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Immigration Policy 2.0.

Any Silicon Valley entrepreneur can tell you Uncle Sam's stinginess with green cards is making it hard to retain foreign born talent in the US. Yet more than a decade of kvetching has produced nada from Congress because Republicans and Democrats can't agree on comprehensive reform (WSJ, 2011, p. A18).

Few are the issues more polarizing than immigration. Opinions on the subject are often formed in the absence of empirical evidence. Coalitions related to this issue appear to draw more on emotion than rationality. Indeed "[...] [A]mericans vastly overestimate the percentage of fellow residents who are foreign-born, by more than a factor of two" (Bialik, 2012, p. A4). The empirical evidence that should inform this policy discussion is only recently being more widely disseminated and is not regularly cited.

In information technology the latest advances are inevitably numbered. Were we to advance our immigration policy it could rightly be called Immigration 2.0. So what would an updated policy on immigration look like? The range of policy positions in circulation are myriad, yet what we are doing right here in Michigan might profitably become a model for the nation as a whole. This comment will briefly:

* address historical antecedents on this vexing issue;

* review empirical evidence that addresses several policy prescriptions; and

* characterize the progressive position taken by our home state--Michigan.


Two decades ago the free flow of goods, capital and labor seemed inescapable and unstoppable (Abdelal and Segal, 2007)--a manifest destiny that many governments pursued with neoliberal zeal. Then came the 1997 WTO meeting in Seattle where the anti-globalization movement found its wings, particularly with regard to the movement of goods. The financial crisis of 2007 placed a renewed concern on the free flow of capital. It is the third leg of Abdelal and Segal's stool--Immigration--that remains perhaps the most daunting issue, one that demands a more rational and integrated policy.

Recent estimates place world population at 8 billion. According to the International Organization for Migration only about 200 million of that 8 billion are living outside their country of birth (Guest, 2011a, b, p. 3). So it is that 2.5 percent of the world's population that is the source of so much emotional reaction in the USA and beyond. In the USA the percentages are more dramatic--with a population of about 310,000,000 roughly 37 million or 12 percent are immigrants.

Some claim the flow of immigrants has taken jobs from US citizens (see the Reclaim American Jobs Caucus: Fact Others claim the inflow of immigrant labor depresses wages in the marketplace through competition for available jobs (Zavodny, 2011).

Conversely, still others contend immigration will hasten growth. Consider Ward's review of Borderless Economics (WSJ, 2011, p. A13) from which she quotes: "As a tool for spreading wealth, open borders make foreign aid look like a child's lemonade stand".

Economic analysis

Do foreign born workers in fact take jobs from native born workers? Work by Zavodny (2010) yields, among other conclusions, two important findings:

(1) immigrants with advanced degrees boost employment for US natives; and

(2) highly educated immigrants pay far more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

These two findings prompted two policy prescriptions proffered by Zavodny. Based on economic analysis the US Government would be well served to:

* offer greater visa priority to would-be workers who earn advanced degrees from US universities; and

* increase the number of visas offered to highly educated workers.

Progressive Michigan

The future of American industrial strength will surely be influenced by a host of policy decisions and programs intended to re-establish our nation's hegemony. Here in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has taken the lead in this transformation. In 2011 Governor Snyder launched the Global Michigan Initiative. He calls himself the most pro-immigration governor in the country (Pluta, 2011).

While other states such as Alabama and Arizona are focused on legislation aimed at discouraging the inflow of foreign workers Michigan is trying to harness those who Guest contends are the "smartest and most ambitious people their motherland has bred" (Guest, 2011, p. 3).

Our industry--higher education--supports Guest's claim. Here in the College of Business Administration at Central Michigan University one in four of our tenure track faculty is foreign born. Higher education has become a global industry from the supply side of the equation. (Accordingly we make some exceptions to H1B visa limits to assure that we can recruit and retain the best and brightest to teach in our universities).

Our foreign born faculty make our learning environment much richer through their multiple interests, specialized expertise, cultural understanding, language facility and diversity of perspectives on the issues about which we teach and research. CMU is a more vibrant intellectual environment because immigration law has given us the opportunity to actively recruit non-native born intellectuals.

Ironically at the other end of that supply chain the outputs of our higher education system, is subject to what one might call draconian limitations particularly in the private sector. Michael Finney, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, asserts that welcoming immigrants with advanced degrees to Michigan is central to the Governor's strategy to invigorate the Michigan economy:

We [in Michigan] educate some of the best and brightest immigrants in our country. They graduate advanced degrees in all of the science disciplines, and then we require them to leave our state after they complete those advanced degrees (Pluta, 2012a) [...] It seems only logical that we would at least create opportunities for them to offer up that intellect to help grow businesses here in this country and, of course, in the state of Michigan (Pluta, 2012b).

This happens despite the government's recognition of the critical need for specialized skills in high tech fields. To cite an example, we in the College of Business Administration at CMU have earned STEM certification (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) for our Master of Science in Information Systems program. Yet only about one in four American business schools merits this certification that allows immigrant graduates of these programs to remain in the US an additional 17 months on a work visa.

It is my hope that Governor Synder is successful both in attracting immigrants to Michigan to hasten the economic recovery of our state and in influencing policy at a national level to help us retain within the US borders many of the most promising in whom we have invested so much in through their education. As we speak, the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is mired in the Senate. Although not quite Immigration 2.0, the bill would relax some of the more limiting provisions of current law and help us retain the brightest foreign students in whom we have so heavily invested.

Further reading

Albin, M. and Kocakula, M. (2006), "Outsourcing, H1B visas, the economy, and enrollments in information technology", EDSIG, November 4, p. 23.

Novak, V. (2010), "Does immigration cost jobs?", available at: (accessed May 13).

OLPC Immigration (2012), "From the OLPC wiki", available at: Immigration (accessed January 22).

Smith, L. (2011), "Governor Snyder wants to attract immigrants ready to start businesses", Michigan Radio, available at: (accessed October 10).

Weber, L. (2011), "Governor visits U of M, touts pro-immigration stance", Michigan Radio, available at: (accessed October 14).


Abdelal, R. and Segal, A. (2007), "Has globalization passes its peak?", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 86 No. 1, pp. 103-11, 113-14.

Bialik, C. (2012), "American stumble of math of big issues", The Wall Street Journal, January 7, p. A4.

Guest, R. (2011a), Borderless Economics: Chinese Sea Turtles, Indian Fridges and the New Fruits of Global Capitalism, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY.

Guest, R. (2011b), "How immigrant entrepreneurs turbocharge US trade", The Wall Street Journal, December 22.

Pluta, R. (2012a), "Snyder to address business leaders on 2012 plans", Michigan Radio, available at: (accessed January 20).

Pluta, R. (2012b), "Snyder to address business leaders on immigration", IPR News Features, January 20.

WSJ (2011), "Green card progress", The Wall Street Journal, December 12, p. A-18.

Zavodny, M. (2011), Immigration and American Jobs, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and the Partnership for a New American Economy, Washington, DC, pp. 1-24, December.

Chuck Crespy

Central Michigan University, Isabella, Michigan, USA

Chuck Crespy, Central Michigan University, Isabella, Michigan, USA
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Title Annotation:DEAN'S FORUM
Author:Crespy, Chuck
Publication:American Journal of Business
Article Type:Legislation
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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