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We Are All Migrants Here
Immigrants and Newcomers Built Michigan’s Economy

Immigrant Engine of Economic Growth Threatened by Trump
Administration Policy


John Austin
Steve Tobocman

Akaash Kolluri
Global Detroit
Michigan Economic Center

Michigan has literally been made by
Introduction immigrants, as they built communities,
manned our factories and stores, populated
At first blush, when one thinks of states that our academic institutions, founded
have been transformed by immigrants,
companies, and created new businesses that
Michigan might not make your mental list.
put more people to work.

Unlike California, Florida, New York, or
Texas, which have large, transient Today immigrants are one of the relatively

populations, most of Michigan’s population few positive and countervailing economic

was born in the state, the second highest forces in Michigan, and many of our sister

rate in the country after Louisiana. However, Rust Belt States, which have otherwise

throughout our history, the story of experienced years of population decline and

Michigan is very much a story of migrants. an exodus of homegrown talent. Michigan

Newcomers from other parts of this country, immigrants have been a uniquely bright spot

and immigrants from around the world, all of new business growth and entrepreneurial

came seeking the same things: to find a job energy in a state that lost some of its

and do meaningful work, to make a better legendary entrepreneurial zip through

life their families and their children, to build decades of reliance on big, paternal

employers and their unions to provide the
jobs, and to take care of workers and whole
While Michigan for thousands of years has
communities. In Michigan, as has been the
been home to a large and thriving Native
case elsewhere in the nation, immigrants
American population, over the past two
have been the main source of population
centuries Michigan’s industrial and
gains and economic revival for once thriving
economic growth has been fueled by waves
industrial communities experiencing many
of newcomers. First a flood of northern
years of decline.

Europeans in the 1800s came to plow the
rich fields, fell the timber, and mine for Recognizing the economic benefits of
copper and ores in the UP. Then workers immigrants, Michigan’s Republican
from across the globe, and migrants black Governor Rick Snyder, many Michigan
and white came from the South and mayors and local elected leaders, business
Appalachia to work in our booming mills, organizations, and civic leaders have been
machine shops and giant auto plants. A working to make Michigan an immigrant-
more recent wave of Arab, Latino and Asian friendly and welcoming state. This
immigrants has breathed new life into important project, which has to continue if
stagnant communities.
Michigan is to make a true “comeback” and
experience economic revival, is today being
undermined by policies of the current


federal Administration. Travel bans, decade -- growing from 30,000 residents to
immigration raids, walking back high-skill 212,000 in the 1830s -- with Germans and
immigrant visa policies, work together to English settling in the East, Dutch in the
freeze and ultimately reverse the salutary west. The copper and iron ore deposits found
flow of new people, new ideas, new in the UP in the 1840s kicked off a decades-
entrepreneurial energy, and new global long “ore rush” and brought waves of
connections that have been Michigan’s immigrant miners and their families -- the
economic lifeblood. It is an important Cornish from England, the Irish, Germans
moment to examine and clearly illuminate and French Canadians. Finnish immigrants
the true and positive impact of immigrants began settling in large numbers, forming a
on the Michigan economy, and how the population plurality in the northwestern
Trump administration’s policies hurt half of the Upper Peninsula.

immigrants, immigration, and the economic
Michigan’s mighty forests were felled by
prospects of all Michigan citizens. Finally, it
Canadians, Swedes and Norwegians,
is important to lay out a roadmap for how
Germans and Danish who then worked
Michigan can and must continue to reap the
alongside the Poles and Irish, Dutch and
benefits of economic progress and
Italians in the lumber camps and paper mills
population growth fueled by immigrants.

of Muskegon, Kalamazoo, and Bay City. And
when “splendid tinkerers” like Billy Durant
in Flint, and Henry Ford (the son of an
Michigan A State Built immigrant) in Detroit gave birth to the auto

by Migrants industry -- they revolutionized the
industrial process, created the assembly line
and factory-scale economy—which in turn
From its founding to today, Michigan has
brought a new wave of migrants looking for
been the destination, the land of
decent wage and a better life. In 1917 when
opportunity for generations of newcomers.
Henry Ford opened the doors of the Rouge
Michigan was settled early by North
factory -- (his second great invention—the
American standards, by the traders,
first totally integrated factory in which raw
trappers, then the farmers of the French and
materials, sand, iron ore, coal, came in one
British. Cradled by the Great Lakes, when
door, and two days later a Ford Model A
the Erie Canal was completed in 1830
emerged from another) – 100,000 people
connecting Michigan to Eastern and
from over 40 countries went to work.

