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Detroit could be immigrants’ dream land

February 11, 2014

Congress is about to resume its annual and pointless debate over illegal immigration, with Republicans insisting that before anything else gets done the government finish building a barrier the length of the border with Mexico.


At one point while Congress was mired in stalemate, Michael Bloomberg, then New York mayor, brought some fresh thinking to bear on the immigration issue, proposing the following:


The United States would welcome families under this condition: “We’re going to assign you a city — let’s say Detroit — you’ve got to agree to not be arrested and not take any federal, state or city money, and you’ve got to live there for seven years and if you survive seven years, we’ll make you and your family full citizens.”


There were a few red flags in there. That word “survive,” for example. One Detroit blogger suggested that if the immigrants survived one night in certain parts of the city they deserved immediate citizenship.


Detroit took a while to warm to the plan, but having seen its population fall from 1.8 million to 700,000, finally embraced it.


And why not? No one else wanted to move to a city whose most well-known landmark is the massive ruined hulk of a once grand but not abandoned railroad station.


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is seeking Washington’s help in bringing 5,000 immigrants this year, rising to 15,000 a year by the fifth year of the program, to live and work in Detroit. Snyder, it would seem to us, was aiming just a trifle high.


The governor is seeking 50,000 immigrants “with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities in science, business or the arts.”


Bloomberg theorized that illegal immigrants, safe from deportation and on a path to citizenship — as long as they stayed within the city limits, would reclaim derelict neighborhoods, start small businesses, have a low crime rate and, “Since they value education, they’d make a big fuss and demand that the schools get better.”


All of this sounds quite plausible, and if the idea works, exhausted, frightened and soaked illegal immigrants may climb out of the Rio Grande to find waiting for them — not border control agents, do-gooders bearing food and water or the thugs who prey on desperate illegals but smiling members of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, jostling with similar delegations from Cleveland, Buffalo and Youngstown.


— The Gleaner, Henderson, Ky.