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Detroit wants its own high-tech visa

Patrick Thibodeau | Jan. 28, 2014
But Michigan governor's plan to help troubled city will be a hard sell in Washington.

There is a provision for a "national interest waiver" that allows someone to get an EB-2 visa without labor certification; Michigan's proposal is asking for this waiver.

A national interest wavier "means employers who wanted to hire these immigrants wouldn't have to check if there's a qualified local U.S. worker available, and wouldn't have to pay a prevailing wage," said Daniel Costa, an immigration policy analyst at Economic Policy Institute. "I'm a little bit uncomfortable with that, given the near 18% unemployment rate in Detroit. If there's a labor shortage in a place like Detroit then employers should have to prove it. But I'm also not convinced that there are enough unfilled high-tech jobs for this many immigrants to take -- with or without labor certification."

To get a national interest waiver, an applicant must show that "the national benefits you offer are so great that they outweigh the national interests inherent in the labor certification process," according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

While there is evidence that immigrants are "are slightly more entrepreneurial than the U.S. born," said Costa, "I don't think there's evidence to say that they're all magical super-entrepreneurs that are going to instantly create enough jobs to revitalize Detroit, as the governor seems to suggest."

He said 3.5% of all immigrants of the labor force are small business owners, compared to 3.3% for U.S. born workers.

Costa said Snyder would have more credibility on the issue if he were doing more to help workers in Detroit. In 2011, the state cut jobless benefits by six weeks to 20.

"I also think the federal government should be offering people in the U.S. some money and land in Detroit if they'll move there," said Costa, or "just offer it to people across the country who have advanced degrees."

 

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