Magazine article Reason

Special Visas for the Rust Belt?

Magazine article Reason

Special Visas for the Rust Belt?

Article excerpt

WITH BIRTH RATES plunging and baby boomers retiring, the American economy is going to need workers. Unless someone comes up with a magical formula to boost fertility, that means we'll need more immigrants.

So the Economic Innovation Group (EIG), a consortium of politically diverse investors, entrepreneurs, and economists, deserves credit for trying to figure out an immigration-based plan that would spare America from the coming labor crisis that could drain economic growth to under 2 percent. But the EIG's proposed solution, which is to create a special category of visas that would repopulate Rust Belt towns and other places that have been left behind by the modern economy, is flawed.

It's true that the Northeast and the Midwest have been hit particularly hard and that they risk falling into a cycle where, as populations shrink, employers flee, taking jobs with them. This erodes the tax base, which in turn impacts public services, causing further population loss. Rinse, wash, repeat.

To reverse this cycle, the EIG suggests granting "Heartland Visas" to skilled foreigners on the condition that they move to depressed areas targeted for renewal, such as Detroit. The authors liken this plan to Canada's Provincial Nominee Program, in which Canada's central government hands every province a number of visas with which to recruit immigrants of their choice, in addition to those admitted by Ottawa. In essence, it lets provinces write their own immigration policies for about a third of those allowed in. …

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