Statistics in the Michigan League for Human Services website show that immigrants represent 5.8% of the total population in Michigan. Other sources, such as the Michigan Fact Sheet state that immigrants as a whole are beneficial to local economies (for example, even undocumented workers, who annually contribute $8.5 billion in Social Security and Medicare funds at national level, but who utilize fewer services).
So, in order to find out more about the effects of immigration in Michigan , the Detroit Immigration Examiner interviewed State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) last Friday, May 24th, on the topic of immigration in Farmington Hills.
Rep. Barnett is the former Mayor of Farmington Hills (2003 to 2007), and was elected State Representative in 2008,. Rep. Barnett is now serving her third term in the Michigan House, and during her time in office, she has managed to improve police, fire, and emergency communications, and has crafted legislation to encourage economic redevelopment in metropolitan areas.
Over a cup of coffee in one of the local restaurants in Downtown Farmington, Rep. Barnett responded to the following questions:
Examiner: Oakland County probably has the largest number of immigrants in Michigan. How do you think that affects society in Farmington Hills in particular, where 19% of all residents are foreign born?
Rep. Barnett: “Immigration has a large impact on Farmington Hills, and on Michigan in general. We must make sure we are a welcoming state, as we are presently home to 80 different languages in our public schools, and we have many highly educated immigrants who contribute with their diversity to enrich our state”.
Examiner: Which are the largest minorities in Farmington and Farmington Hills?
Rep. Barnett: “Asians, which includes immigrants from all over Asia, for example, China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and the South Pacific, are our largest minority. Next are Hispanic immigrants, but between 2000 and 2010, Farmington Hills saw a slight shift in our foreign population. Asian immigrants, our largest group, grew from 7.5% to 11.1%, while our Hispanic population in Farmington Hills was reduced from 1.5% to 1.075%.”
Examiner: Would you say immigration is good for your constituency?
Rep. Barnett: “Absolutely! Those who come to Farmington Hills are highly educated immigrants, with degrees, and with high salaries. They are wonderful people to have in the community, who contribute their cultural heritage and increase resources. They are tax-paying citizens with lots of tax revenue coming to our state. As educated professionals, they want their kids to be highly educated as well. They fit very well into the community.
“Also, Immigration enhances income. 15.8% of businesses in Michigan were started by immigrants, and immigrants are also responsible for 32.8% for all high-tech startups in the state. Just take a look at the Michigan Immigration Fact Sheet and at the Michigan League for Human Services website.”
Examiner: What are the negative aspects of immigration?
Rep. Barnett: “I would not say of immigration itself, but of the federal system of granting visas that is so clogged and mired down. This causes people to come here with visas that later expire, making them become undocumented. There is also a shortage and backlog of visas, and in reality there is no reason for people to have to wait so long for citizenship. We all got here, and now we want to shut the door, and that is wrong.”
Examiner: Today’s global economy requires interaction with many other cultures, but still in the last few years there has been a rise in racial tensions around the US. Do you think that schools here should incorporate in their core curriculum courses in world history and world geography at elementary, middle, and high school levels to help students learn about the rest of the world?
Rep.Barnett: “I think so. I learned all that when I was in school, and I am convinced that the lax standards in education are threatening our system. We are a very mobile society with families constantly moving from state to state, and even to other countries. Still, huge blocks of essential knowledge are missing nationwide. A community like Farmington Hills, with such a vibrant immigrant basis, gives us the opportunity to learn more about other cultures, opening the door to the unknown.”
And with those words in support of immigration and a more globalized education, our interview was
over. Thank you, Rep. Barnett!