In 2013 Jeb Bush called for admitting more immigrants to “repopulate” Detroit:
It just seems to me that maybe if you open up our doors in a fair way and unleashed the spirit of peoples’ hard work, Detroit could become in really short order, one of the great American cities again. Now it would look different, it wouldn’t be Polish…But it would be just as powerful, just as exciting, just as dynamic. And that’s what immigration does and to be fearful of this, it just seems bizarre to me.
This wasn’t a one-time thing. A couple months later he said again, responding to an immigrant questioner, “I think Detroit would do real well if we started repopulating it with young, aspirational people, people like yourself.”
An op-ed in Friday’s New York Times puts flesh on the bones of this notion by calling for repopulating Detroit with refugees from the Syrian Civil War. The authors — a Stanford professor and a former housing bureaucrat from New York — suggest admitting 50,000 Syrians a year from refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey and conducting “accelerated security checks” on them. Also, “grants from the federal government and from philanthropic foundations would be needed to help the local Arab-American community supply social services for the newcomers.”
Hoo-boy! This may be the dumbest idea that’s appeared in the Times’ editorial pages in a while, and that’s saying something. To begin with, the concept of “repopulating” with immigrants places from which Americans have fled is absurd – why do you think there’s a need for “repopulating” in the first place? Living in Detroit is a job Americans won’t do because of dysfunctional, corrupt, and despotic government, terrible schools, high crime. The call for immigrant settlement as a solution is merely a way to avoid grappling with the fallout of decades of liberal governance. If the bad policies that drove people away in the first place were corrected, you wouldn’t need immigrants to live in Detroit because Americans would do it. If you don’t fix the problems, then immigration is merely a band-aid – worse, really, because it’s a strategy designed to permit dysfunctional government to continue its perverse ways for a few more years (until the immigrants move out too).
But what about Syrians specifically? Well, ten pages back from that op-ed in the very same section of the paper was the report of the arrest of an Iraqi translator for the U.S. military, who was allowed to move here in 2009, for pledging loyalty to ISIS and going to join it. Presumably, this man had undergone several security checks, and maybe not even the “accelerated” kind the op-ed writers assure use would be adequate for the scores of thousands of Syrians they say we should admit. And the FBI thinks we may have admitted dozens of terrorists as refugees, including two Iraqis arrested in 2009 for having made roadside bombs used to kill American soldiers.
This is why even this administration has admitted fewer than 1,000 refugees from Syria so far, though there appear to be plans for many thousands more. And almost all of those we’ve admitted so far are Muslims; a suggestion to admit only Christian Syrians (which the op-ed doesn’t put forth in any case) wouldn’t survive one second in this administration, or even Congress.
The Times piece ends with arguments so hilariously unpersuasive it’s hard to imagine what the writers were thinking. They offer, presumably as a sop to troglodyte Republicans, the observation that most of “the community” (without specifying Arabs or Muslims, in Detroit or nationwide) voted for W in 2000. Well, that was before 9/11 and partly the result of Bush’s pledging to weaken anti-terrorism measures. In every presidential election since, Muslims have voted 80–90 percent for the Democrat.
The authors’ closing argument is that resettling thousands of Syrians in Detroit “would send a powerful message to President Bashar al-Assad, the Islamic State and the world about American compassion and ingenuity.” No, really, that’s what they wrote.
Once Jeb gets his Iraq War answer straight someone should ask him if this is what he has in mind for “repopulating” Detroit.