European markets, immigrants poured in to
farm the rich earth and harvest and export News of good paying factory jobs traveled
the natural bounty of the land. Michigan’s near - drawing migrants from the hills of
population exploded seven fold in one Kentucky and West Virginia and the


sharecropper fields of Tennessee and the destination was Detroit, or Flint, Jackson
Mississippi, and far --luring immigrants or Saginaw. The Great Migration made
from Poland, Italy, Central and Eastern Northern cities like Detroit capitals of
Europe and the Middle East. Eastern African-American life, commerce, culture
European Jews populated North and West and religion. Michigan’s diverse agricultural
Detroit. Arab-Christian grocers from Syria base of fruit and seasonal crops also drew
and Lebanon were the vanguard for a stream migrant farmworkers and their families
of Middle Eastern migrants from Yemen, from Mexico and Latin America—seeding
Lebanon, then Iraq. Whole families and generations of growing Michigan Latino
villages relocated to Southeast Michigan for neighborhoods.

the good jobs and familiar cultural
When a liberalization of federal immigration
surrounds that made the Dearborn area one
policy occurred again in the ‘60’s, Michigan
of the largest Arab communities outside the
was a land of promise for new groups. Over
Middle East.

the most recent decades Chinese,
For so many in the great wave of national Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani
immigration that defined the early part of immigrants have built new communities,
the 20th century, and the Great Migration revitalized neighborhoods, and redefined
from the South of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s -- the flavor of cities like Hamtramck, Troy,
and Warren. Throughout this time,
Michigan’s leading universities and colleges
have been a choice destination for
international students from China, India,
Iraq, and Iran, many of whom have stayed
and put their degrees and talents to work as
doctors, engineers and attorneys. A sizable
highly educated immigrant professional
class is one of Michigan’s most economically
important, but little known features.

Michigan has changed, but it has always
been changing. When Polish Hamtramck is a
now vibrant Bangladeshi and multi-national
community; when the Holland schools are
more than half Latino, and when
Mexicantown is one of few newly vibrant and
expanding neighborhoods in the city of
Detroit; it is jarring to some (and easily


turned into immigrant fear-mongering by smarter and more productively, and help
others). But in these and other Michigan Michigan companies fill unmet talent needs,
communities, today’s immigrants are the allowing them to grow their business and
source of new population growth, needed hire more workers.

new workers, and disproportionately
Michigan’s immigrants uniquely and
contribute to new business growth and
powerfully contribute to all three of these
entrepreneurial activity—playing the same

role today once played by the Poles and
Finns, the Germans, Irish, Italians, Dutch, ‣ In Michigan’s case, immigrants are the
and the African-American re-locating from only current source of population gain
the South.
and new workers;

‣ Michigan’s immigrants are

Immigrants Power the disproportionately responsible for
Michigan’s innovation,

Michigan Economy entrepreneurship and new business

To appreciate how Michigan immigrants
‣ And Michigan’s immigrants overall
contribute to economic growth, first one have much higher skill and education
must appreciate what forces drive economic levels than non-immigrants, which
growth, new job creation and rising incomes. means they create more value, wealth,
Economic growth (more economic output), and businesses that employ and benefit
and productivity gains (more output from others.

each worker) that create higher wages and
Let’s take a closer look at all three.

incomes -- come from three main sources.
First population gains – more workers on
the job generates more economic output. POPULATION GROWTH
Second, innovation: new tools and
Over the last fifteen years Michigan’s
technologies, creation of new whole new
immigrant population, today totaling
business models—increases productivity
650,000 foreign born residents, has grown
resulting in greater output, higher wages per
24.5%, while native born population has
worker, and the creation of wholly new firms
declined 1.5%. 1 From 2007 to 2017, Michigan
and jobs. Third, higher education and skill
lost about 72,000 people overall, even as the
levels help people and companies work

1 US Census as reported by Migration Policy Institute.


country itself has gained population.2 Even Address, Governor Rick Snyder made
over the last several years, as Michigan has Michigan getting back to a population of 10
made modest population gains, it has fallen million by 2020 one of his big, and final
behind the rest of the country.3 After years goals as Governor.6

of a diminished manufacturing-based
These leaders, along with a growing number
economy and exodus to the suburbs, factory
of mayors and local officials across Michigan
towns and urban centers likeSaginaw, Flint,
have realized welcoming immigrants is the
and Detroit have seen continued population
most effective (and fastest) way to hit these
decline. The children in rural communities
goals and reverse population decline.

