If Not Now, When? Immigration Reform At A Time Of National Crisis

By: Brad Williams, Vice President, Government Relations, Detroit Regional Chamber

“We have the responsibility to (secure the border), but we cannot blame everything on border security. The more we do that, the more we talk ourselves into a false solution,” said former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference.

He went on to add: “If we are 100 percent successful at sealing our border and sealing overstays of visas, then God help us, then we’ll see what a real recession is like.”

With our country in the midst of a recession like nothing we have seen before because of COVID-19, advocates for meaningful immigration reform are a raising key question that strikes at the heart of the effectiveness of our federal government at this point in time.

If not now, when?

Yet amid a time of national crisis, some in the current administration appears to be attempting to shut down one of our biggest economic tools when we need innovation, talent, and job creation more than ever.

The U.S. Chamber recently filed a lawsuit aiming to convince President Trump and his administration to pull back on restrictive immigration policies that threaten to strip our country of one of its historical competitive advantages. It is further evidence of a growing frustration among business leaders partisanship overwhelming meaningful policy, something that dates back years.

That comes on the heels of a different lawsuit filed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that forced the administration to rescind a policy that would have banned international students from staying in the U.S. if their college or university held classes virtually in the fall.

Clearly the politics around immigration have not only stymied long called for reforms, such as revising the visa system to better suit employers’ needs, but have actually started to move toward more restrictive policies.

For business leaders, the region’s and country’s economic recovery from the pandemic must be inclusive to be successful.

In July, the Chamber partnered with city and county leaders, the New American Economy, and Global Detroit to release a report highlighting how immigrants are essential to the region’s COVID-19 response, and its economic recovery.

In 2018, for instance, immigrants had $12.3 billion in spending power and comprised more than 11.7% of all health care workers.

The math is clear amid consistent support and calls for action.

In February, the Detroit Regional Chamber also signed on to the Michigan Compact on Immigration which outlines five principles to guide the discussion in our state.

The Compact very clearly calls on the federal government to take this issue head-on, putting politics aside and charting a sensible path forward that empowers immigrants to strengthen the economy and our competitiveness.

The signatories represent more than 20,000 companies and more than one million employees and calls for a federal immigration system that responds to the needs of Michigan employers and workers in a time when talent attraction and retention are critical to the state’s economic growth.

Of course, back in 2013, Secretary Gutierrez wasn’t alone.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also made the economic case for reforms as the topic was central to discussing Michigan’s competitiveness in the 21st century.

“A path to residency should be made easier so that these great catalytic converters of sustained economic growth pursue their dreams in this country rather than be trained here and shipped back to their country of origin to be our economic competitors,” said Governor Bush.

Unfortunately, the political gridlock since then has resulted in another seven years of stalled reform.

If not then, perhaps now the overdue change will come, as the country deals with a global pandemic that’s challenging it in unprecedented ways.

Brad Williams Testifies on Infrastructure Funding to Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee

The following is testimony from Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations Brad Williams to the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee on Jan. 23, 2020.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Brad Williams, I am the Vice President of Government Relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Some of you have visited the Chamber’s office in Downtown Detroit and you know that we have one of the most stunning views of any Chamber of Commerce in the entire country. As we do our work, promoting economic growth in our region, we overlook the Detroit River and literally watch commerce flow. Across Jefferson Avenue sits the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority, which represents an opportunity to capitalize on a set of unique assets in our region.

The Chamber supports SB 667, because modern infrastructure is a tool to grow a modern economy. The Detroit region has many existing and future infrastructure assets that will allow for ongoing economic growth and modern port facilities with accelerate that. Michigan’s transportation infrastructure built to support our manufacturing economy is a potential economic advantage. We have redundant highways, meaning that truck traffic has the ability to avoid congestion, we have strong rail infrastructure, we will soon be home to three international crossings for commercial activity including the most modern in North America. However, the policy choices we make will determine whether or not we are able to leverage these assets as successfully as we would like.

That is why the Chamber supports SB 667 to allow for greater investment in port facilities. That is why the Chamber supports efforts to dramatically increase our investment in preserving our surface transportation assets. That is why the Chamber supports efforts to create a regional transit system in our region. Because regions that can effectively move people and goods are going to continue to have a leg up and be more competitive into 2030 and beyond. We encourage your support of SB 667.

