New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg
Sunday on Meet the Press, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a suggestion about how to revitalize the economy—let in all immigrants who want to come here but require that they live in Detroit for five to ten years. Bloomberg explained that dispatching immigrants directly to Detroit would solve two problems simultaneously: energize the economy and repopulate the struggling Motor City.

Moderator David Gregory must have been more intent on framing his next question than in listening to Bloomberg. "Let me ask you about taxes," Gregory said, failing to follow up.

I called a few Chicagoans who have records of serious thinking about immigration to ask them to comment on the Bloomberg proposal.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who ran third in the mayoral primary, called the proposal "silly" and said that the very suggestion of such a plan on a serious national news program shows the burning need for comprehensive immigration reform.  

Del Valle also asked, “Why Detroit? Why not Chicago?” He argued that Chicago has many neighborhoods that are desperate for economic development, mentioning particularly the heavily Hispanic Little Village.

Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), described Bloomberg as "good on immigration," and suggested that NYC’s mayor was “using hyperbole to make a provocative point"—that immigrants have helped to keep New York vital and could work similar magic on Detroit. (On Meet the Press, Bloomberg said, "…this is a country that became a superpower because of the immigrant population, and unless we continue to have immigrants, we cannot maintain as a superpower.")  

Hoyt said that he and a few of his colleagues had a "good meeting" with Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel a few weeks ago, but he described Emanuel’s record on immigration as "terrible." Hoyt called Emanuel out particularly for describing immigration reform as "the third rail of American politics" and for pushing the issue "to the back burner." According to Hoyt, the increase in deportations during the current administration—they have doubled under Obama, he says, as compared to George W. Bush—can be traced to Emanuel’s statements during his tenure as the president’s chief of staff.

A call to U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez, certainly among the most outspoken members of Congress on the issue of immigration, was not returned by post time. His press secretary told me that the congressman was en route from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Washington.


Photograph: Spencer T. Tucker