New Initiative Empowers International Professionals for Success in Michigan

On June 14-15, Metro Detroit hosted the White House Task Force on New Americans run by the Domestic Policy Council as one of just a handful of local site visits to view best practices in immigrant workforce training, entrepreneurship, social integration and refugee resettlement. Global Detroit was privileged to play a leading role in virtually every session conducted over the two-day visit and several members of our staff were recognized for their expertise.

The highlights included:

  • Ernestine Lyons, Global Detroit’s Global Entrepreneur in Residence (Global EIR) Program Manager joined Global Detroit Board Member Grace Lee, Global EIR Advisory Board Member Manesh Senta, Global Detroit 2022 Immigrant Entrepreneur Award Winner Hamissi Mamba (Baobab Fare) and Global Detroit partner Chanell Scott Contreras (ProsperUs Detroit, a program originally launched from the Global Detroit study) on a panel discussion of immigrant entrepreneurship. Ernestine discussed the work that Global Detroit’s Global EIR program helping immigrant startup entrepreneurs highlighting the expansion of the program to four Michigan universities with the acceptance of our 10th immigrant startup founder to date.
  • Emma Davis, Global Detroit’s Director of Refugee Integration Policy, helped lead a discussion about refugee resettlement in Southeast Michigan and the recent multi-year funding that Global Detroit received from the State of Michigan’s Office of Refugee Resettlement to lead the Southeast Michigan Refugee Collaborative, a robust multi-sector system of support for people seeking refuge and safety to improve social, civic and economic inclusion outcomes and ensure that they have opportunities to build rich and fulfilling lives.
  • Alaina Jackson, Global Detroit’s Managing Director, participated in a large gathering of immigrant and ethnic community leaders hosted by the City of Detroit’s Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Economic Inclusion (another program first recommended by the 2010 Global Detroit study). Alaina’s comments left the White House team quoting her statement that “changes moves at the speed of trust”.
  • Steve Tobocman, Global Detroit’s Executive Director, led a session of Michigan employers discussing their talent and workforce needs and the experience and opportunities that employers have had in filling unmet talent needs with immigrant, refugee, international student and other global workers. Steve also served as a panelist on a separate session focusing on Michigan’s model immigrant workforce development programs, highlighting Global Detroit’s international student retention work, as well as the Global Talent Attraction and Retention Program, a seven-program initiative designed to build immigrant inclusion into the state’s Sixty by 30 workforce development program (sixty percent of the Michigan workforce possessing a post-secondary degree or credential by 2030).

The White House visit was coordinated by our former Board Chair Karen Phillippi, who now works with the Task Force from a position on loan with Welcoming America, and Annie Fenton, the former director of the Michigan International Talent Solutions program at the Office of Global Michigan who now works with Welcome.us.

The White House Task Force on New Americans decided to visit Detroit because of the leading immigrant inclusion programs that exist here. Detroit has been ranked among the nation’s Top Ten immigrant-inclusive cities in the New American Economies Cities Index, has been certified as welcoming by Welcoming America, possesses a Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Economic Inclusion and numerous welcoming policies on policing, language access, municipal ID cards, etc. Our region has a regional refugee collaborative and many local governments, like Oakland County, have established offices and programs to welcome and integrate immigrants.

Our state also is recognized as a leader in the field of immigrant economic inclusion and welcoming. We are one of 18 states that have a state office for New American (the Office of Global Michigan). Michigan has more declared welcoming communities than almost any other state. The State has developed some 50 individual licensing guides to assist foreign-trained and educated professionals in obtaining a Michigan professional license. The $5 million funding for the Global Talent Attraction and Retention Program (GTARP) positions Michigan as the first state in the nation to develop and fund a comprehensive immigrant inclusion strategy for Sixty by 30, it’s post-secondary degree attainment program to ensure that 60 percent of the Michigan workforce possess a post-secondary degree or credential. GTARP supports Global Detroit’s international student retention and Global EIR programs, as well as new initiatives to support community colleges in serving immigrant, refugee and first-generation immigrant students, launch a new skilled immigrant integration program to provide job coaches for immigrant professionals, research and develop strategies to recruit skilled immigrants from other states and support contextualized ESL programs.

Michigan’s leadership on immigrant economic inclusion is only growing. The Governor recently announced the formation of a high-level population growth commission and the Legislature approved a second $5 million appropriation for GTARP and the creation of a $3 million New Michigander Fund to fund integration services. The Grand Rapids Chamber announced specific initiatives (on the same day as the White House visit) to put immigration front and center of its regional economic development strategy. And the International Center of Greater Flint is working to launch a Global Flint planning effort modeled on Global Detroit.

While we all eagerly await how the White House Task Force on New Americans will impact federal policy and the ways in which the federal government can and should be supporting immigrant inclusion on the state and local level, June’s visit by the White House Task Force is reason to pause and acknowledge that we indeed are a national leader in immigrant welcoming and that Global Detroit is viewed as a national expert in immigrant inclusive economic development.