leave and never return. Populations of
school age-children across Michigan have Across the country, no large U.S. city has
been plummeting for two decades. Of reversed population loss without significant
longstanding concern and a particular immigration growth. Of the 29 of our
Michigan challenge has been the “brain nation’s 50 largest cities that lost population
drain”, the net outmigration of young between 1960 and 1980, the fifteen that were
people. Young talent who often get a great able to recover relied on immigrants to do
education in one of our universities and so. For the city of Detroit, many suburban
colleges, then head for Chicago or Boston or communities, and for Michigan as whole,
California or Minnesota.4
immigration is a major, if not the major,
contributor to keeping our population afloat:

Given these trends, it is no surprise that city
and state officials have made growing the ‣ Between 2010 and 2014, 52,000 people
population a top economic priority—and see immigrated into Michigan at a time
population growth as the best indicator of when the state population only grew by
renewed economic health. When elected 38,000.7 Without immigration, the state
Detroit’s mayor in 2013, Mike Duggan asked would have lost population again over
his tenure to be judged on whether the the last decade.

cities’ decades old population decline was
reversed.5 In his 2017 State of the State

2US Census Bureau, "Estimates of the Components of Resident Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016," American
Communities Survey, last modified 2015, calculated from:
3 Ibid.
4Ted Roelofs, "Young Talent Continues to Flee Michigan," Crain's Detroit Magazine, last modified January 20, 2016, accessed May 30,
5Matthew Dolan, "Mayor Mike Duggan Aims to Reverse Detroit Exodus," Wall Street Journal, last modified June 22, 2014, accessed
May 30, 2017,
6Rachel Fradette, "Snyder during 2017 State of the State Address: 'We Need to Grow Michigan,'" The State News, last modified
January 17, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017,
7American Immigration Council, "New Americans in Michigan," American Immigration Council, last modified January 1, 2015, accessed
May 30, 2017,


‣ In the city of Detroit, the immigrant Ford (born to Irish immigrants), Frederick
population has grown 13% between 2010 Alexander Manoogian, founder of Masco
and 2014, serving as a net positive even (Armenian immigrant), Peter Karmanos.
as Detroit’s overall population has founder of Compuware (born to Greek
continued to fall.
immigrants). This tradition continues today.
Nine of the 20 Michigan Fortune 500
‣ In Macomb County, immigrants have
companies were founded by immigrants or
been a major source of the counties’
their children.

new population growth. Second to an
even faster growing African-American Michigan immigrants are its leaders in new
population, foreign-born residents business development. In a state that lags
account for 12% of the counties’ new on most measures of entrepreneurial
activity, and despite being only about 6.5%
of the population, Michigan’s immigrants:

Behind these statistics you can see and feel
the impact of immigrants on Michigan ‣ Make up 8% of the state’s
streets. Immigrants have been powerful entrepreneurs, and are three times as
agents of neighborhood renewal, likely as native-born Michigander to
rejuvenating cities like Troy, Warren, start a new business.8

Hamtramck, and neighborhoods like
Mexicantown in Detroit, and Southtown in ‣ Are responsible for 25% percent of all
Michigan’s high- tech startups one of
Grand Rapids.

the highest immigrant start-up rates in
the nation (California is first with 50%
INNOVATION of startups from immigrants)9

A vital and growing economy is fueled by the
‣ In Michigan, 31,000 immigrants are
growth and development of new businesses, self-employed,10 and immigrant-owned
spurred on by new tools, technologies, and businesses employ over 150,000 other
operating models. Historically, immigrants people.11

and their children have been some of
Michigan’s most important innovators: ‣ Immigrant owned businesses generated
$608 million in business income,
Herbert Dow (Canadian immigrant), Henry

8 Global Detroit Report, Steve Tobocman, 2010
9 Ibid.
10Project for a New American Economy, . "The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan." Project for a New American Economy.
Last modified 2014.
11Project for a New American Economy. "The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan." Project for a New American Economy. Last
modified 2014. Accessed May 30, 2017.


putting more people to work and ‣ Immigrants, while only 6% of the
creating new jobs as they pay for state’s population, comprise 30% of
services, and employees spend their Michigan doctors, 28% of software
developers, and 22% of mechanical

‣ Immigrants own about 28% of Main
Street businesses and are responsible ‣ 40-70% of all the graduate students in
for all of the new growth in these America in key STEM fields are
businesses within most of the nation’s international students.16

largest metro areas in the country,
And Michigan’s immigrants’ global reach
including Metro Detroit.

and connections contribute to Michigan
Immigrants also contribute business and job growth. Over half of firms
disproportionately to Michigan’s invention, that get more than half their earnings from
innovation and technological change in the exports are immigrant owned.


