Making the case on why welcoming immigrants is a good thing

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.

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4 Responses to Making the case on why welcoming immigrants is a good thing

  1. TR

    May 3, 2011 at 7:44 am

    What clueless person sees Hamtramck as “thriving”??? Has this person driven down the main street???? Businesses are closing left, right, and center. The city is dirty, alleys are filthy, and (some) people don’t care. Children play in streets as they do in old countries, with no one watching them or the destruction they are causing. Yes! There are a HANDFUL of people who care and who maintain clean living area but c’mon…..take a drive south of Holbrook to see what Hamtramck is REALLY about.

  2. JM

    May 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Immigrants go where the jobs are. What jobs can they find in Hamtramck — or the City of Detroit, for that matter?

  3. Roger Lamm

    May 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    TR i disagree. businesses are not closing left and right, if anything i’ve seen renovations and new business opening up all up and down JC, the old citizen is getting a facelift, several stores in the downtown district are getting renovated and freshened up to make room for new businesses. sure there are a few old businesses that probably will never open again but when i see tens of thousands of dollars being spend rebuilding storefronts and combining 2-3 units into one big storefront, thats progress sir (or madam?)

  4. Roger Lamm

    May 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    and by the way, immigration is going to continue whether some people want it or not. dont fight it, embrace it, allow new people (and money) to come into the city, at best i expect the city to grow by at least 5000 residents in the next 10 years and half of that will be immigrant. Dont let racism discount any incoming business. just because there may be an explosion of Bengali or Chaldean or various middle eastern ethnicities doesnt mean that you are any less part of this community. At least try the food 🙂

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