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Public Policy Agenda - Great Lakes Metro Chamber Coalition

Federal immigration policy

Establish federal immigration policy that facilitates significant international talent attraction, integration and retention throughout the nation. In the short term, respond to the particular and pressing need for deeper pools of talent in Great Lakes metropolitan areas through creation of High Skill Immigration Zones.

The designation of a metro area as a High Skill Immigration Zone would allow for relaxation or elimination of various federal immigration quotas, provide targeted incentives to attract talented immigrants in shortage occupations, and facilitate linkages with other programs that attract immigrant entrepreneurs and highly skilled talent.

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 out-migration 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, nanotechnology and the emerging sectors listed in the Innovation section, 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.