Immigration is one of the most contentious fields in policy-making, not only on the European and national, but also on the local level. Due to the declining and ageing populations, European cities today increasingly need immigration. On the other side, right-wing populist parties are increasing, who are following an anti-migrant agenda. This paper examines the opportunities that cities have to more effectively attract migrants at the municipal level. The literature indicates that cities cannot pursue their own migration policies given their dependence on states’ migration regimes. Cities face a dilemma. They are responsible for integrating migrants but not for recruiting them. Urban growth policies and urban planning approaches often aim to attract highly skilled workers, creative classes and students. But cities have no control over the inflow of refugees, however, as they are allocated by the state. Against this backdrop, this article examines and compares the cities of Bremen and Leipzig to assess which immigration strategies German cities are developing and whether a shift from reactive integration plans to proactive immigration policies is occurring. In the conclusion, the paper reflects on factors that encourage and hinder the formulation of immigration strategies and explain the ‘strategy gap’ at the local level.