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Michigan celebrates influence immigrants have on shaping our rich communities

LANSING, Mich.— As proclaimed by Gov. Whitmer, June is Immigrant Heritage Month in Michigan, and the state joins a nationwide effort to collectively celebrate the history, culture and powerful influence immigrants have in shaping our communities and strengthening our economy.

“For generations, immigrants have made tremendous contributions to this country in arts, culture and beyond, and they also continue to grow businesses, offer innovative ideas, strengthen our economy and create jobs right here in Michigan,” said Office of Global Michigan Director Poppy Sias-Hernandez. “We are thrilled to celebrate the rich contributions immigrants have shared to help us build diverse and welcoming communities across our state.”

Immigrants bring with them talent and entrepreneurial spirit that has shaped Michigan’s rich and diverse communities for centuries. To kick off Immigrant Heritage Month, the Office of Global Michigan, who works closely with the immigrant, refugee and international community to make Michigan the home for opportunity, highlighted the unique stories of two commissioners from the Commission on Middle Eastern American Affairs and their journey to thrive and make Michigan their home.

Dave Abdallah shared highlights of his journey coming to America as a child from Lebanon with his family in 1976, as well as his thoughts on how to best welcome and embrace immigrants in your community.

“I was having to learn my ABCs while people were learning World War II and algebra and trigonometry,” said Abdallah, “It was very challenging, but it was also enriching because it created a goal that I needed to get to. And I knew it was going to be difficult. But it helped me tremendously.”

Abdallah says, how you treat people who are immigrants is important, “It is okay not to be able to speak their language. It is okay to see their culture as being different, but you must invite them in not physically but emotionally by understanding their lack of [English] language or their lack of [American] culture… Embrace their food and embrace their ways and then you'll make them feel comfortable.”

Adel Mozip reflected on the importance of immigrant heritage month, "Many people talk about America as a melting pot. We should forgo that notion that we're a melting pot. We should not melt, we should not mold, we should not change any traditions. At the end of the day, unless you are a Native American, we're all immigrants."

Mozip, who works in the tech sector and is a Dearborn school board member, came to America at age 13 with his family. His father came to America with $5 in his pocket and made his way to Ford Motor Company, where he worked for 33 years from 1977 until he retired in 2009. Mozip went to school in southwest Detroit and learned a little bit of English and then went to the iconic Fordson High School in Dearborn.

"This is why this country is so versatile because you could come here with $5 in your pocket like my dad and become the person that he is and raise the children that he raised to be successful and achieve what is called the American dream. It's a land of opportunity," said Mozip. "This country is a land of diversity. And this is what makes us strong. And it's a strong nation that we come from all walks of life, from all races, from all nations. And we serve this country in its military. We serve it in political office, we serve it in its factories, we serve it in every form, in every job."

In addition to their rich cultural contributions, immigrants offer innovative ideas and create and fill in-demand jobs in Michigan. The top occupations in Michigan with the highest number of foreign-born workers are software developers, agricultural workers, physicians, physical therapists and postsecondary teachers.

According to data provided by the American Immigration Council, there are over 678,000 immigrants in Michigan. Some of the state’s largest and most vibrant communities are where many immigrants call home, making up approximately 7% of Michigan's total population, with over 423,000 immigrants in Metro-Detroit and 74,400 in the Grand Rapids metro area.

In Michigan, immigrants continue to grow the economy and support our communities, with over 37,400 immigrant entrepreneurs in Michigan. In 2018, 9% of all self-employed Michiganders generated $731.5 million in business income according to American Immigration Council.

Join the conversation online using #CelebrateImmigrants and #ImmigrantHeritageMonth and visit for more stories and resources in the digital toolkit.