‣ 76% of all patents issued to top research TALENT AND EDUCATION
universities are owned or co-owned by
Economic growth and rising incomes are
an immigrant. 12

also a function of higher education and
increased skill levels. The most prosperous
‣ At the University of Michigan alone,
international students were behind 74% states with growing incomes are the most
of the 95 patents filed in 2011. 13
highly educated states – those states that
educate their own people to high levels and
‣ Immigrants have particularly
attract and keep top talent. Michigan still
contributed to development in
suffers from a chronic domestic “brain
emerging technological fields,
drain”, and today, as it’s economy rebounds,
producing 87% of patents in
the state faces a growing skills and talent
semiconductor engineering and 79% of
gap in key sectors.17Michigan’s immigrants
patents in pharmaceuticals. 14

are one bright spot in this landscape, and

12 Ibid.
13 Global Detroit. "Statistics." Global Detroit. Accessed May 30, 2017.
14 Global Detroit. "Statistics." Global Detroit. Accessed May 30, 2017.
15 The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan,” New American Economy, August 2016, pp. 8-10.
16 Stuart Anderson, “The Importance of International Students to America,” National Foundation for American Policy, July 2013, p. 1.
17 Business Leaders for Michigan, "BLM: Michigan Can Meet Demand for Most Jobs through 2018, but Long-Term Talent Supply
Threatened by Demographic and Education Trends," Business Leaders for Michigan, last modified April 26, 2016, accessed May 30,


one of the most powerful contributors to a
more talent-rich, and prosperous Michigan

‣ On balance—and flying in the face of
conventional wisdom that immigrants
are unskilled laborers -- Michigan
immigrants are much better educated
than native born Michiganders. More
than 40% of Michigan’s immigrants
have a bachelor’s degree or higher,
versus only 27% of native-born
Michiganders. And between 2010 and
2014, 65% of immigrants who came to
Michigan possessed at least a bachelor’s
degree. 18

recruit, and then keep after graduation

‣ Despite being only 6.5% of Michigan’s Michigan’s more than 32,000
population, immigrants account for 15% international students—who if allowed
of Michigan’s much needed STEM to stay are a powerful engine for job
(Science, Technology, Engineering and creation.

Math) workers.19

‣ And while on balance Michigan’s

‣ At Michigan’s universities, one out of immigrants are better educated than
every three students earning a STEM the U.S.-born population, there are
Master’s degree and 39% of STEM certainly a large number of low-skill
degree PhD students are international immigrants as well. While immigrants
students on temporary visas.20
are more likely than U.S.-born
residents to have a higher education—
‣ And every 100 of these higher-level
they also are more likely to have less
STEM field graduates who goes to work
than a high school degree. Research
in Michigan creates 260 jobs for other
strongly indicates however, that far
Michigan workers – which explains why
from being an economic drain, these
Michigan’s business leaders, the state’s
immigrants are important to many
economic development agency and
Michigan industries like agriculture—
universities have been working to both

18 Migration Policy Institute.
19 The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan, Welcoming America
20 Ibid.


where they make up 22% of the labor proclaimed “Immigrants make jobs, they
force—that have a hard time finding don’t take them.”

workers. 21 These workers contribute
more to local and state economies than
they take-- by working, employing Anti-Immigrant
others, paying taxes, and repopulating
communities. 22
Policies and Messages
Threaten Michigan’s
Michigan’s immigrant population overall is
Immigrants relocate -- driven by the same
highly educated and skilled, punching well
reasons all people migrate – to find a job, to
above its weight in terms of new business
make a better life for themselves and their
development: more likely to create a
families, and (in some cases) escape
business, invent new technology, and put
something bad (persecution, war, famine).
other people to work. Immigrants are one
But immigrants and immigrant communities
shining ray of light in a state still suffering
are also very responsive to the messages
from population loss, low levels of new
sent about whether they are welcome in a
business startup and flagging education
new place—whether communicated through
attainment levels, as well as being a visible
overt policy or the perceived attitude of
force for strengthening communities and
national, state, and community leaders. For
helping to develop local economies.
example, for years Canada has made it very
Welcoming and supporting new immigrants
easy for international students and others to
populations as an economic and population
stay and obtain citizenship through formal
growth engine is an agenda being
policy. More recently their national leaders’
pragmatically championed by local leaders
message of “welcome” to refugees, (while
like Mayors Rosalynn Bliss (Grand Rapids)
the US sends a different message) has led
and Mike Duggan in Detroit, Macomb County
refugees to flock North across the US-
Executive Mark Hackel, as well as the
Canada border.

