30 Chambers of Commerce Adopt High-Skill Immigration Reform Proposal Created in Cleveland

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 10/16/2008 - 17:35.

I received the following from NEO's champion of immigration reform, Richard Herman, which sounds exciting. I am certainly for opening up national borders - I think any of us should be able to go and live wherever we want, whenever we want. I haven't read the policy recommendations, beyond what Richard provided, and I'm not sure a merit based point system and ""High-Skill" focus are right, but anything that opens up borders, rather than building walls, is a good thing.

Dear Friends:

Below is yesterday's Detroit Crain's article about the recently released report "A Business Agenda for Economic Transformation in the Great Lakes Region." See below.

The report is a collaboration of 30 Chambers of Commerce from 12 states in the Great Lakes Region and the Brookings Institution.

Of the report's top five priorities, #3 is a a push for federal immigration policy that allows the Great Lakes region to attract and retain the job-creating immigrant talent, entrepreneurship and capital.



Congratulations to the Greater Cleveland Partnership (Dan Berry, et al.) for taking the lead in formulating the outstanding immigration policy initiatives in the report which has been adopted by commerce chambers in Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Columbus, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Toledo, N. Kentucky, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, etc.

This is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate across state lines to pursue our mutual interests in aggregating brain power to develop and drive the industries of the near future. Many of the inventors of the next big job-creating industries are right here in the midwest, right now, studying in our world-class universities as international students.

The business community is making its voice heard that federal policies must be changed to allow the midwest to harness global brainpower to re-build its economy.

Please also check out Compete America, a national tech-industry coalition calling for high-skill immigration law reform (co-chaired by Robert Hoffman, VP of Govt. Affairs for Oracle, previous legislative director for former Senator Mike DeWine)


Excerpts from "A Business Agenda for Economic Transformation in the Great Lakes Region"

"This great region, self-reliant in the past and now looking to an interdependent future, has been buffeted by the winds of international change in a rapidly globalizing economy. The combination of many new economic competitors, domestic and international demographic shifts, and pressures from natural resources and climate change, coupled with inadequate policy response, has left the region with many unresolved challenges that mask its enormous potential contribution to the nation and the world.....

Establish federal immigration policy that facilitates significant international talent attraction, integration and retention. To help U.S. companies compete in the global marketplace for high-skilled and entrepreneurially-inclined talent, the U.S. desperately needs fundamental reform of its immigration system. U.S. businesses would strongly support movement toward a merit-based point system that expeditiously grants permanent residency status to immigrant talent, such as those systems already used in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and proposed in the European Union.

The federal government should move toward this type of national system. Until fundamental immigration reform is enacted, the federal government should consider alternative approaches that build on the unique assets and respond to the critical and particular needs of the Great Lakes Region. Workforce demographics, coupled with the population outmigration in recent decades, have depleted the indigenous talent pools and damaged economic competitiveness in many Great Lakes metro areas, resulting in serious workforce shortages in the region's global-looking manufacturing and services industries, its world-class health care institutions, and its internationally renowned institutions of higher learning.

In order to accelerate the development of emerging industries such as clean/renewable energy technology, biomedical technology, and nano-technology and the emerging sectors listed in the Innovation section below, the Great Lakes region will need to quickly build deeper pools of talent.


The federal government should consider establishing High Skill Immigration (HSI) Zones in metro areas.

In order to facilitate the mobile and flexible workforce that employers require, within HSI Zones, the federal government should:

Exempt H-1B visas from national caps.

Eliminate EB-2 and EB-3 quotas, and expedite applications for permanent resident status (Green Cards) submitted on behalf of H-1B visa holders in order to retain talented workers.

Allow spouses of H-1B visa holders to become employed.

Re-enact the H-1A visa program for registered nurses. Current visa programs for foreign registered nurses are insufficient to help Great Lakes hospitals and health care facilities, which play a critical role in the local economy, meet current and projected staffing needs in light of the worsening shortage of registered nurses.

U.S. Embassies and Consulates should expedite the issuance of F-1 student and J-1 exchange visas for those attending or working at universities or colleges within the HSI, recognizing the economic and innovation contributions made by international students, scholars, and researchers at Great Lakes metro higher education institutions.

In order to stimulate higher levels of economic development in the HSI Zones through entrepreneurial ventures, HSI zones should be given preference in applications for designation as EB-5 Regional Investor Centers.

The federal government should provide matching funds to those metro areas that establish "Welcome Centers" or equivalent capacities and other integrative programs within their communities that connect and facilitate employer and community engagement with immigrants.

Immigration policy should be the province of the federal government alone.

Federal immigration policy should tie to a nationally-recognized electronic employee identification system based on technologies already available.

Federal immigration policy should not penalize employers that have complied with federal standards in verifying the status of their workers.