This Week on One Detroit:
EMU Students Help Afghan Refugee Families Move Into New Homes
As tensions have risen in Afghanistan over the last several months, more than a thousand Afghan refugees are expected to seek shelter in parts of Michigan including the state’s west side, Lansing and Ypsilanti as more Afghanistan families evacuate their Middle Eastern homes to begin new lives.
PBS NewsHour Community Correspondent Frances Kai-Hwa Wang reports from Eastern Michigan University’s campus in Ypsilanti, where Jewish Family Services of Washtenaw County has been helping coordinate the refugees’ arrivals and housing with the help of Eastern Michigan University students.
Jawad Sukhanyar: An Afghan Journalist’s Story On Fleeing Taliban Forces
As United States military forces departed from Afghanistan after 20 years, ending one of the longest wars in U.S. history, Taliban militia members quickly took a hold of the country’s major cities, forcing many Afghans to flee their homes for safer stays elsewhere. Kabul, where Afghanistan journalist and 2019 Knight-Wallace Fellow Jawad Sukhanyar lived and fled from, was the last city to fall. Sukhanyar currently resides in Ann Arbor as a journalist-in-residence at the University of Michigan.
Now, months after his harrowing departure from his home country, Jawad sits down with One Detroit Associate Producer Will Glover for an in-depth conversation about the sacrifices he and his family made in their fight to get to America, as well as why he wanted to resettle in Michigan and the conflicting emotions he has about the possibility of someday returning to his now-former home.
Michigan’s Immigrations Status: The Impacts of Refugee Resettlement in the State
Michigan has a long history of acceptance and support for refugees hoping to resettle in the state, but just what cultural, economic, and population-based impacts have these immigrants brought to their new homes? One Detroit Senior Producer Bill Kubota took a trip to the state’s capital, Lansing, to examine the state of immigration in Michigan today and the changes we’ve seen to refugee resettlement over the past 20 years.
Kubota meets with Refugee Development Center Executive Director Erika Brown-Binion to talk about some of the refugees her organization helps resettle in the mid-Michigan area, like Yohana Ferra, a Cuban immigrant who now owns and operates a Cuban food truck in Lansing’s Old Town. Then, he has a conversation with Steve Tobocman, Executive Director of Global Detroit, and Demographer and Data Driven Detroit Founder Kurt Metzger detailing how immigrant resettlement has driven positive growth in Michigan’s population and economy. Plus, resettled refugees in Lansing and Warren share their perspectives on moving to Michigan and fostering new ethnic communities together.
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This week, One Detroit examines Michigan’s immigration status and the impacts the state has seen from refugee resettlement over the past 20 years. PBS NewsHour’s Frances Kai-Hwa Wang takes us inside move-in day for some Afghan families resettling on Eastern Michigan University’s campus. Then, One Detroit’s WIll Glover talks with Jawad Sukhanyar, an Afghan journalist who escaped Taliban forces for a better life in America. Plus, senior producer Bill Kubota looks at the economic and cultural drivers that comes from refugee resettlement.
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The Importance of Immigration Has Never Been Greater
For the first time in America’s history, the demographic contribution of immigration has surpassed that of “natural increase” – the difference between births and deaths. Between July 2020 and July 2021, America’s population grew by 0.1 percent, the lowest rate of growth since the nation’s founding.
The country added 392,665 people over that 12-month period – 62 percent attributable to immigration and 38 percent to natural increase. The foreign born population now represents 14.2 percent of the nation’s total – slightly less than the country’s record high of 14.8 percent in 1890.
The numbers are not nearly what they once were. The 244,000 new immigrants are a far cry from the middle of the previous decade when the annual gain for immigration was one million or more. With the ending of imm cuts fostered by the Trump administration and decreases attributable to pandemic restrictions, I expect the numbers to begin rising back to earlier levels.
In Michigan, where the foreign born population accounts for 7 percent of the total population, immigration’s contribution to population growth has exceeded that of natural increase every year since 2013. Even though immigration numbers have decreased since the early part of the last decade, natural increase numbers have dropped even more – due to a continual decline in births and an increase in deaths. In fact, while the Census Bureau estimated that 4,137 immigrants were added to Michigan’s population between 2020 and 2021 (well below the 20,000+ annual average last decade), our “natural increase” became a “natural decrease” of 14,353 over that period. P
While immigration has always been a critical demographic component for Michigan, due to its traditional role as a domestic out-migrant state (every year we send more residents to other states than we receive from them), we have also had population growth through natural increase to help us. As of 2020, we no longer have natural increase to count on. An aging population and decreasing birth rates foreshadow a continuous pattern of “natural decrease” in Michigan’s future.
Global Detroit has been preaching the need for the state to focus on its immigration initiatives since its inception. We were an early adopter of the Welcoming initiative. Now we must get serious! While we are awash in government funds and increasing tax revenues, let Michigan use some of these resources to bring together its universities, corporations, nonprofits and foundations to develop an Immigrant Attraction and Retention Program. Our competition is every other state in the country.
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