Republican governor Rick Snyder, who has
bucked the national trend of immigrant For years the United States has had a
bashing in his party for straightforward relatively open and welcoming policy.
economic reasons -- having publicly According to such informed global political

21 The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan,” New American Economy, August 2016, pp. 8-10.
22 Ibid.


economy observers as the Atlantic’s James demanding manufacturing jobs are gone.
Fallows,23 this policy, along with the world’s Maligning immigrants, blaming Latinos and
leading research universities and education Muslims for societies’ ills -- combined with
system, has served to make the US economy nativist, nationalist rhetoric – Trump fed
the most dynamic and innovative on earth. fears and resentments towards our recent
The place that always creates the new immigrants (who are more black and brown-
things- and the next industry -- from Henry skinned). He offered policies to crack down
Ford and the automobile, to today’s on immigration, both legal and illegal,
Internet, Apple and Facebook.
purportedly to free up jobs for American
citizens. Unfortunately, these policies as we
Michigan has been a destination for
are now seeing them being animated, far
immigrants and migrants, with its great
from helping the American worker, will
universities and learning institutions and,
instead hurt the economy, especially in
for so many years, the chance to earn a

decent living in our great industries. Even in
the less prosperous Michigan of today, for Michigan is already seeing adverse economic
immigrants, Michigan is still a land of milk effects from new policies and practices
and honey. We still have some of the including– the travel ban, the crackdown on
greatest universities to learn in, companies undocumented immigrants, and changes to
to work for—and if you are from a part of the visa programs. These efforts alongside
world that isn’t nearly so well off -- central general rhetoric from the administration,
America, Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh -- collectively are working to undo the positive
Michigan is still a place you can, through economic dynamic that immigrants
hard work, make a better life. That is why represent to for the Michigan economy.

immigrants keep coming to Michigan, even
as others leave.

That dynamic is now at risk. Donald Trump’s
On January 27th, 2017, President Donald
campaign for President fueled anti-
Trump signed Executive Order 13769, which
immigrant sentiment, sentiment always
denied travel into the United States for all
simmering in communities, like many in
aliens from Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Iran,
Michigan, where economic and job prospects
Sudan, and Yemen. 24 25 In addition, the order
have dimmed. Where the “good old days” of
limited the amount of refugees admitted
abundant high-wage, but low-skill
into the United States to 50,000, and

24CNN, "Full Text of Trump's Executive Order on 7-Nation Ban, Refugee Suspension," Cable News Network, last modified January 28,
2017, accessed May 30, 2017,
25 After consideration, permanent residents were eventually allowed in.


suspended all refugee admissions from Syria resettlement into the country for 120 days,
immediately. For thousands of residents of as well as suspending all new visas for the
Southeast Michigan, with one of the largest citizens of the aforementioned seven
Arab-American and Muslim American countries, with the exception of Iraq. 26 The
populations in the country, the effects were US Supreme Court in June 2017 allowed
immediate, and personal. Family members elements of the modified ban to remain in
and relatives were stranded at airports place until it considers its’ constitutionality
abroad. Many themselves and their this fall. As a leading U.S. Arab-American
colleagues became anxious about traveling, and Muslim settlement destination, and a
re-entering the country, and could not do state that has settled 50,000 refugees in the
business or their jobs. Emergency legal past decade, the 4th most in the country and
advice and advisors had to be found. After the largest destination for Iraqi refugees,27
the Order was challenged in the courts, the behind California, Texas, and New York,
administration rescinded the Order and these orders hit Michigan disproportionately
issued a modified version, Executive Order hard.

13780, which suspends all refugee

26CNN, "US President Donald Trump Signs New Travel Ban, Exempts Iraq," CNN, last modified March 6, 2017, accessed May 30,
27Jynnah Radford and Phillip Connor, "Just 10 States Resettled More than Half of Recent Refugees," Pew Research Center, last
modified December 6, 2016, accessed May 30, Jynnah Radford and Phillip Connor, "Just 10 States Resettled More than Half of Recent
Refugees," Pew Research Center, last modified December 6, 2016, accessed May 30, 2017,


