U.S. Regional Immigration

The problem with viewing immigrants as baby factories that are up for bid and welcoming the foreign born as a solution to population issues.
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Statue of Liberty. (PHOTO: PETERJBELLIS/FLICKR)

Statue of Liberty. (PHOTO: PETERJBELLIS/FLICKR)

The United States border must be protected from invading armies, commerce, and migrants. That's the job of the federal government, a constitutional mandate. That is, if you listen to contemporary champions of original intent. The history of international commerce is the most muddled. Does your business benefit from the nanny state? There's your history. At the other end of the spectrum is military aggression. The right to self-defense against an existential threat isn't controversial. Immigrants weren't an existential threat. As legal scholar Gerald Neuman detailed in his book, Strangers to the Constitution: Immigrants, Borders, and Fundamental Law, border control usually fell to sub-federal jurisdictions. The state power we've come to take for granted today is an artifact of the late 19th century. See Lucy Salyer's excellent Laws Harsh as Tigers: Chinese Immigrants and the Shaping of Modern Immigration Law.

Thanks to economic globalization, the immigration policy debate has come full circle. City-states such as New York are international powerhouses. One border control policy does not fit all regions. Rescue the Rust Belt:

In the United States, advocates of a regional visa program say it would harness a global supply to meet clear domestic needs. Millions of people around the world want to move to the United States, and many parts of the country—especially depopulated cities like Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh—would love to welcome motivated new residents. Adding some immigration on a purely regional basis would loosen the restrictive system overseen by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, the argument goes, without forcing more newcomers on less welcoming states like Arizona.

Emphasis added. Ugh. Immigrants aren't baby factories up for bid. I'm tired of reading about welcoming the foreign born as a solution to a population problem. Cleveland doesn't have a population problem. It has an economic problem. It has a political problem. Immigrants in small numbers can make a huge difference, even if they don't fill all the vacant homes left behind by sprawl.

The primary interest in bodies, even from immigrant rights activists, is dehumanizing. People desire upward mobility opportunities, not your neighborhood leftovers. If a Chinese entrepreneur chooses to live in Shaker Heights instead of Slavic Village, then you'll bar the door?

A good way to leverage immigration to help struggling Rust Belt cities is to offer green cards to doctoral graduates from Case Western University. The world should know that studying in Cleveland is the fastest path to U.S. citizenship. Where such talent wants to live after that is her choice. People develop, not places.

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