The idea struck nearly twenty-five ago in1989 while on my first trip to China.
Why not open up the immigration gates to hard working, entrepreneurial Chinese to help fill the void caused by gaping holes in vacant downtown offices buildings, empty lots and emptying neighborhoods?
The idea seemed far-fetched at the time but is looking more plausible today.
Back then, I was a resident of Detroit – “The Renaissance City”, sporting my Emily Gail”Say Nice Things About Detroit” t-shirt.
I was and still am a big Detroit booster. My old neighborhood of North Rosedale Park and surrounding area was and remains an island of excellence surrounded by pockets of dispair. But the despair and decay is far greater today than yesterday.
Both Detroit and America were built on that motto inscribed on the Statue of Liberty plaque – America’s international welcoming symbol, reading in part:
“Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
When we look at all of the possible solutions currently being tossed about to re-populate the hollowed-out city of Detroit which has lost nearly 1.3 million people since the 1950s, attracting more immigrants from China and other nations holds great promise.
My eyes popped with the sheer levels of hustle, hard work, and entrepreneurial spirit I witnessed back in 1989 while walking the streets of Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xian and exiting through the then-British managed colony of Hong Kong.
Our country has been and continues to be built on the energy of immigrants. When the doors are open, people of the world walk into America. They pour their energies into their homes and neighborhoods, growing families and creating vibrant new businesses. As they become settled, other family members follow and the process begins anew.
Governor Snyder, the self-described “most immigrant friendly governor in America” gets it when he said, “We always have been a welcoming country. If we made a short list of what made America great, immigration would be on it. Immigrants have left a positive, indelible imprint on our state and nation.”
Yet, according to Kurt Metzger, of Data Driven Detroit, Detroit has not been keeping up when it comes to attracting people from other lands: “While overall population loss since 1950 has been accompanied by consistent drops in rank, Detroit still holds a ranking of 18th place in terms of total population as of 2012. When you look at our ranking based on our immigrant population, we drop to an abysmal 135th place.”
Like Sgt. Friday, just the facts. DemographerMetzger points out that today, Detroit has one of the lowest percentages of immigrants (5 percent) among all communities in the metro region.
Out Of Pain Comes Strength
Detroit’s decline creates renewed strength and hope for opportunity. It has an abundance of affordable commercial and residential property, an emerging business friendly government, a strong work ethic, and active ethnic social, professional, and business organizations. These make Detroit a bargain by anyone’s standards for people able to look beyond the blight to see the gem shining beneath.
Why not consider a comprehensive plan, with support from our state and nation’s capitols, to create a special immigration/green card. Come to Detroit as the 21st century homesteading plan. Fast track the card for those in the country illegally. Create a pathway to citizenship for them to live in and create businesses in Detroit.
Africans, Indians, Mexicans, Chinese, Russians, Europeans, Latin and CentralAmericans, Middle Easterners – all-come on down to MoTown!
Welcome to Detroit.
Tom Watkins has been a participant/observer of the political/policy scene in Detroit and Michigan for over 30 years. He is a US/China business, healthcare and educational consultant. Follow him on twitter @tdwatkins88. Email: tdwatkins88gmail.com