In Michigan this anti-Muslim opening salvo applications from international students and
of a broader anti-immigrant agenda coming these early indicators are likely to be even
from the new Administration brought into more severe by the coming academic year. 29 ‑

stark relief Michigan’s reliance on its Arab- More broadly, the travel ban hurt the
American community (and importance to tourism industry, Michigan’s large
our local and state economy). Press and international trade and business dealings
popular reporting noted the with the Arab world, and by blunting efforts
disproportionate number of doctors and to resettle more people in Michigan, the
Medical staff that are Muslim -- 15% of travel ban helps shutdown the re-
Michigan’s doctors, 10 % of the state’s population pipeline for ailing communities.

pharmacists, and most of the nursing and
medical technician students in programs at
many Southeast Michigan colleges and
universities. Arabs and Muslims constitute In early February, Immigration and Customs
many of the more than 32,000 foreign Enforcement (ICE) decided to step up their
national students drawn to our Michigan crackdown on undocumented immigrants,
universities. These students are estimated to following an executive order that
contribute over $1 billion in annual dramatically expanded the scope of ICE’s
economic spending, supporting more than priorities.30 The order moved immigration

13,500 jobs, and are relied and upon by enforcement from focusing on
colleges and universities to pay full tuition. undocumented immigrants with criminal
Michigan’s business community and offenses to a broader scope, targeting
economic developers have been counting on anyone who has committed even minor
these students to be a big part of our future crimes like traffic citations, as well as
talent base, an effort now effectively anyone deemed a risk to national security or

public safety, vague terms that rely heavily
on the judgment of enforcement officials.
Starting after the election, international
This has led to a dramatic nationwide
student applications have fallen, even more
increase in arrests compared to the Obama
precipitously after the Travel ban. An early
administration, while deportations
survey of colleges and universities indicated
themselves are slightly down. While
that 40% of them report declining

28“International Student Economic Value Tool,” NAFSA accessed Nov. 16, 2015 at
29Elizabeth Redden, “Will International Students Stay Away?”, Inside Higher Ed, March 13, 2017 at
30Roque Planas and Elise Foley, "Undocumented Immigrants Arrested Nationwide, Stoking Fears of Trump’s ‘Deportation Force’,"
Huffington Post, last modified February 10, 2017, accessed May 30, 2017,


and all Iraqi Christians face dire
circumstances back in Iraq.

While purported to be a crack-down on
illegals, the raids and high profile arrests of
the relatively few undocumented
immigrants in Michigan--sends a
companion and perhaps more intentional
set of messages to all immigrants. “You
aren’t welcome here!”, “You are all
criminals”, “No one is safe”. These are
Michigan doesn’t have as many
chilling messages that serve to unravel the
undocumented immigrants as other states,
immigrant welcoming mat laid by
in either number or percentage
Michigan’s state and local leadership,
(undocumented immigrants make up ~1% of
business community, civic and business
the Michigan population), 31 the effects have

groups. Much like the travel ban, this
been vividly seen here. Neighborhood raids
change in priorities also hurts, frightens,
on families in Ypsilanti, Dearborn and
and serves over time to chase away lawful
Detroit. Kitchen workers very publicly
immigrants who contribute to the economy
arrested at a popular restaurant in Ann
and their own communities.


These aggressive enforcement policies by
the Trump Administration strain our VISA “REFORM”
national character as a place of refuge. Many Back in April, President Trump issued an
Michiganders are horrified by the arrest and executive order to examine ways to readjust
possible deportation of more than 100 Iraqi the H-1B system, that awards visas for
Christians, mostly Chaldeans, who if foreign workers sought by U.S. employers
deported face persecution and death in a and graduate students. The order itself,
hostile Iraq. These immigrants were arrested Executive Order 13788, requires that the
for all manner of criminal violations, relevant immigration departments – DHS,
including some committed decades ago. The State, DOJ, and DOL – examine the H-1B
reality is that many of these potential system and look at ways that it can be
deportees have become constructive, reformed.32 Currently, the H-1B visa, given
contributing members of the community to skilled foreign workers, is assigned on a
lottery system, giving immigrants of all skill

