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The words are inscribed on a plaque in the pedestal in the Statue of Liberty, once the first sight new immigrants to the United States glimpsed of our country: "Give me your tired, your poor/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These iconic words from the poem "New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus have long epitomized the feelings of those settling in our country from foreign lands, and remain as relevant today as when they were first penned in 1883.
We're a nation that's a melting pot of countries, cultures, races and colors. Our ancestors arrived on these shores seeking financial opportunities, the freedom to practice their religion, fleeing economic hardship or brutal dictatorships and wars. Some, such as African Americans, were brought here as slaves against their will.
Fast forward to today. Those from other countries continue to flock to our borders, both legally and illegally. Whether seeking better opportunities and increased pay for highly skilled jobs, cash to fill hungry children's bellies, or to escape intolerable situations in their native lands, the United States continues to be the country where others want to live, with thousands choosing metro Detroit as the place they want to make their home.
Seen from the other side of the mirror, immigration is actually economically advantageous to the communities where immigrants reside. Global Detroit, an organization which works to revitalize southeastern Michigan's economy and a national leader in the emerging development field centered on welcoming, retaining and empowering immigrant communities as valued contributors to regional growth, notes that while metro Detroit has a lower immigrant rate, at 8 percent, than the national average of 13 percent, the area is still a global region, just as it has been historically since immigrants first swarmed here to work in the auto industry when Henry Ford offered workers $5 a day, a huge sum at the time.
"Our border with Canada, international supply chain routes, and global automotive industry have all helped attract a significantly large number of foreign companies, which...number at over 900 firms from over 35 countries," Global Detroit states. "Simply put, there are hundreds of thousands of residents in the region who were born in another country. Metro Detroit is estimated to be the home of the largest concentration of Middle East migrants outside the Middle East – larger than New York, London or Paris...The foreign born are fairly evenly spread throughout the entire region, rather than living in specific clusters. The fact that the foreign-born are a part of nearly every community and neighborhood in southeast Michigan is extremely important to understand in light of the fact that the region scores highly on national rankings chronicling black-white segregation. We believe that the dispersion of foreign-born communities throughout the region contributes to a feeling of 'invisibility' among ethnic groups."...continued on page 2