By Alan R. Madeleine
Hamtramck has long been a shining example of America’s melting pot.
If the folks at Model D, an online Detroit-based media company, have their way, the entire greater metro Detroit region will follow in our fair city’s footsteps to achieve the same reputation.
In a well-attended meeting this past Tuesday evening, co-sponsored by Wayne State’s FM radio station WDET, a cross-section of speakers made the case for the positives of promoting greater Detroit as a “model” for engaging potential new citizens.
Speaker Ryan Bates, of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform, opened a few eyes when he noted that it can, in certain cases, take from 10 to 13 years for those responsible to look over and approve a visa, particularly for such groups as Mexican and Filipino applicants. Certainly, facts like these make it easier to understand why some elect the dangerous route of illegal entry.
He also noted that the immigration process is user-fee driven, as opposed to being funded by taxes, which results in the simple filing of paperwork costing a person hundreds of dollars in each instance. As a result, a person may, over the course of an average of six to seven years for the whole process, spend upwards of $10,000. A daunting amount of money for anyone, let alone a person entering the country with the normal disadvantages of a non-native, who must also try to assimilate as quickly as possible.
Bates also spoke on the rights abuses perpetrated by the Detroit office of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the policing arm of USCIS, or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.
These have included home searches without warrants, indefinite detentions, and more. He made the case that the negative press these stories generate, when they occur, throws the Detroit area into a negative light for others considering making this their first stop as their would-be new home.
Saydi Sarr, the artistic director of the Rowe Niodior African Dance Company (and originally from Senegal in Western Africa herself), agreed that the process can be nerve-wracking and difficult. Perseverance in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds is the key, although without a good support system individuals can struggle, since so much of their income goes toward the fees.
Information, she said, can be hard to come by as well.
A breezy and interesting slide-type presentation helped kick off the evening, noting the many major American corporations founded wholly or in-part by first-generation immigrants. These included stalwarts such as AT&T and Budweiser, as well as newer tech companies like Google and Intel.
Other panelists who spoke Tuesday included Steve Tobocman, of Global Detroit; Nadia Tonova from the National Network for Arab American Communities; Maria Elena Rodriguez, a southwest Detroit activist and entrepreneur; Hayg Oshagan, director of New Michigan Media; and Dawud Walid of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Hamtramck City Councilmember Kazi Miah was also seated with the panelists.
The evening was moderated by Martina Guzman of WDET. Also spotted in the crowd were Councilmember Tom Jankowski (an acquaintance of Tobocman), and Mayor Karen Majewski. The audience was encouraged to partake of the barbequed riblets and other warm dishes. The event was free to the public.
For more information, check out their website at modeldmedia.com.