For years Detroit, Michigan had come to symbolize urban decay, a formally great city that had fallen upon hard times. Once the thriving center of the automobile industry, Detroit, has lost much of its population. One way that the city hopes to recover is through the energy and entrepreneurial efforts of immigrants. A recent PRI Global Nation news story provided some context, as well as a case study of the way that communities receive and integrate immigrants. The story noted:
“Right now, immigrants are the only growing source of population in the city of Detroit,” says Steve Tobocman, the director of Global Detroit, a group partly funded by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and dedicated to helping revive derelict neighborhoods by making Detroit more attractive and welcoming for immigrants. “Michigan is the only state that lost population in the 2010 census.”
Michigan’s population has since stabilized and has grown by roughly 80,000 since the 2010 Census, with foreign-born making up 6.4 percent of the state, about half the national average, butrelatively high compared with other Midwestern states.
“They are a source of life and vibrancy, and they are creating jobs that help everyone in the community,” says Tobocman, speaking at an Indian restaurant in a neighborhood known as “Banglatown,” a community straddling the cities of Detroit and Hamtramck with a lot of South Asian residents. “[Immigrants] are providing retail services that make this community thrive, and providing a tax base. And frankly, occupancy to the vacant structures that are critical to retaining the African-American residents in the region so that this neighborhood doesn’t fall the way that some of the more disinvested ones have.”
Listen to the whole story.
- What role do community leaders in Detroit hope that immigrants will play in the city?
- According to the various experts interviewed in the piece, why do many newcomers find Detroit an attractive place to live and work?
- The voiceover at the end of the report notes, “Detroit was the nation’s Silicon Valley a century ago, the technology capital of the world, driven — in part back then — by foreign-born workers.” What does that comment add the to story? How would the story be different if it wasn’t included? Based on what you have heard, why do you think the reporter felt it was important to include this historical note in a piece about present day Detroit?