Helen Krieble, Bing Goei and Alex Nowrasteh
From left to right: Helen Krieble, Bing Goei and Alex Nowrasteh. Watch a video of this event at Mackinac.org/ 19759

In the most recent Census, Michigan was the only state to have a lower population in 2010 than in 2000. The state also saw the largest economic decline in the nation over this period. A friendlier environment for immigrants would help.

The Mackinac Center recently hosted a panel on “Free Market Approaches to Immigration Reform.” While immigration is largely a federal issue, Gov. Snyder is working to make Michigan a magnet for new Americans by asking for extra visas and other exceptions to current governmental restrictions.

The event featured Helen Krieble, founder and president of The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation.; Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute; and Bing Goei, a Grand Rapids businessman appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to head the Michigan Office for New Americans.

Krieble’s foundation created the “Red Card Solution,” a plan that curbs illegal immigration by offering non-citizen work permits that do not lead to citizenship.

She based her ideas on America’s founding principles: that all people are created equal; that limited government and free markets work best; and that businesses should be able to operate without endless interference from government.

Nowrasteh focused on low-skilled immigrants and pointed out that the only area of the federal government more complicated than the immigration system is the income tax.

The government micromanages the current system, and if someone wanting to become a citizen is not high-skilled, they have a very slim chance of legally participating in the American dream. And since foreigners are twice as entrepreneurial as current citizens, we are harming ourselves by limiting them.

His plan is simple: Allow any non-criminal to become a citizen for a fee but deny them welfare programs.

“Let’s build a wall around the welfare state, not the country,” Nowrasteh said.

Goei looked at high-skilled immigrants, pointing out that there are simply not enough native born students to fill the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs Michigan has and is projected to have in the future.

“We have 26,000 international students. Out of those, about 10,000 are in STEM degree work,” Goei said. “Businesses cannot wait until Congress does something, so the state is doing what it can now.”

Currently, high-skilled immigrants are coming to America and getting degrees or working here for a short time and then returning home to wait in line for 10 years. That’s a long time to wait for people who would contribute to the American economy.

A nation’s most valuable resource is its people. Michigan would be wise to encourage more of them.