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Core Principles on Auto Insurance Reform

With auto insurance debates heating up in Lansing, the Detroit Regional Chamber is highly involved in the discussions working with bipartisan legislators and the governor’s office. The Chamber membership and Board are united in the recognition that the high cost of auto insurance is a critical issue that impacts our state’s economic development, talent attraction, and citizen well-being, and must be addressed.

The Chamber is eager to support legislation that meets the following criteria:

  • Result in a statewide and quantifiable reduction in auto insurance rates.
  • Recognize that rate reduction must be even greater in urban areas. Even a 20% reduction in urban areas leaves auto insurance unaffordable for low-income residents.
  • Reduce the number of uninsured drivers through rate reduction and increased mobility options for low-income residents.
  • Maintain Michigan’s high-quality health care delivery system.
  • Reduce insurance related fraud.

Detroit Regional Chamber Reform Vision

Auto insurance is a statewide issue that demands to be addressed. While our membership does not have a consensus view regarding detailed solutions, the Chamber supports the following core principles.

  • Reform should provide additional oversight of attendant care, particularly when delivered by relatives of the injured.
  • Michigan should pursue insurance fraud at all levels through a strong fraud authority or another enforcement mechanism.
  • Any proposed regulation of reimbursement rates should consider:

– The impact on motorists requiring catastrophic care, particularly care in trauma centers.

– The ability of health care providers to provide quality care.

– The need to lower rates for drivers across geographic, socioeconomic, and other demographic factors.

– Michigan’s insurance rates are high across the state, however, drivers in urban areas are disproportionately impacted. Reviewing the factors that cause high rates should be a special focus of policymakers.

  • Uninsured drivers in high-cost areas, like the city of Detroit, are left with few alternatives to driving illegally because of the region’s lack of effective and efficient public transportation. The number of uninsured drivers is a key component of insurance costs and the region’s consistent failure to provide mobility options has exacerbated the problem.

The Chamber Board endorsed these principles in 2017. The Chamber’s Government Relations team urges that all impacted parties must be at the table and compromise equally – there is no one single aspect of this challenge that can solve this problem – or can escape reform.

2019 Legislative Priorities Focus on Growing the Detroit Region

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Board of Directors recently adopted its legislative priorities for 2019. These 14 priorities, which are critical to economic development and growth of the region, include investing in infrastructure, support for a reliable regional transit system, maintaining a pro-growth tax structure, and creating pathways to postsecondary education and careers, among many other pro-business policy issues. This year’s priorities are aligned with the five pillars that guide the Chamber’s economic development strategy to position the region for global competitiveness.


  • Maintain a pro-growth tax structure that allows Michigan to compete globally for business and talent.
  • Encourage smart spending policies and long-term budgeting that prioritizes fiscal solvency.
  • Maintain a regulatory climate that is conducive to Michigan’s growing economy.
  • Support reforms for Michigan’s criminal justice system that reduce lengthy and costly sentences and provide age-appropriate rehabilitation.
  • Support policies that expand employment opportunities for chronically underemployed populations.


  • Increase dedicated infrastructure funding and lead efforts to prioritize regional transit options for the Detroit region.
  • Encourage regional policies that are consistent with state and federal law and balance local needs with economic growth.
  • Promote policies that increase access to health insurance while opposing policies that drive up costs for employers and individuals.


  • Maintain rigorous K-12 standards that allow students to succeed in the global economy.
  • Create greater accountability for quality and siting in charter schools.
  • Increase postsecondary education attainment through policies such as increased dual enrollment and expanded, need-based financial aid.

Global Connectivity:

  • Create pathways to career opportunities in the automotive industry that develop high-skilled talent, including support for immigration reform and the attraction of international students.
  • Promote smart trade policy, including continued USMCA participation and resisting short-sighted trade restrictions or tariffs that inhibit growth.

Next-Generation Mobility:

  • Support policies that allow Michigan to continue to lead in research and development testing for next generation mobility solutions and other emerging industry sectors.


Michigan House, Senate Pass ‘Good Jobs for Michigan’ Legislation

Today, Michigan legislators passed the “Good Jobs for Michigan” bill package, Senate Bills 242-244. This is one of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s legislative priorities as the government relations team has continuously urged legislators to adopt all three bills. A leading regional economic development organization, the Chamber leveraged its influential public policy voice as a key advocate for the legislation’s passage.

“The Chamber is thankful for the leadership of Governor Snyder and the Legislature to create this policy that will allow Michigan to compete with every state in the nation for job growth,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

MORE: Read the Chamber’s testimony to the House Policy Committee in support of House Bills 242-244.

