Welcome to America ... but You Have to Live in Detroit

How It Works
Jan. 28 2014 12:35 PM

Should Detroit Be Allowed to Issue Its Own Visas to Immigrants?

174029690-downtown-detroit-is-shown-july-19-2013-in-detroit
Help wanted.

Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan is planning to ask for federal approval for a plan aimed at “bringing 50,000 immigrants to the bankrupt city [of Detroit] over five years.” Under the plan, immigrants coming to the U.S. under visas aimed at those with “advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in science, business or the arts” would be “required to live and work in Detroit, a city that has fallen to 700,000 residents from 1.8 million in the 1950s.”

Brandon Fuller of NYU’s Stern Business School meanwhile suggests that rather than giving Detroit a share of existing EB-2 visas, as Snyder is suggesting, the federal government should make additional visas available for state-based programs.

Advertisement

Shikha Dalmia, writing at Reason, is skeptical about the idea, writing that “Immigrants aren’t pioneers whose survival depends on conquering an inhospitable frontier. Yes, they can put up with far greater hardship than the native-born, but they aren’t clueless ingenues who are easily seduced. They have word-of-mouth networks that alert them to places that offer them the best economic and social fit, making it difficult to plunk them anywhere and expect results.”

There’s also the problem that a legal mechanism doesn’t currently exist to force recipients to remain in Detroit once they arrive. This has been an issue in Canada, where a similar plan has been tried at the provincial level.

It’s true that immigrants aren’t a magic elixir that will make the urban desert bloom. But the plan proposed by Snyder, a Republican, comes amid proposals by a number of struggling Rust Belt cities to attract their “fair share” of immigrants. If a number of states set up similar programs, they would still have to compete to make themselves attractive to new arrivals. 

It’s not a magic bullet, and comprehensive reform at the national level still seems preferable. But absent that, it seems worth giving cities like Detroit the opportunity to try.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 9:22 AM The Most Populist Campaign of 2014
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 9:13 AM Clive James, Terminally Ill, Has Written an Exquisitely Resigned Farewell Poem
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.