Michigan: Magnet for Iraqi Refugees

November 24, 2009


Michigan remains a magnet for Iraqi refugees

Having family here trumps lack of jobs


The U.S. government resettled Mazen Alsaqa in Massachusetts in February. Within a month, the Iraqi refugee moved to Michigan.

It wasn’t that Alsaqa disliked Worcester, Mass. But he never thought twice about staying. Although the U.S. government tried to keep him away from metro Detroit and its soaring unemployment, this was the only place Alsaqa wanted to live. [It will be just weeks before our efforts will be criticized]

Family ties and cultural support from the region’s large Middle Eastern community appear no match for the U.S. effort, which tries to place refugees in cities where they stand a better chance of financial success.

“What the government gives you as a support is not a great deal. [Muslims are rarely satisfied, rarely appreciate what is given] … If you’d like to live decently, you should have a live connection — that’s your family here in Michigan,” said Alsaqa, 34, who lives in Birmingham with family.

Southeast Michigan has one of the country’s largest Middle Eastern populations — about 300,000 can trace their roots back to the region.

But as the auto industry crumbled, the State Department decided in June 2008 to send Michigan only Iraqi refugees with a close family member already here.

The policy came as the U.S. government began increasing the overall number of Iraqis it granted refugee status. From July 2008 to September, the United States resettled only 3,400 Iraqis in the Detroit area — about 13% of the total number of Iraqi refugees who came to the United States.

3,400 + 460 = 3,860 Jul-Sep = 1,286/mo, 43/day and we know that this isn’t accurate.  The number is understated

But that hasn’t stopped Iraqis from coming to Michigan.

At least 460 Iraqi refugees have come on their own since July 2008 after first being told to resettle somewhere else, according to Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, one of the state’s primary refugee agencies and the only one that collects data on what is known as secondary migration.

If they came to assimilate into our culture we could handle the inflow – but they come to change our foundational culture and take America for Islam and push for Sharia Law.

That was the case with Alsaqa. A relative in the Detroit area helped him land jobs teaching nursing students and tutoring.

“Without these connections, I couldn’t figure out how I could do it,” said Alsaqa, who is studying to get his medical doctor rectification.

The same was true for Rawaa Bahoo in July 2008. Bahoo, 29, said she stayed just a few days in Atlanta before heading to Michigan, where relatives could help her.

The State Department said its policy has relieved pressure on community and social services groups in Michigan. But Al Horn, Michigan’s director of refugee services, said while it initially cut back on the number of Iraqis coming to the state, many eventually made their way to the Detroit area.

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