In the current immigration debate that is taking place in the United States, many speak of “jobs that Americans don’t want to do.” While this statement can be argued back and forth over its accuracy that is not my intention here. Rather, I would like to talk about “places Americans don’t want to live.” How many times have we turned on the news recently, only to hear about how much of a wasteland Detroit (or name any Rust Belt city) is and is likely to remain for the foreseeable future? What if someone told you they had a solution not only to the plight of the urban Midwest, but also a partial solution to the immigration problems facing this country? A partial solution, and certainly a step in the right direction, would be to open immigration quotas for select urban areas — allowing immigrants to move there and establish communities and businesses.
Consider the problem that many countries right now are having of a “youth bulge,” where large percentages of the population are under age 40. This age group has a very high unemployment rate and few job prospects in their home country. Many would like to leave and try their luck somewhere else, especially in a country like the United States. But, for better or worse, anyone who wants to come to the U.S. at this point must be highly educated and demonstrate an “economic benefit” to the country or be considered a refugee. These are basically the only two ways a person can legally come to the U.S.
But this still leaves the issue of no American wanting to live in Detroit, and many foreigners wanting to leave their home country. By allowing special immigration quotas from certain countries to come to the city of Detroit, both of these problems can be solved. If immigrants moved strictly to Detroit, this would not only serve to start repopulating the city and increase the tax base, but would also create local businesses.
Now imagine if the city went further and allowed these special quotas for about 20 countries. In an abandoned neighborhood, suddenly you have a thriving community of Egyptians, who need businesses to serve them. Also, by populating these neighborhoods, you make them safer for those who already live there. There are currently many abandoned houses in the city of Detroit, and instead of demolishing them, it would be better to populate them. Instead of people from the suburbs staying out of Detroit at all costs, suddenly they will want to come in to experience the renewed cultural vibrancy of the city.
There are certain difficulties with this. For one, Detroit cannot set its own immigration policy, and the city would have to get approval from the U.S. government to do this. Another potential issue is either the fear or reality that people would come to Detroit, and then leave rapidly to go elsewhere. An obvious solution to this would be to make their visas valid for only Detroit, and while people could leave to shop and work elsewhere, they could only live in the city of Detroit. There would be a sunset clause, say of 10 years, after which people could apply for citizenship and move elsewhere, but for the time, they could not move from the city. Another fear many would also have is that the city might have a high number of unemployed foreigners who need social services. While this is a valid concern, this can be solved by keeping the original number of immigrants allowed to a fairly small number — giving the original arrivals time to develop a support structure for those who come later.
As outlandish as this plan might sound, picture its effects: 20 years from now, instead of a barren urban wasteland, there are vibrant foreign communities in the city of Detroit, and people from all over the world are clamoring to live there. Instead of a lack of businesses and services, there is an abundance of community spirit and cohesiveness, and community safety is at an all-time high.
Alex Hartley is an LSA junior.