Repopulate Detroit with immigrants?

On May Day 2011, then-New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg (I) appeared on “Meet the Press” and offered an idea for revitalizing the U.S. economy by letting in all immigrants but requiring that they live in Detroit for five to 10 years.

Bloomberg took some hits for a suggestion about repopulation that had an unintended fascistic ring to it. Immigrants would be dispatched directly to Detroit but, presumably, their status with the feds would depend on their staying put.

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Almost three years later, with bankrupt Detroit in increasingly sorry shape — its population shrunk to 700,000 — the idea is back. This time it comes from Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder, who’s asking the feds for 50,000 special immigration visas, called EB-2s, spread over five years. Recipients of the visas would be required to have advance degrees, perhaps coupled with a job offer and proof that an American worker can’t fill the job.

As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the visas would be used “to attract foreign professionals who are willing to work and live in [Detroit] ... The visas could be scooped up by Detroit businesses seeking foreign employees, by individuals from overseas and by immigrants already in the U.S. on temporary visas, especially in the auto, information technology, life-sciences and health-care industries ..."

There are no details on what happens if the immigrants with the advanced degrees settle briefly in Detroit and then decide they’d rather live in the suburbs or maybe even follow a better job to another city or state.

This is worth watching, as desperate times call for desperate action.

Felsenthal is a political blogger and contributing editor for Chicago magazine. She has written biographies on Katharine Graham and Bill Clinton, and profiles on Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Daley and Roger Ebert, among others. Contact her at carolfelsenthal@gmail.com.