Michigan Governor Rick Snyder believes immigration may be the solution to some of Detroit’s woes. After pledging to support a payment of $350 million to help the city shore up its pension system and keep its art collection, Snyder announced yesterday that he will also seek federal approval for a plan that would grant visas to 50,000 highly skilled foreign workers to come and work in Detroit over the next five years. If the plan works, Snyder hopes, it could help revitalize the city and reverse the massive population decline Detroit has endured for the past half-century. The New York Times reports:
“Isn’t that how we made our country great, through immigrants?” said Mr. Snyder, a Republican, who last year authorized the state’s largest city to seek bankruptcy protection and recently announced plans to open a state office focused on new Americans.
Later, he added, “Think about the power and the size of this program, what it could do to bring back Detroit, even faster and better.”
Perhaps he should temper his optimism. The federal government has yet to receive an official proposal, and the concept of providing city-specific visas is relatively untested and potentially difficult to implement.
Still, the idea is a smart one if the city can make it work. Immigrants have always played a key role in creating dynamic and prosperous cities, and highly skilled immigrants in particular have the potential to bring new businesses and techonologies to their adopted homes. Over the past few years, studies have credited immigrants with three-quarters of university patents from top schools, while another found that each STEM immigrant creates an average of 2.62 jobs for Americans. This would be beneficial anywhere in the country, but it’s particularly needed in Detroit, which is desperate for new industries and the jobs that they bring with them.