New Americans in Detroit

NAE Report Graphic

The impacts of COVID-19 are not limited to just those who have died or the 2.7 million Americans contracting the disease or the family members and loved ones of those stricken, as devastating—and disproportionately impactful to African-American, Latinx, Asian and immigrant communities—as the disease has been. The American economy has been rocked as quickly and vigorously as any time in American history, with 40 million American workers—nearly 25 percent of the workforce—filing for unemployment within the first 100 days of this pandemic.

Americans are angry. They are sad. And they are deeply concerned about their health, safety, and economic future.

Despite ugly rhetoric and reactionary immigration policies from the White House, America cannot scapegoat its way out of the pandemic.

Rather than scapegoating our immigrant neighbors, we ought to be embracing their inclusion. The global pandemic impacts all of us. The recovery must include all of us. Economic policies that include all of the many diverse contributors to the American economy are critical to ensuring that our recovery is as fast, strong and robust as ever.

Last week, Global Detroit was proud to join with the New American Economy (NAE), Detroit Regional Chamber, City of Detroit, Macomb County, Oakland County and Wayne County to release new data highlighting how immigrants are both essential to the region’s COVID response efforts and especially vulnerable, due to gaps in our federal relief package, language access barriers, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work. The research also underscores how important immigrant inclusion will be to the region’s economic recovery.

Detroit was one of twelve communities that received NAE research to inform culturally sensitive emergency response measures that ensure all residents are included, regardless of immigration status. Global Detroit is happy to work with others in the region who would like to learn more from the report or to present its findings to their own audience.

Key findings from the report include: 

  • Immigrants make significant economic contributions to the economy. In 2018, immigrants paid $3.3 billion in federal taxes and $1.4 billion in state and local taxes, leaving them with $12.3 billion in spending power.
  • Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep the Detroit metro area functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Immigrants comprise more than 11.7 percent of all Healthcare workers (28,229 immigrant workers), 16.9 percent of all Pharmacy workers (2,216 immigrant workers), 13.5 percent of all Grocery workers (4,285 immigrant workers), and 13.2 percent of all Restaurant and Food Service workers (17,995 immigrant workers).
  • Immigrants play an important role in Detroit as job creators but are concentrated in industries that are especially vulnerable to the economic recession caused by COVID-19. Despite making up just 9.9 percent of Detroit metro area’s residents in 2018, immigrants make up 37.5 percent of business owners in Hospitality, 19.1 percent of business owners in Retail Trade, 19.2 percent of business owners in General Services, 23.5 percent of business owners in Healthcare, and 1o.8 percent of business owners in Construction.
  • Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, over 17 percent of immigrants, or 73,264, living in the Detroit metro area had limited English language proficiency. 

If you want additional information you can read the full research report here and if you would like Global Detroit to help present the report’s findings to your organization or group, email us at