Under the legislation, business expansions or new locations that create a minimum of 500 new jobs and pay wages at 100 percent or more of the regional average wage would be eligible to capture up to 50 percent of the personal income tax withholdings of the new employees for up to five years. In addition, business expansions or new locations that create a minimum of 250 new jobs and pay wages at 125 percent or more of the regional average wage would be eligible to capture up to 100  percent of the personal income tax withholdings of the new employees for up to 10 years. There is a cap of 15 projects per year with a rolling cap of $250 million for all projects.

“The passage of this legislation creates a vital tool as the Chamber travels the nation and globe to attract companies to grow in our region,” said Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

This is the Chamber’s second major economic development victory in the state this year, following the MIThrive package that will incentivize transformational brownfield developments in cities across the state.

ArtServe President and CEO Jennifer Goulet Elected to Americans for the Arts’ Private Sector Council

WIXOM, Mich. — ArtServe Michigan, the leading statewide arts and cultural advocacy organization in Michigan, today announced that President and CEO Jennifer Goulet has been elected to the Private Sector Council of Americans for the Arts, the nation’s nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education.

Goulet brings nearly 30 years of cultural leadership, economic development and private sector focused arts experience and dedication to the Council. Serving as president and CEO of ArtServe Michigan since 2008, Goulet leads advocacy, capacity building and strategic communications efforts supporting Michigan’s arts, culture, arts education and creative industries.

“When the private sector and arts, culture, arts education and the creative industries work collaboratively, we see more vibrant communities that attract and retain talent and act as hubs for activity and economic vitality,” said Goulet. “I’m looking forward to contributing my time and talents to foster a greater connection that builds a stronger future for their potential work together.”

The Private Sector Council represents the Private Sector Network—a segment of the professional members of Americans for the Arts whose goal is to increase private sector support for the arts. The Council is an advisory group charged with helping Americans for the Arts develop and implement private sector advocacy programs and serves as leaders to other local arts agencies seeking to connect with the private sector.

“As private sector support for the arts continues to diminish amid a sluggish economy, the work of this council is more important than ever,” says Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “We are thrilled to welcome Jennifer to the Council. Her support for the arts in her community is a testament and an inspiration to others as they work to ensure that the arts thrive in America.”

Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of 50 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.

ArtServe Michigan is a statewide nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to cultivating the creative potential of Michigan’s arts and cultural sector and creative industries to enhance the public health and well-being of Michigan, its people and communities. ArtServe advocates for arts, culture, arts education and the power of the creative economy in Michigan; provides leadership and professional development for artists, creative practitioners, and arts and cultural organizations; and connects arts and cultural leaders and supporters through strategic communications. Contact ArtServe Michigan at 248-912-0760 or visit ArtServeMichigan.org.

MICHauto Legislative Briefing

Automotive Hall of Fame
21400 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, Michigan 48124
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
5:30  to 8 p.m.

Please join the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto program for a legislative briefing at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Attendees will hear from state senators and representatives on business-related legislation and initiatives, pending in Lansing. The legislators will participate in a paneled discussion, moderated by Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations, Brad Williams, and answer questions from the crowd.

Topics of discussion will include but are not limited to personal property tax, Brownfield Redevelopment Incentives, the New International Trade Crossing, regulatory reform and more. The discussion will be tailored to automotive interests but registration is open to anyone interested in keeping their finger on the pulse of Lansing.

This event is free and includes hors d’oeuvres and a beer and wine bar, register todayPlease note space is limited.


5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Registration and Networking
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Legislative Briefing
7:30 – 8 p.m. Networking

Confirmed speakers:

State Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit)

Member of Senate Appropriations Committe, Minority Vice-Chair of the Senate LARA
General Government and Judiciary appropriations subcommittees
Member of Senate Redistricting Committee
Minority Vice-Chair of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake)

Chairman of Senate Economic Development Committee
Vice Chair of Senate Transportation Committee
Member of Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee
Member of Senate Reforms, Restructuring, Reinventing Committee

State Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica)

Assistant Majority Floor Leader
Member of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee
Member of House Commerce Committee
Member of House Tax Policy Committee

State Representative Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak)

Member of House Tax Policy Committee
Member of House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee

Register now.

Please contact Rob Luce at 313.596.0383 for more information.

Presenting Sponsor: