Tag Archives: detroit

Immigrant Visa Type: D-1 (Detroit)

First in the series of indeterminate length, Recolonizing Detroit

Before I start, I encourage you to check out Forbes Magazine’s interactive map of American internal migration. It is fun on a bun.

Matthew Yglesias idly suggested that instead of shrinking Detroit, issue visas for immigrants willing to relocate there. This would work like an EB-5 visa, but would target people without money. Ironically, Detroit, and indeed all of Michigan, is notably absent from the list of approved Regional Centers for EB-5 investment.

He’s not the first to suggest such an idea. The reason why you want to attract immigrants is because Americans clearly aren’t interested in Detroit. Ideally you’d want to bring in people to invest, but since there are a limited number of these, you most likely will need to attract those from countries where Detroit is a step up. Yglesias specifically mentions Haiti, Gaza, Myanmar, Chad, and Nicaragua as potential sources for immigrants. Detroit already home to one of the largest Arab-American communities, and the largest mosque in the United States, so it is possible that immigrants from the sub-Sarharan Africa would find an existing community into integrate.

Predictably there were those claiming he wants to create some sort of immigration concentration camp, but that wasn’t the proposal at all, and mostly betrays an opinion of Detroit. I’ve been to Detroit, and while it’s the only place I’ve been where the nightlife was in the suburbs instead of the city, and peeking over the sound dampening walls reveals a city that has clearly seen much better days, it is not Detroit Maximum Security Prison.

The biggest problem with Yglesias’s idea is that simply replacing the residents with people from some of the poorest, and slowest economically growing parts of the world, doesn’t bring the investments needed to make Detroit stabilize, let alone thrive again. If poor people was all that what was needed, then subSaharan Africa would be rich. Is Detroit too corrupt to succeed? I doubt it, Prisoner 702408 notwithstanding.

The real impediment seems to be failing to diversifying the economy beyond automobiles. Detroit is, and should remain, a manufacturing city. Its location on the Great Lakes, between steel and energy production sites is perfect. Ann Arbor, home of the top engineering schools is close by, so an educated workforce could still be attracted. What is needed is leadership and money, not just people. How simply attracting the tired, poor, huddled masses, wretched refuse, and homeless changes this situation isn’t clear. Of course, the history this country has been one of dregs of all different societies coming for a better life; and it appears to have worked out for us.

On the flip slide the meme of the self-made rugged individualist is a myth. Rugged individual has always relied on the government to establish the conditions, and relied on the established elite (which includes the government) for aid in achieving the “self-made” endeavor. How this hypothetical poor immigrant ingratiates him/herself with the gatekeepers of capital, remains a mystery.

Recolonizing Detroit

Zeroth in the series of indeterminate length, Recolonizing Detroit

Two months ago, I began thinking about how economic growth could be promoted in depressed areas. The catalyst for this was reading two ostensibly unrelated articles. The first explicitly referred to Detroit, the second was a more oblique reference. Both of these articles did discuss how immigration, investment, and governments interact to promote or discourage growth.

Originally I was going to put these thoughts down in a single post, but as I wrote it, it grew so large and meandering that it became unwieldy for a simple blog post. Instead decided to break it up into a series of smaller and medium sized posts.

I’m doing this for two reasons. First, trying to write something long in the WordPress editor just doesn’t work. A word processor may just be a glorified text box, but somehow writing in WordPress just feels awkward. Maybe it’s due to a unconscious bias using a web browser elicits. I don’t know, but it’s not working for me. Second, I don’t feel like I have the time to devote to a single long and well organized writing. Even if I did have the time, part of me doubts that it would be any good. This isn’t an essay, since I’m not arguing for anything. I don’t know what this would be. It’s just a collection of thoughts, some more thought out than others. By breaking my thoughts into smaller pieces, perhaps will disguise these failings.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to have this blog careen over the hill and into the chasm of lefty political blog. I still have plenty of electronic plants to post about, so art will always remain the focus. Think of this as logical extension of the infrastructure posts.


In the original Sim City there were these scenarios that you could play. You were given a city and problem to solve. San Francisco 1906? Earthquake. (Remember, in the even of a major disaster, you may need to be self sufficient for up to 72 hours. Are you prepared? I’m not.) Tokyo 1961? Monster. You get the picture. They were all fairly straight forward, except one. Detroit 1972. Problem? Well… Detroit.

It’s become a contemporary American past time to bash Detroit. I’m not looking to do that. All I will say that I’ve been to Detroit, and it’s the only place I’ve been where the nightlife was in suburbs instead of the city, and peeking over the sound barriers on the freeway never revealed a nice part of town. It’s clearly a city that has seen better days, and has earned its distinction of being a “donut city.”

Its historic buildings are either falling apart, or are being looted for new development elsewhere.

Detroit’s population has steadily shrank since the 1970s, but it still rated as the 11th most populous city, just between San Jose and San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, the city hasn’t depopulated in a controlled manner, so there population is spread thin across the 139 square mile city. This means that Detroit has to maintain an infrastructure for the population 2 million, when less than a million actually use. 40% of the city is fallow. (Of course, this isn’t Detroit’s only problem.)

For years now, one proposed solution to this problem has been to shrink the city. Unoccupied buildings would be condemned, occupied ones bought, and the population relocated closer to downtown. A more controlled Devil’s Night, if you will. Surprisingly, the talk turned serious last year, with the mayor proposing to shrink the city by a fourth.

Today, they started.

Will it work? In 1961, Jane Jacobs described the city as being “largely composed, today, of seemingly endless square miles of low-density failure.” If that’s true, then there’s no core to build around.

Good luck Detroit.