Column: Global Detroit looks to help immigrants - The South End: Perspectives

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Column: Global Detroit looks to help immigrants

Volunteers have multiple opportunities to become involved

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Posted: Saturday, March 24, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 12:04 pm, Fri Apr 5, 2013.

The Global Detroit initiative holds a great deal of potential for the city of Detroit. The plan for Detroit has parts of Southwest Detroit in mind for the initiative, along with Hamtramck and Sterling Heights because of their immigrant populations.

Welcome Dayton’s action plan is about integrating, engaging and embracing the growing immigrant population. After conducting a study on the needs of immigrant citizens to see what they can do to help with the process, members of Global Detroit discovered a need for a variety of English as a Second Language courses.

ESL courses are available in the community that will be targeted by the initiative, and some even have on-site daycare available for those who may need it.  By making Dayton more “immigrant friendly,” it not only welcomed more citizens but also helped reverse the damaging effects brought on by a continuing population decline. Population declines create an ever-downward cycle, including problems like fewer people paying taxes and a decrease in home value and job loss.

Many children growing up as immigrants will juggle the normal struggle and conflicts found in a more traditional culture at home and an, often, more liberal, less-structured culture at school and in the neighborhoods. It leads to problems that grow, not just in a household but in a growing community that is simply following customs. A growing child will already have issues and misunderstandings with their parents. To top it off, their parents may not understand the issues they face in school and other social settings and the differences at home.

Global Detroit has a chance to change that by educating the immigrants and helping them adjust to their new environment. It will allow them to become functioning members of their community and potentially create new businesses here in the city instead of just working at factories the way past groups of immigrants have. There will be opportunities for members of the community to get involved by volunteering or working as ESL instructors to these skilled people.

Detroit has long been a city of immigrants, from early English and French immigrants during the 18th century, to the Irish settlers who lived in the Corktown neighborhood in the 1840s. Other groups were the Greeks, who settled in what is now the Greektown neighborhood in the early 20th century, and southern U.S. migrants who came to Detroit prior to the Great Depression.

Detroit's industrial boom in the later 19th century attracted a new group of immigrants into Detroit and many of the surrounding cities such as Hamtramck, which now has a large population of immigrants that range from Poland to Yemen and Bangladesh. According to the US Census Bureau, Hamtramck has a 41.1% immigrant population which makes it Michigan’s most diverse city.

Many of the citizens are immigrant entrepreneur, while others work for different companies such as the Big Three. These businesses will help kick start other businesses; members are potential income for the city since they will have to pay taxes, and their services will also collect taxes. In the last decade, Hamtramck’s large population of Bangladeshis began investing in and redeveloping properties in the late 1990s, mainly on Conant St, which was later renamed Bangladesh Avenue in honor of their work and contribution to the city.

Many members of my own family are part of this group of entrepreneurs who have invested in the city and continue to remain even during the economic downturn.

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