A packaged of bills collectively dubbed “Hire Michigan First” has passed the Michigan House of Representatives. Backers of the bills say they will help address Michigan’s rising unemployment by rewarding businesses that hire Michigan workers.
At the core of the bills are provisions that would award tax breaks and other incentives to companies that hire Michigan workers. Government programs such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan Growth Authority, and the Renaissance Zone Act would give incentives to companies hiring 100% of their employees from Michigan. In turn, these companies would have to report on who they hire.
Currently, the state government gives away $1 billion in tax breaks to draw businesses to Michigan in hopes of creating jobs.
Initiative Pushed Using Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric
However, while the legislation may be forward-thinking in some respects and has been promoted by progressive groups, it has been promoted in some quarters using anti-immigrant rhetoric.
One of the sponsors–Marc Corriveau of Northville–has talked up portions of the legislation that would increase penalties for companies that hired undocumented workers, stating:
“We must reward businesses that hire Michigan workers rather than businesses that choose to hire illegal workers.”
Corriveau also touted the idea that the bill “cracks down” on companies hiring undocumented workers by making them pay back state incentives and banning them from future contracts if they are found to use undocumented labor.
The rhetoric around undocumented immigrants promotes a common reactionary myth that it is undocumented immigrants–and not neoliberal trade and economic policies–that are responsible for job losses in the United States. While it is certainly true that some businesses hire undocumented workers, the rhetoric surrounding this issue rarely addresses what causes immigrants to move to the United States in the first place.