Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's Solve Two Problems at Once: Bring the Central American Migrants to Detroit

What to do with Detroit – once one of America’s largest and greatest cities? What to do with the Central American children and adults flooding into Texas? Let's rebuild Detroit with the migrants! Solve two seemingly intractable problems at once at minimal cost. Detroit had 200,000 residents at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Then lightning struck in a bottle in terms of the auto industry. Detroit became the Silicon Valley of the first half of the Twentieth Century. The city peaked at 1,850,000 residents while the suburbs of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Grosse Pointe became the Atherton, Beverly Hills, and Scarsdale of the Midwest. The surrounding counties of Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, St. Clair, Genesee, Livingston, and even Washtenaw, got the overflow from Detroit in auto plants and population. The surrounding counties have survived the collapse of Detroit, the city and the industry. The city proper is down to 721,459 residents Detroit’s downtown shows signs of life with Dan Snyder bringing jobs back into downtown and buying up properties. However, much of the rest of the 139 square miles that comprise Detroit are a wasteland of 79,000 abandoned and blighted homes, and vacant lots. Police patrols in the outlying areas are scarce. Traffic lights are out. Water is being cut off to homes. Crime rates are among the nation’s highest, and gangs run rampant. Survivors often reside in homes with leaky roofs, broken windows, peeling paint, and no utilities. About 12,000 arson fires are set a year, of which 60% are abandoned and blighted houses. That’s Detroit today. An estimated 52,000 minors from Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) have crossed the border this year with another 240,000 adults. An estimated 90,000 minors will cross into the Rio Grand Valley this year and surrender to the Border Patrol. The word is out; they will not be deported. They understand that the Obama Administration will not send them back. We know they are here to stay, at least for the next 2½ years, and probably forever. Thus, they come to America, just as the Irish, Italians, Jews, Armenians, Greeks. Scandinavians, Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Persians, Arabs, Russian, Slavs, Mexicans, Cubans and Dominicans before them. They come to look for the streets paved with gold. They come to America with hope. They come to America for a new beginning. They come to America following family members. They come to America because they have no alternative. They are fleeing high crime, gangs, leaky roofs, broken windows, peeling paint, and no utilities. They will feel at home in Detroit. Detroit’s Mayor Mike Duggan wants to spend $8,500/house to tear down the abandoned homes. President Obama is seeking $3.7 billion to accommodate the migrants who have recently arrived. He claims humanitarian reasons, but does not seek an end to the inflow. One estimate is that President Obama’s request comes to $80,000 per migrant. The border patrol and military are running out of facilities to temporarily house the migrants. They are often caged in facilities. They’re not going to Murietta, but Bell, the embattled Bell, is seeking a fresh start. It wants 120. The government is chartering planes and busses to move them to Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, California and points unknown. America has a viable alternative. Treat the migrants as modern urban pioneers to settle the 90,000 vacant lots and rehabilitate the blighted buildings. The rehab costs should cost less than $80,000 per house, but more than $8,500. The modern urban homesteaders will help in the rebuilding, just as the early pioneers. They can share the efforts, just as the early pioneers. They have land, over 100 square miles to farm. Their energy, their drive, their inspirational could be instrumental in the rebirth of Detroit. Hard work conquered the Great Plains and vast prairies of the Midwest. It can do it again. First Detroit, and then perhaps Flint and the South Bronx. Detroit offers hope and opportunity to these new Americans.

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