Refugees for prosperity

By Martin Manna

 I don’t have to deliver a history lesson to remind people that this country was founded on immi­grants and the vital impact each eth­nic group has contributed to the pros­perity of this country. Metropolitan Detroit is a shining example! But in a time of increased restrictions on immigrants and a shortage of skilled and unskilled workers, Con­gress and the Trump Administration need to develop and pass immigra­tion laws that will help fill the talent gap and support persecuted commu­nities throughout the world.

In 2016, nearly 100,000 refugees entered the United States and there has been a drastic decline since then. The restrictions placed by the Trump Administration and the failure for Congress to act are the main rea­sons few refugees have been ad­mitted into the United States. In 2017, some 28,000 refugees ar­rived in the United States and this year, that number has taken a plunge to just a few thousand refugees. This decline will only have a negative impact on the country. Those fear­ful of refugees should know that the vetting process to come to America often takes several years and includes numerous background checks by Homeland Security and others.

There is a shortage of workers. Im­migrants and their contribution to the economy could remedy this press­ing issue. New research from the Fiscal Policy Institute was released late last month that documented lower turn­over rates among refugee employees. In addition to these lowered turnover rates, companies that hired refugees experienced improved management performance. Managerial staffs be­come more versatile in their skill sets as they adapt to working with diverse employees. The study, based on 100 interviews in four regions of the coun­try and across a number of different in­dustries, found that in an industry like manufacturing, the average annual refugee turnover was 4 percent annu­ally, compared to an overall rate of 11 percent annually. Turnover rates were found to be lower across all industries.

For these employers, the higher retention rate directly translated to increased efficiency. According to the study, “Replacing an employee was estimated for these employers to cost about $5,000—more than enough to offset the costs of hiring and retaining refugee employees.” Another study, released late last year, shows the economic impact and contributions of refugees in south­east Michigan. In the past decade, refugees in southeast Michigan have contributed between $230 million and $295 million.

The study conducted by Global Detroit, an immigrant resource cen­ter in Midtown Detroit and the Uni­versity of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy showed that refugees from Iraq and Syria who resettled in southeast Michigan give back to the economy in tremendous ways. Ninety percent of refugee arrivals in Metro Detroit were Iraqi, who resettled over 10 years in Wayne, Washtenaw, Macomb and Oakland counties. During that same period, 7 percent of refugees were Syrians. The study found those refugees who have resettled in the last decade have con­tributed between $229.6 million and $295.3 million, with an estimated 2,311 jobs created. For every dollar spent (by refugees) is more than a dollar of impact on the economy.

The release of the study followed President Donald Trump’s refugee admissions cap, the centerpiece of his policy agenda, announced last September. The administration will allow no more than 45,000 refugees into the United States in this year. It is believed to be the lowest admis­sions level in more than a decade.

Some 30,000 Chaldean Iraqi refu­gees have been admitted to Southeast Michigan between 2007-2016 due to the genocide committed against the community and other minorities in Iraq. A 2016 Dbusiness report es­timated that Chaldeans contribute more than $10.7 billion annually to Michigan’s economy. Most Chal­deans, like other immigrant commu­nities, are entrepreneurs. A recent study from the University of Michi­gan Dearborn School of Business and the Chaldean Chamber of Com­merce demonstrates that nearly 60 percent of Chaldean households own at least one business. Refugees from the Middle East are not a burden on government or resources. Proving to be the exact opposite, they are prob­lem solvers and job creators.

In recent years, the resettlements of Chaldeans became necessary. It is because of immigrant communities and their businesses, that many com­munities have flourished. As small business owners, we are among the state’s largest employers, further re­inforcing the fact that refugees are not stealing jobs but creating them.

Ultimately, what both of these studies tell us, is that the positive outcomes they have unearthed are at odds with the restrictions the Trump Administration is imposing on the number of refugees that will be al­lowed into the country. While the rest of the world recognizes the mas­sive contributions of refugees and welcomes all they have to offer, the United States is in retrograde as we prepare to take in the lowest number of resettled refugees in decades. That said, whatever legislative and regula­tory solutions are agreed upon, the Trump Administration and members of the US House of Representatives and US Senate must both be mind­ful of the charge in the Preamble to our Constitution to “provide for our common defense” while mindful of the other charge in the Preamble to “promote the general welfare”.

It is my hope the current legis­lative deliberations underway with the Republicans in the US House of Representatives bear fruit. Though what is definitively needed is a bi-partisan solution, such as was had when the last major piece of com­prehensive immigration reform (im­perfect though it was) passed in 1986 – 32 years ago!

Martin Manna is the President of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation. Martin originally penned this piece for dBusiness