Global Detroit: Immigration reform now

Out of many, one.

For the past three years the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) has awarded the E Pluribus Unum award to recognize the nation’s leading organizations in immigrant integration. Last September, Metro Detroit captured national attention as ACCESS was named a 2012 E Pluribus Unum award winner. 

Founded out of a Dearborn storefront in 1971, ACCESS is presently the nation’s largest Arab American human services provider, engaging with tens of thousands of individuals each year. With eight locations and over 100 programs, ACCESS provides a holistic approach to integrating Metro Detroit’s Arab American community. Its services range from job training and medical assistance to neighborhood revitalization and include the operation of the Smithsonian-affiliated Arab American National Museum.

Established by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the E Pluribus Unum award grants its winners $50,000 towards their continued service to the immigrant community.

This national recognition coincides with a critical moment for U.S. immigration. After years of advocacy and a very obvious change in the national conversation surrounding immigration, America is on the cusp of passing sweeping federal immigration reform. Republicans and Democrats alike, including former president George W. Bush and U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have spoken loudly of the importance of foreign-born talent and globalization in revitalizing the American economy.
2013 will be an important year for immigration in the U.S., and Southeast Michigan sits in a very unique position to benefit from such reforms. And here’s why:

We have a strong international community. Detroit’s population of foreign-born residents is second only to Chicago in the Midwest. Dearborn, home to ACCESS, has the largest proportion of Arab Americans of any city in the United States. Additionally, the Metro Detroit region seems to attract immigrants whom are even more entrepreneurial and highly educated than the national trend. While nationally immigrants start businesses at twice the rate of native born Americans, Michigan’s immigrants have entrepreneurship rates three times that of the native born Michigander. Michigan immigrants also are 1.5 times more likely to possess a four-year college degree. They are six times as likely to launch a high-tech firm and nearly ten times as likely to file an international patent.

We are forerunners in Immigrant Economic Development. As one of the first such initiatives in the Great Lakes region, Global Detroit sits at the forefront of immigrant economic development. Global Detroit’s programs, such as Welcoming Michigan, have garnered more than $5 million in philanthropic support since 2009 and attracted national recognition in the process. The Global Talent Retention Initiative, launched from the Global Detroit report in 2012, is the nation’s first ever program dedicated to attracting and retaining international students and is now a part of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s statewide Global Michigan program. Since beginning this work in 2009, eight more global and welcoming initiatives sprung up across the Great Lakes region. Immigrant economic development in Michigan also has the strong support of Gov. Snyder, who has declared his intent to be the most "pro-immigrant" governor in America. Through the establishment of the Global Michigan program and his international trade missions, we believe the governor is on track to fulfilling this commitment.

We have unique and attractive international opportunities. Metro Detroit possesses a large number of global firms, a bi-national business culture, and significant populations of educated immigrants and foreign university students. For a Great Lakes industrial center, it has a considerable foreign born population that already makes substantial contributions to the regional economy (in terms of new economy business startups, patent production, and overall economic output) and that already is connected to other regions across the globe. Finally, its urban areas possess a number of the traits that draw new immigrants, such as low housing costs, under-retailed urban markets, and low startup costs for new businesses. 

The potential of Michigan’s international communities and opportunities are overwhelming. Yet we must come together in order to activate this potential.

Global Detroit and ACCESS are currently collaborating with the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit and dozens of nonprofit immigration service providers on a Welcome Mat initiative to create and strengthen a network of Southeast Michigan’s organizations that allows collaboration and cohesion to welcome new Americans to Southeast Michigan. 

Global Detroit and our partners are building the infrastructure for a vibrant economy to hold Michigan’s future, and there is room and need for your involvement and support.

Learn more here, and connect with Global Detroit on Twitter and Facebook to stay tuned in to Metro Detroit’s international conversation.
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