Democrat Says Gentrification Won’t Save Detroit—Only Hope Is Tightening Labor Market By Ending “America Last” Immigration Policies
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According to How to Fix Detroit in Barron’s Magazine [by Jonathan Lang, March 17, 2014], there is great optimism about the coming recovery of the Motor City. The plan seems to be to bring in skilled workers to gentrify the city and create a stable tax base. The price of this plan: general obligation bond holders will take an 80% (!) haircut and retired workers will endure major cuts to their pensions.

Detroit’s former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is serving 28 years in prison as a result of multiple corruption charges. But a new breed of Detroit leaders such as CEO of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert, new mayor Mike Duggan, and state-appointed administrator Kevyn Orr are trying to attract creative entrepreneurs.

Unfortunately, although I am a Democrat, I am more pessimistic. I hear what University of Pennsylvania historian and former Detroit resident Tom Sugrue is quoted as saying:

I question how the influx of 10,000 to 20,000 hipsters, artists, techies and young professionals into downtown and midtown can provide enough trickle-down for blacks, who make up 83% of the city’s population and are desperately poor. No Rust Belt city—not Cleveland, not Pittsburgh—has a black underclass nearly as large or a history of racial conflict as fraught as Detroit’s".

Of course we all hope the revitalization of Detroit will succeed. And perhaps it will. After all, Pittsburgh was able to convert tself from a “steel city” into a world class medical research and services provider. However, Detroit has a unique history and level of civic corruption.  

Attracting some hipsters isn’t going to save Detroit by itself, especially if they are not welcomed by existing residents. And it especially isn’t going to work if the overwhelmingly black residents of the city are not given a realistic chance at economic recovery.

This our government simply will not do. The first African American President in our history, whom I believe is a decent, solid family man, is effectively ignoring the city’s disadvantaged. It is logically impossible to square genuine compassion for America’s underprivileged with his almost fanatical insistence on not enforcing our immigration laws and encouraging an increase legal and illegal immigration. Remember, in the very city where President Obama lives, 40% of the young African American males are unemployed! [Have DC’s black unemployed become invisible? by Ken Archer, Greater Greater Washington, September 8, 2011]

Given this reality, how can anyone who cares about our African-American population believe that what our country really needs is a vast new pool of cheap labor that will undercut our existing workers?

Despite the outraged citizen reactions funneled through the brave campaigns of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, NumbersUSA,, and Progressives for Immigration Reform, so-called “Comprehensive Immigration Reform”—what rightly calls the “Amnesty/ Immigration Surge"— is still on the agenda.  

The Civil Rights groups, labor unions, and self-described progressives who are on the side of Open Borders are deliberately hurting the interests of poor African-Americans, who need real jobs and good wages. All the cries of “racism” directed at immigration patriots are really attacks on the only people who are actually doing something to defend the economic interests of black Americans.  

And ultimately, black Americans are the only ones who can rebuild cities like Detroit.

Ultimately, secure borders have to be at the top of any pro-worker or pro-African American agenda. America’s cities can’t be saved just by bringing in more trendy restaurants or yoga studios. Cities like Detroit can only be brought from the brink by rebuilding our manufacturing capability and giving real opportunity to workers by tightening up the labor market.

America isn’t a corporation—it’s a country, and a democratic country at that. When we see Detroit, we see the consequences of decades of “America Last” policies.

If we don’t want the rest of the country to look that way—we better change course, and fast.

Donald A. Collins [email him], is a freelance writer living in Washington DC and a former long time member of the board of FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. His views are his own.

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