31 Project for a New American Economy. "The Contributions of New Americans in Michigan."


and educational levels an equal shot at the MESSAGE? DON’T COME
visa. As Detroit and Ann Arbor are two of the
Recent shifts and attempted shifts in
densest metro areas for H-1B workers on a
immigration policy, on-the-ground
per capita basis, with Detroit being a a top
practices, and the rhetoric of the national
ten location for H-1B workers overall, any
administration, are undoubtedly having
changes to this program will heavily impact
spillover effects on people wanting to

immigrate to the USA and to the flow of
The executive order, while not immediately immigrants to Michigan which, as we have
making any changes, appears to be seen, has been Michigan’s only source of net
accompanied by very opaque changes in population gain. Five months into their
immigration practice and procedure that are effect—with little hard data in hand—the
having an immediate effect on Michigan’s initial estimates we do have are troubling.
economy. Almost overnight Canadian nurses Tourism into the United States is down
and health professionals who travel to around 16% from previous years. 33 Forty
Detroit by the thousands each day to provide percent of U.S. colleges and universities
needed health care services were running have reported a a drop in international
into trouble, their visas being questioned, student applications 34 (while institutions
reports of some newly refused entry at the across the border in Canada report
border. Michigan’s agriculture and tourism increases). With Michigan’s 32,000+
employers are reporting the inability to international students accounting for over
attract and hire needed workers under the $1 billion a year in local economic impact
H2-B program which awards a limited (rents, food, tuitions), this alone translates
number of visas for “guest-workers”. And into hundred’s of millions less income in
while the nature and impact of visa reform Michigan communities. Applications for
in the future – whether to a skills-based H-1B visas, are down 18%, or 37,000
points system for H1-B program, and some applicants, from 2016 – more bad news for
changes to existing guest-worker programs Michigan as our large share of high skilled
(which the Trump Administration did workers and international students become
announce they will continue this year, under less enthused about studying (and staying)
tremendous pressure from employers here.

nationally)—the on-the-ground reality for
Michigan and the rest of the nation is a chill
and uncertainty around status for current
and future program participants.



Making Michigan the Global Talent Retention Initiative of
Michigan - the nation's first

Most Welcoming State international student retention
program has connected nearly 5,000
students with over 100 employers—to
From the international student working with
keep this top talent in Michigan
a team of researchers to file a patent, to the
contributing to our economy.

entrepreneur managing a global business, to
the nurse drawing blood at the hospital, to
‣ The State of Michigan’s International
the newly -renovated houses and thriving Talent Solutions - is the hands-down
commercial districts of Hamtramck, Grand leader in helping underemployed
Rapids and Detroit, Michigan’s immigrants college-degreed immigrants get
power the state economy, and counter the credentialed and connect with jobs in
effects of deindustrialization and population their profession, placing over 100
individuals in jobs with salary increases
averaging $40,000.

State and local leaders business, civic and
political leaders including Governor Snyder
‣ Global Detroit’s recent Champions for
and mayors of our major cities, have Growth Campaign has galvanized 216
constructively advanced an immigrant community and business leaders to sign
welcoming agenda in the face of onto a basic pledge that acknowledges
unfortunate, national anti-immigrant immigrant contributions to economic
headwinds. Actions and initiatives such as growth, calls for retaining our nation's
these are paying real dividends for immigration system, and commits to
Michigan’s economy:
building local policies, programs, and
practices that embrace this agenda.

‣ Prosper US Detroit has provided
microenterprise training, lending, and To continue to grow Michigan’s population,
support to catalyze the growth and and a more entrepreneurial and diverse
development of immigrant economy, now is the time for Michigan
entrepreneurs (and their African- leaders to double down on these and related
American neighbors). This Global efforts and to send clear messages in word
Detroit initiated program has graduated and deed: that Michigan is a welcoming state
700 Detroit residents (85% African- for legal immigrants, and that our economy
American) through a 20-week, 11- grows and our culture is enriched when we
session, 10 one-on-one hours training support our newcomers.

program with nearly $1 million in
In spite of actions taken at the national

level, there is wide latitude at the state and


local level for affirmative actions that can from navigating new housing, schools,
work to continue to welcome and attract language and licensing systems, to providing
support for immigrant entrepreneurs and
small business development.

The following are recommendations for new
and continued practices that will advance Governor Snyder has sent just such a
Michigan as an immigrant welcoming and message with consistent immigrant-
supportive state and serve to grow new jobs friendly rhetoric and through the creation of
and spur community redevelopment in the Michigan Office of New Americans to
coordinate state outreach and supportive
surfaces. Michigan local communities’
formal immigrant welcoming efforts have
also helped, and can take a number of
COMMIT TO WELCOMING different forms: From Sterling Heights
It is a powerful message when our state and Ethnic Communities Committee, working
community leadership formally initiate since 1990 to bring together and support a
immigrant welcoming offices, programs and diverse community; to Mayor Duggan of
support services. It also can provide space Detroit establishment of a Mayor’s Office of
for community dialogue and engagement, immigrant Affairs to coordinate immigrant
and a needed set of new immigrant support services, new business
acculturation and support services ranging development, and attract more immigrants


and refugees to the city. Grand Rapids’ off anti-immigrant measures that have
Mayor Rosylyn Bliss announced a new ‘Our negative effects on their workplaces and
City Academy” to coordinate immigrant profits.

