Hire Michigan First would prevent hiring of illegal workers

By State Rep. Fred Miller
Published in The Macomb Daily – August 31, 2007

A letter writer to The Macomb Daily mischaracterized my position on the subject of illegal immigrants receiving taxpayer-funded benefits. I’m taking this opportunity to set the record straight and let you know how I am working to address this issue.

First and foremost, I am against giving illegal immigrants taxpayer-funded benefits to go to college in Michigan.

This issue was raised during debate on a higher education funding bill recently. I joined with a majority of the House of Representatives in voting to exclude it from the budget bill not because this is acceptable, but because there is a time and place to deal with every issue. An issue as complex and emotional as illegal immigration deserves consideration on its own, not in the middle of the night during a marathon legislative budget session.

To the contrary, I have been actively working on the issue of illegal immigrants in Michigan as it relates to the economy and jobs because that is what the people I represent have told me is most important. Earlier this month I was proud to stand with many of my colleagues, some business owners, and working men and women across the state to propose the Hire Michigan First initiative. This tough approach would hold companies accountable and crack down on those that receive taxpayer-funded benefits and then break the law by hiring illegal workers. When there are unemployed Michigan residents ready, willing and able to work on state-subsidized projects, it is a travesty that some companies bring in illegal workers in order to boost their profits at taxpayer expense.

The state gives away $1.25 billion a year in taxpayer-funded incentives, mostly tax breaks and abatements, to lure companies to Michigan and create jobs. However, all too often the jobs created are filled by employees from other states or countries. Hire Michigan First would give preference to the companies that hire Michigan workers first when those tax economic incentives are awarded. This would apply to state programs like the 21st Century Jobs Fund, Industrial Development/Plant Rehabilitation Tax Abatements, the Brownfield Redevelopment Financing Act and several others.

The people of Michigan deserve to know that their tax dollars are going toward creating jobs for Michigan residents.

Under our Hire Michigan First proposal, we will revoke tax breaks and other economic incentives for those companies that take advantage of taxpayer-supported programs and incentives only to break the law and hire illegal workers or cut corners that jeopardize workplace safety. When companies take advantage of state economic development programs or accept taxpayer dollars, Michigan workers deserve the first crack at those jobs.

Michigan tax dollars should not be underwriting contracts with businesses that hire people from other states and countries over our own workers.

I guarantee the people of Michigan have not heard the last of the illegal immigration issue. As election season draws closer, politicians will play upon our feelings and fears, and try to paint their opponents as somehow putting the interest of illegal immigrants ahead of Michigan families. It is as absurd as it sounds, but absurdity is par for the course when politicians are involved.

I say the issue of illegal immigration is too important to become a tool for partisan political warfare. It deserves serious debate and consideration, not to be used for games of political “gotcha” during an all-night legislative session. I am committed to using my position and the House committee that I chair to hold discussion and debate on these issues and the Hire Michigan First legislation.

Miller, a Democrat, represents District 31 in Macomb County.

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