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    Will a Refugee Shortage Affect Detroit’s Famed Comeback?

    Will a Refugee Shortage Affect Detroit’s Famed Comeback?

    Will a Refugee Shortage Affect Detroit’s Famed Comeback?Refugees have buoyed the region, but their declining numbers have raised concerns about the area’s economic growth.
    By Trevor Bach Contributor Feb. 28, 2019, at 3:31 p.m.





    Raeda Al Hayek walks her daughter Layal to the bus stop in Bloomington Hills, Mich. Her family, including her younger brother, Taym, and father, Nedal, arrived to the U.S. as refugees in June 2015.

    (AVI GUPTA FOR USN&WR)

    Does Detroit Need Refugees to Thrive?

    DETROIT — IN THE SUMMER of 2013, AGS Automotive, a Canadian parts manufacturer with subsidiaries in metro Detroit, quickly needed line workers. The company was expanding and had acquired a 360,000 square-foot facility in Sterling Heights, Michigan, a blue-collar suburb, where it would produce truck bumper assemblies. After working with a staffing agency, supervisors hired about 100 newly arrived Iraqi refugees.


    "The biggest challenge was the language barrier, initially," says Jennifer Rizk, a human resources manager. But the company adapted, leaning on bilingual employees and translating documents into Arabic. Over time other issues, like some male employees' reluctance to take directions from women, also abated. The Iraqis, some of whom already had engineering or other technical backgrounds, proved to be strong and loyal workers; several became supervisors. AGS hired more. Now, out of the plant's roughly 350 employees, more than half are Iraqi refugees, mostly members of the country's Chaldean Christian minority. "They are high performers," says Rizk. "I would say very appreciative of the opportunity to work."

    But lately AGS – like a lot of Detroit-area companies – is having a much harder time finding quality new recruits. "It's a combination," says Rizk. "The lack of available refugees and then just in general the job market picking up – it's just as a whole made it difficult."

    Among the hallmarks of the Trump administration has been a dramatic tightening of national immigration and refugee policies. In his first week in office, President Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry by citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily suspending all refugee admissions. Since then, the administration has repeatedly slashed American resettlement quotas. Metro Detroit, an economically fragile region that's also home to the country's most established Middle Eastern community, has already felt a squeeze, and many are worried about the policies' long-term financial impact.

    "It's like anything else," says Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. "If you're not growing, you're dying."

    For decades the U.S. accepted more refugees than the rest of the world combined. In the early 1980s, hundreds of thousands were settled from communist Southeast Asia; numbers spiked again in the early 1990s, then dropped precipitously after Sept. 11. Still, in 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency, 60,000 were admitted; under Obama the figure fluctuated between 56,000 and 85,000. In fiscal year 2018 the country accepted only 22,000 – a new national low – and in September the Trump administration further reduced its annual cap for 2019.

    In Detroit, which lost some 35 percent of its population just between 1990 and 2016, a welcoming stance toward immigrants and refugees has been a deliberate component of the city's recovery strategy. In 2015 Mayor Mike Duggan created an Office of Immigrant Affairs to coordinate new arrivals; in the summer of 2017 he hosted around 70 people, including Syrian refugee families, at the mayor's mansion for the city's first Ramadan Iftar dinner.

    "We're rebuilding Detroit in a way that's welcoming to everyone," Duggan told the press. "I thought this was an important message to our newest citizens."

    Recent refugees, particularly from the Middle East, have already buoyed the region, employing hundreds and contributing an estimated $230 million to $295 million to the local economy in 2016 alone, according to an analysis from the nonprofit Global Detroit. In Macomb County, home of the largest Chaldean community outside of Iraq, the influx has revived dying strip malls with new bakeries and lifted a stagnant housing market. Industrial Sterling Heights, once commonly nicknamed "Sterling Whites," has embraced a range of new cultural programs and diversity initiatives, including from the police department.

    "This immigrant community is a community of entrepreneurs," says Manna. "They're not taking people's jobs – they're adding jobs."


    Yet despite both Detroit's and the broader region's welcoming efforts, federal policy has reduced refugee flow to a trickle. From 2008 to 2017 metro Detroit resettled a total of nearly 18,000 refugees, with 2,435 arriving in just 2016, the sixth-most among American metro areas. In 2018 the number was estimated at 72.

    Some impacts have been immediate. Area resettlement agencies, suddenly depleted of funding, have implemented widespread layoffs and cut services. Neighborhood projects, including in Detroit proper, have been stalled. The area labor market has also been pinched, with construction or automotive employers struggling to fill vacancies.

    "We were able to supply companies with workers," says Haifa Fakhouri, president of the Arab American and Chaldean Council. "But now we don't have refugees to send them to work … There is a need, and this new policy is hurting our economy."


    The true cost of the cuts will take time to manifest. It often takes several years for new arrivals to start businesses or otherwise realize their economic potential. Even if the Trump policies are eventually reversed, the missing refugees will mean forgone economic revenue in the tens or hundreds of millions annually, says Steve Tobocman, head of Global Detroit.

    The resettlements "have been a really strong contributor to creating jobs, revitalizing the community, creating more housing," he says. "We're essentially being deprived of that opportunity."

    https://www.usnews.com/news/cities/articles/2019-02-28/metro-detroit-feels-the-impact-of-trumps-immigration-policies





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    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    Get every one of them OFF taxpayer funded benefits, including free healthcare and enforce Public Charge!

    They contribute nothing but overbreeding in poverty with more mouths to feed and unlimited TAXPAYER support for generations!

    Add in the crime, jail, prison, lawyers, court costs, theft!

    Give OUR citizens the opportunity to rebuild these inner cities the DemonRats have destroyed!
    MW likes this.
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    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

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