
“Let’s send a message to the entire world: Detroit, Michigan, is open to the world,” Snyder said at a news conference.
The proposal involves EB-2 visas, which are offered every year to legal immigrants with advanced degrees or show exceptional ability in certain fields.
But the governor’s ambitious plan faces significant hurdles: The visas are not currently allocated by region or state. And the number he is seeking — 50,000 during five years — would be a quarter of the total EB-2 visas offered.
The program would require no federal financial bailout, the governor said, only the easing of immigration rules and visa limits to help fill jobs in automotive engineering, information technology, health care and life sciences.
“It’s really taking up the offer of the federal government to say they want to help more,” Snyder said. “Isn’t this a great way that doesn’t involve large-scale financial contributions from the federal government to do something dramatic in Detroit?”