Immigration sense

Gov. Snyder: Depopulated Detroit can be rebuilt with strength of immigrants


Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has a bright idea to help rebuild devastated and depopulated Detroit: immigrants.

Last week, Mr. Snyder said he would ask the federal government to help him bring 50,000 immigrants with advanced degrees and special abilities to the bankrupt Motor City, which has lost more than half its population since the 1950s. Washington already has such a program, under which 40,000 “EB2” visas are granted nationwide each year.

The governor wants about one-quarter of these visas reserved for his state for the next five years, on the condition that the recipients live and work in Detroit. This makes a lot of sense, for a lot of reasons.

Immigrants are, and always have been, a significant driving force in the American economy. They are far more likely today to start businesses than native-born Americans. And if any place on the planet urgently needs investment and job creation, it is Detroit.

Nor would many of these newcomers necessarily be strangers: More than 20,000 foreign students are enrolled in Michigan universities, many of them specializing in engineering, technology, and health care.

Such fields would be highly beneficial to a city and a state that are trying to rebuild their economies. Governor Snyder clearly would like to hang onto the best and brightest of these students.

In the past, talk of encouraging immigration in the city went nowhere, partly because of fears that newcomers would take jobs from Detroiters. These days, there are virtually no jobs to take, new job creators are desperately needed, and Detroit’s new mayor and City Council president are solidly behind the idea.

“Isn’t this a great way that doesn’t involve large-scale financial contributions from the federal government to do something dramatic on Detroit?” Mr. Snyder correctly asked. The Obama Administration, and, if necessary, Congress should help him give this idea a try.