support and education efforts. Macomb
The Detroit Regional Chamber has shown
County Executive Mark Hackel launched One
the way and been a strong advocate for
Macomb in 2012 bringing 27 organizations
welcoming immigrants as an important
together to collaborate and coordinate
economic development and jobs strategy.
support for the counties’ diverse community
They have also helped this position be
and new immigrants. Michigan communities
adopted by the Great Lakes Metropolitan
from Kalamazoo to Clinton Township to Bay
Chambers of Commerce Coalition
City have passed formal “Welcoming City”
representing dozens chambers of Commerce
measures that signal their commitment to
from around the region, and counting
provide an immigrant friendly and
Kalamazoo, Lansing, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti,
supportive community. In fact, Michigan is
Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Traverse City,
home to more welcoming cities, counties,
Michigan West Coast Chamber, and the West
and townships than any other state in
Michigan Chambers Coalition as members.
America. As immigrants become important
The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation,
contributors to a growing number of
Detroit Future City, and the New Economy
Michigan communities, including rural
Initiative have also signed on as immigrant
areas, local leaders can help their
welcoming. Particularly at a time of anti-
community organize around immigrant
immigrant policy and practices being pushed
welcoming as deliberate community
from the federal level, it would be important
economic development and revitalization
for Michigan’s leading State Business

organizations—Business Leaders for
Michigan, Michigan Chamber of Commerce,
BUSINESS LEADERS CHAMPION the Small Business Association of Michigan,

WELCOMING POLICIES and more local and regional Chambers of
Commerce and other business organizations
The most effective advocates for immigrant
to follow the Detroit Chambers’s lead in
supportive public policies and practices can
their clear advocacy for pro-immigrant
be the business community. When the

business community organizes its voice and
formally weighs in—helping reinforce the
importance of immigrants for economic
growth and the business bottom line, they
can effectively promote immigrant-friendly
policies at the state and local level, and fend


CONTINUE TO LAY A STRONG Council, Chaldean Community Foundation,

IMMIGRANT WELCOME MAT Samaritas, Catholic Charities of Southeast
Michigan, the Michigan Immigrants Rights
Michigan’s very active and dynamic set of
Center, Hispanic Center of Western
non-profit, philanthropic, and civic
Michigan, International Institute of
leadership organizations must continue to
Metropolitan Detroit, Freedom House,
fund and support a rich fabric of immigrant
Southwest Solutions—all play critical roles
support programs and organizations.
in helping legal immigrants move fast to
Organizations like Global Detroit,
full, productive, and valued citizens.

Welcoming Michigan, Welcome Mat Detroit-
that organize, catalyze and connect Michigan must ramp up these efforts on this
immigrant welcoming and support programs work in the coming years—if we are to meet
and services ranging from help for new the Governor’s goals of Michigan exceeding
immigrant entrepreneurs, to the retention 10 million in population, for Detroit and so
of international students—along with many other communities to grow again; and
immigrant acculturation and direct service for us to reap the economic benefits of new
organizations like ACCESS, Arab Chaldean immigrant led businesses and job growth. 


The Michigan Economic Center is a center for ideas and a network of state and local leaders and citizens working to:

Advance a vision for Michigan’s economic renewal;

Provide policy ideas and solutions that realize the vision; and

Engage and support a diverse network of citizens, leaders, and organizations in advancing the vision

and making ideas for a more competitive, innovative, and global Michigan a reality.

More information is available at

John Austin, Director

303 Detroit St. Suite 400| Ann Arbor MI 48104 | 734.474.3110 | @John_C_Austin

Global Detroit is revitalizing Metro Detroit’s economy by mobilizing its immigrant potential. A 2016 national Renewal

Award winner, Global Detroit is nationally-recognized as an innovator and expert in leveraging international talent to
fill regional businesses’ unmet talent needs, catalyzing the growth and development of immigrant entrepreneurs, and

building a global region with competitive advantages in job creation, business growth, and community development.

Global Detroit has launched leading-edge programs in international student talent retention, professional talent
connection, immigrant entrepreneurship, and neighborhood revitalization. Global Detroit has spearheaded the

creation of the Welcoming Economies Global Network (WE Global), a ten-state regional collaborative of 20 peer local
immigrant economic development initiatives across the Rust Belt.

For further information, visit