Posted by on June 06, 2014 in News Clips
Whether pushed or pulled, immigrants arrived from many countries.
The largest single immigrant group in metro Detroit comes from India.
Of the 41,000 living in the region's four main counties, about half live in Oakland County, with 11,000 in Wayne and the rest in Macomb and Washtenaw counties.
The demand for professionals in the medical fields and computer technology has fueled an influx of highly educated Indian immigrants to metro Detroit, said Silvia Pedraza, a professor of sociology and American culture at the University of Michigan.
"They draw on what they know well and are good at," she said.
Nearly half of foreign-born Indians locally earn more than $75,000 annually, federal immigration data show. More than 70 percent have a bachelor's or advanced degree.
They also come here in larger numbers for another reason: Immigrants from India, especially professionals in health care and technology, typically have a leg up on other immigrant groups because they already speak English.
"They are English speakers, typically bilingual or trilingual," Pedraza said. "They don't have to go through the pains and difficulties (of) other immigrant groups who realize they must learn English."
Indian IT workers work heavily with auto suppliers that handle the IT contracts for automakers, said David Koelsch, a professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law who also is director of the school's immigration law clinic.
Much of the local Indian population can be found in Farmington Hills, Bloomfield Township and Troy.
The Lebanese came to Detroit earlier than other Middle Eastern groups, starting in the early 20th century to work in the auto industry, said Silvia Pedraza, a professor of sociology and American culture at the University of Michigan.
They were especially known as shopkeepers, grocers and restaurateurs, she said. That remains true today.
The longtime host of the "American Top 40" radio show, Casey Kasem, was born in Detroit in 1932 to Lebanese immigrant parents who operated a grocery store.
Lebanon accounts for the sixth-largest immigration group in metro Detroit with 17,800, according to Global Detroit's data. The bulk of those — 14,625 — are in Wayne County.
Lebanese immigrants make up about 31 percent of the state's Arab immigrant population, the majority of which is in metro Detroit.
The earlier waves of Lebanese immigration were largely Christians, while the subsequent influx has been mostly Muslim, demographers say.
Another major driver of Lebanese immigration to metro Detroit was the Lebanese civil war — a complex, multisectarian conflict lasting from 1975 to 1990, during which it destroyed the capital of Beirut and killed 120,000 people.
Metro Detroit has the world's largest concentration of Albanians outside of Europe, according to Global Detroit.
Macomb and Oakland counties in particular have experienced a significant Albanian influx in recent decades, said Steve Tobocman, director of Global Detroit.
Macomb has the highest current concentration of Albanian immigrants locally at 4,800, according to Global Detroit's data. That's the fourth-largest nationality of any group in the county.
Albania itself is home to just 3 million people.
The 40-year authoritarian regime of Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha didn't permit emigration, so it wasn't until the collapse of communism in 1992 that Albanians began to come directly to the United States in large numbers.
The exodus increased as Albania's economy later collapsed, unrest broke out, and the wider Balkans erupted into sectarian war in the 1990s.
In metro Detroit, Albanians are noted for opening restaurants, especially Coney Islands, demographers say.
Albanian TV of America, which broadcasts Albanian-language entertainment, news and advertising, is based in Troy.
Detroit has long been identified with Polish immigration, and the city-within-a-city of Hamtramck was at one point 90 percent Polish.
That has changed. Hamtramck is about 14 percent Polish today, with Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants from places such as Yemen and Bangladesh replacing them as the Polish population migrated.
According to federal population data, Hamtramck leads Michigan with more than 40 percent of its population being foreign-born.
Reflecting the general shift to the suburbs: Nearly 4,500 Polish immigrants live in Macomb County, tops in the metro area. Wayne County is second with 3,300 Polish immigrants.
Poles began arriving in Detroit in the 1880s. Immigration increased when the Dodge Main plant opened in 1914. It closed in 1981.
"They came at the time to work in the factories, especially Dodge Main, and on the street railways," said JoEllen Vinyard, an Eastern Michigan University professor specializing in immigration history. "They settled near each other and built houses. Property was relatively cheap, so they could afford to build next to a relative."
General Motors Corp. opened its Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant in 1985, displacing 4,200 residents in an area known as Poletown that straddled the Hamtramck-Detroit border.
Poles today work in a variety of fields, including in myriad shops aimed at Polish culture. They also still work in auto factories.
A sizable portion of Mexican immigration to the United States traditionally has been associated with migrant agricultural work.
That's less true for metro Detroit.
Like other immigrant groups here, Mexicans were attracted by the economic opportunity at the start of the 20th century.
"There were quite a lot of Mexicans in the auto industry," said the University of Michigan's Pedraza. "The most dangerous and dirtiest jobs, those nearest the furnaces, went to blacks and Mexicans."
Like other immigrant groups, Mexicans formed their own ethnic enclave, today known as Mexicantown. The southwest Detroit neighborhood is filled with restaurants and shops reflecting Hispanic tastes and culture.
Mexicantown actually is a bit of a misnomer, said Pedraza, herself a Cuban immigrant.
"It's really very Latin," she said. "There are people from El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala, Columbia. It's a growing part of Detroit."
Hispanic and Latino immigrants were both pulled by economic opportunity to Detroit. But oftentimes — especially in the second half of the last century — they also were pushed out by political dictatorships and poverty.
"People that are fleeing persecution, people that are more pushed than pulled, they were happy with their country and culture but left because of religious, political or social persecution," Pedraza said. "The labor migrants, they cannot see any future for their children. They're motivated to find a better life."
Mexicans are the region's third-largest immigrant group and Wayne County's largest immigrant population at 22,700. They're also among the top 10 groups in Oakland and Macomb counties.
Iraqis are metro Detroit's second-largest immigrant group, with 36,000 across Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties, according to Global Detroit data.
A significant number of Iraqis settling here are Chaldeans, primarily Catholics driven from their homeland by war and targeted violence. They hail mostly from northern Iraq but also parts of Syria, Iran and Turkey.
Chaldeans account for about 17 percent of Michigan's Arab immigrant population, the bulk of which lives in metro Detroit. Chaldeans do not identify as Arab but are included in Arab or Iraqi immigration and demographics data.
Those who identify as Iraqi immigrants account for 10 percent of the state's Arab population, most of which is in metro Detroit.
About one-third of Arab-Americans in Michigan are foreign-born, many of them having arrived from Iraq after the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the Iraq war of 2003, according to data from the Arab American Institute.
Chaldeans, who first arrived in metro Detroit to work in the auto industry, have been severely displaced by the Iraq wars.
Macomb County's top immigrant group, at 14,198, is Iraqi. Many of those are Chaldean. At just over 16,000, Iraqis are Oakland County's second-largest immigrant group — some of those are non-Chaldeans.
The 5,400 Iraqis in Wayne County are the seventh-largest immigrant group there. They settle in traditional Arab enclaves such as Dearborn.
While some were lured by Henry Ford's famous $5-a-day working wage, in true Chaldean fashion, entrepreneurial endeavors quickly took hold — particularly mom-and-pop food markets. Today, 61 percent of Chaldean households own one business, and 39 percent own two or more, according to the Sterling Heights-based Chaldean Community Foundation.
Chaldeans locally are known for owning markets and party stores, said Kurt Metzger, the retired founder of Data Driven Detroit who spent nearly 40 years doing information and statistical analysis locally.