New research has highlighted how immigrants are essential to metro Detroit’s COVID-19 response efforts and are simultaneously more vulnerable to the virus than other groups due to gaps in federal aid, language access barriers, and increased risk of infection associated with frontline and essential work.
The New American Economy released the findings in partnership with the city of Detroit, Detroit Regional Chamber, Global Detroit, and Oakland and Wayne counties.
“This critical research will help the city of Detroit, as well as other units of state and local government, to target our COVID-19 relief efforts to protect public health and safety while assuring emergency aid gets to immigrant families who have been left out by federal recovery programs,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
“COVID-19 impacted all Detroiters, and we are thankful for the support of organizations that have stepped up to help us ensure every Detroiter receives they help they need, but more must be done.”
Detroit is one of 12 communities that received New American Economy research to inform culturally sensitive emergency response measures designed to ensure all residents are included regardless of immigration status.
“The immigrant population is essential to keeping Detroit’s critical industries running, yet especially vulnerable to gaps in our social safety nets,” says Mo Kantner, director of state and local initiatives at New American Economy. “This new NAE research will support efforts by the city and local partners to work quickly and innovatively to fill critical gaps in federal programs and ensure that response efforts reach and support all residents of Detroit.”
According to the American Immigration Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., immigrants in Michigan made up 8 percent of the state’s labor force in 2018, and paid $5 billion in federal taxes and $2.1 billion in state and local taxes.
In turn, Michigan residents in immigrant-led households had $18.4 billion in spending power (after-tax income) in 2018, and immigrant entrepreneurs in Michigan generated $731.5 million in business revenue in 2018.
The NAE reports immigrants in the Detroit area serve in essential industries that put them at a higher risk of infection. In the area, immigrants comprise more than 11.7 percent of health care workers (28,229), 16.9 percent of pharmacy workers (2,216), 13.5 percent of grocery workers (4,285), and 13.2 percent of restaurant and food service workers (17,995).
While immigrants made up 9.9 percent of the Detroit metro area’s residents in 2018, they make up 37.5 percent of business owners in hospitality, 19.1 percent of business owners in retail trade, 19.2 percent of business owners in general services, 23.5 percent of business owners in health care, and 10.8 percent of business owners in construction.
Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, more than 17 percent of immigrants, or 73,264, living in metro Detroit had limited English language proficiency. Among them, the top five languages spoken at home other than English were Arabic (29.9 percent), Spanish (22.7 percent), Hindi and related languages (10.8 percent), Chinese (5.8 percent), and Albanian (3.3 percent).
The full report is available here.
New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to show how immigration impacts the U.S. economy, organize efforts to build support for immigration, partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value of immigrants, and show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more.
Global Detroit is a regional economic development organization that develops and implements immigrant-inclusive policies, practices, and programs in an effort to drive the revitalization of Detroit and the sustained prosperity of southeast Michigan.
For the American Immigration Council report, click here.