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One critic of Snyder's proposal said it appears to dismiss immigrants who have not achieved high levels of education. Even if it does not take a specific job away from native-born job-seekers, it makes immigrants "more marketable than educated current residents," said the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, executive director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations.
"What does that do to displace people who are born here and who don't have the education and are already competing for scarce jobs?" Sheffield said. "The other problem is the governor only picked educated immigrants. That only pits immigrants against immigrants."
About 1 in 5 Detroit residents are without a high school diploma, according to Detroit Future City, a 2012 report that examined how the city can remake itself.
Another 35 percent have diplomas, but no other kind of training. And for every 100 residents, there are only 27 jobs, the study found.
Under Snyder's plan, Detroit would be allocated 5,000 visas in the first year, 10,000 each of the next three years and 15,000 in the fifth year. Snyder is especially keen on keeping foreign students in Michigan, many of whom come to the state to earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, then leave.
In his annual State of the State address last week, he announced a plan to join two other states in putting immigration services under a special office, as well as a separate initiative to make Michigan the second state to run a regional visa program to attract immigrant investors for development projects.
Frank Venegas is chief executive and chairman of the Ideal Group, a family-owned manufacturing and construction company where the governor made Thursday's announcement.
Venegas, the grandson of Mexican immigrants, said Snyder's proposals would benefit the struggling city and the company he started in 1979, which has grown to incorporate several subsidiaries and annual revenue of more than $200 million.
"We're the greatest country in the world. Why can't we attract some of the greatest people in the world from different countries?"
Eggert reported from Lansing, Mich.