DETROIT — Detroit should take a page from Lady Liberty and shine a beacon of welcome to immigrants as a way to overcome its severe population loss, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.
Mr. Bloomberg floated the proposal during an appearance on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."
Unlike many of America's central cities, New York has seen its population inch up, thanks in large part to a steady influx of immigrants.
Its newcomer-friendly spirit is enshrined in Emma Lazarus's words engraved on the Statue of Liberty, in which the statue is quoted as saying: "I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Bloomberg's prescription for Detroit's salvation came in a discussion about what he called a "crisis of confidence" among business people about the nation's economy. Mr. Bloomberg said the "most obvious" answer is to encourage immigration.
"This is a country that was built by immigrants ... that became a superpower because of its immigrant population, and unless we continue to have immigrants, we cannot maintain as a superpower," he said.
"Take a look at the big, old, industrial cities, Detroit, for example," he said. "They've got a great mayor, Mayor (Dave) Bing, but the population has left. You've got to do something about that. And if I were the federal government, assuming you could wave a magic wand and pull everybody together, you pass a law letting immigrants come in as long as they agreed to go to Detroit and live there for five or ten years. Start businesses, take jobs, whatever."
Detroit has seen its population fall from 1.8 million in the 1950 U.S. Census to 714,000 in 2010. The population dropped 26 percent in the last decade alone.
"You would populate Detroit overnight because half the world wants to come here," Bloomberg said. "We still are the world's greatest democracy. We still have hope that if you want to have a better life for yourself and your kids, this is where you want to come."
Detroit officials were not aware Mr. Bloomberg "was going to make that recommendation," Mr. Bing spokesman Karen Dumas said Sunday night.
"He had not discussed it with the mayor," Ms. Dumas added. "We certainly would like anyone who comes to the city of Detroit to have a quality of life here."