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Dayton!

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Matt Yglesias picks up the story about the ‘Welcome Dayton’ plan that’s been circulating since the AP picked up the story. A few comments:

1. The pictured establishment, Taqueria Mixteca, is an oasis in a vast taco wasteland. The quality of life here is substantially higher for it. (Similarly, Halal international foods in South Park, opened by an Iraqi immigrant, is a godsend in a part of town that doesn’t have a proper grocery store. I now have informed and strong views on the relative merits of Egyptian, Saudi, and Syrian-style fava beans.)

2. This sort of thing is, of course, the flipside to what’s going on in Alabama and other places. One of the many reasons immigration enforcement is likely to be ineffective is de facto immigration federalism.  Some cities choose the ‘sanctuary city’ route because that set of policies broadly reflects the political values of the majority of residents. That’s probably part of the story in Dayton, but the larger reason is that Dayton desperately needs people–to live in empty houses, open businesses in empty storefronts, shop at existing businesses, and so on. The world has plenty of people willing to give Dayton a shot, but nowhere near enough of them are currently authorized to do so. Declining revenues from property taxes contribute to inadequate public services, weak schools, and so on exert a continued downward pressure on the city. When restrictionists hold up the native low skill poor as those whose interests we’re protecting in our efforts to close borders, they’re ignoring those who still live in places like Dayton, and lack the resources to move to the suburbs, whose lives are made demonstrably worse by the downward trajectory of their city.

3. There are about 142K residents in this city, and it could easily accomodate twice that number. That’s a 14% decline since 2000. There are entire blocks in West Dayton being reclaimed by nature, Detroit style. But the economic situation in the Dayton Metro area is bad, but not uniquely so. The recent losses of the last GM plant and NCR were huge, but the presence of a fair number of colleges and universities, hospitals, and a huge Air Force Base that employs over 30 thousand people provide a buffer. The unemployment rate is only modestly worse than the national average. Like Detroit, however, the city has been almost entirely abandoned by anyone with options, many of whom are staggeringly indifferent to the fate of Dayton proper. Outside of a handful of small neighborhoods near the city center, beautiful historic homes in the city are basically free if they need any significant work. Part of this is poor governance on the part of the city (including a bafflingly and pointlessly hostile environment for small business, an issue that probably deserves its own post), weak schools, crime, and so on, part of it is about race, but a significant part of it the culture of suburban living in this region. At any rate, it’s pretty obviously good for the city and the region to have more immigrants move to this city, regardless of their official status.

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