The GOP Immigration Plan to Save Detroit – And Syria

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, is upset about the number of immigrants in his state—in his estimation there are far too few of them. In contrast with Republican politicians who want to rein in president Obama’s executive actions on immigration, the governor asked the Obama Administration early last year to use its executive powers to designate 50,000 extra visas to the Detroit metro area for high-skilled immigrants. Citing population loss and the need to jumpstart the Motor City economically (Detroit had just filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy), Snyder—a former CEO for Gateway Computer and head of a venture capitalist firm—called on his state to “embrace immigration.”

Those calls have gotten softer in recent months as the nativist rhetoric emanating from Republican candidates for president has gotten louder. But the issue can’t be ignored entirely. As Europe deals with 4 million Syrian refugees and the Obama administration pledges to admit more of these migrants, the logic of encouraging immigration to Detroit—with its large, welcoming ethnically Middle Eastern population—is only getting stronger. Germany has been quite candid about one of the reasons it is accepting a large portion of the Syrians: it has an aging population and needs younger workers to help pay into the system that will support their baby boomers in retirement. Germany, in effect, has merged humanitarian goals with economic needs. Detroit is well suited to doing the same.

One would think that there might be some movement to alleviate Detroit’s depopulation and Syria’s humanitarian crisis with a single executive order. But during this election year, with Donald Trump at the forefront, the issue of immigration reform has been narrowed to how ranchers in Southern Arizona feel about migrants, not how a Midwest city looking to climb out of a hole that has been getting deeper for more than 50 years sees them, which could cause conflict between Republicans in the Midwest and Republican presidential candidates in the months to come.

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New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…