Bangladeshi immigrant Shaker Sadeak moved to Michigan from New York in 2001 to seek greater economic opportunities. Today, he owns India Fashion fabric shop along Conant Street.
At the turn of the century, Bangladeshi immigrant Shaker Sadeak packed his bags in New York City and headed to Michigan — a state that he says afforded him the opportunity to make a living and go to school at the same time.
Seven years later, he took another step, opening his own wholesale and retail fabric shop, India Fashion, in Hamtramck, Michigan’s Banglatown. Surrounded by Bengali restaurants, spice shops and groceries, his business, like the street upon which it lives, has flourished over time.
When VOA visited this summer, new and established businesses were steadily replacing abandoned lots along Conant Street, Banglatown’s commercial main street.
“Back in 2000, you used to see one car in two minutes. Now we have thousands of cars driving on the streets,” Sadeak said. “All the immigrants came into this town and rebuilt the whole thing.”
‘Bread and butter’ issue
In Rust Belt communities, immigration is a “bread and butter economic issue,” said Steve Tobocman, executive director of Global Detroit, a nonprofit corporation that pursues strategies to attract international investment and business in southeast Michigan.
The state government under a Republican governor has concluded the same, issuing a report last year that said that the more than 640,000 foreign-born individuals in Michigan are “critical contributors to Michigan’s economic success.”
But the Trump administration argues that low-skilled or illegal immigrants are hurting American workers.
President Donald Trump’s senior adviser for policy, Stephen Miller, told reporters last month that the president’s immigration policies will prevent an influx of such workers into the country.
“In an environment in which you have this huge pool of unemployed labor in the United States, and you’re spending massive amounts of money putting our own workers on welfare?” Miller asked. “We are constantly told that unskilled immigration boosts the economy but again, if you look at the last 17 years, we just know from reality that is not true.”
However, the Michigan state government’s economic report suggested that the estimated 126,000 undocumented immigrants in the state generally fill jobs different from native-born workers, “playing a small but critical role in the workforce.”
The report concluded that the group has played a positive role in Michigan’s economy, paying much more in taxes than the cost of the services such as education and law enforcement that they receive. The report suggested that giving legal status to these workers, and perhaps requiring them to pay back taxes, would be a net benefit for the state and its citizens.
Eight months into Donald Trump’s presidency, Global Detroit’s Tobocman says the administration’s immigration policies and rhetoric have come with a hefty price tag: more than $1 billion in lost annual economic activity in Michigan.
“We have done some damage to America’s brand as the world’s most welcoming economy, most innovative economy, and a place where anybody can come and contribute to our growth and prosperity and live the American Dream,” Tobocman said.
Policies and rhetoric, quantified
In collaboration with nine other Rust Belt states that make up the Welcoming Economies Global Network, Global Detroit calculated the combined projected economic loss in Michigan resulting from decreases in international tourism and international student applications, repercussions from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), and losses in agricultural production.
Of a combined projected $1.157 billion annual loss in statewide economic activity, $418.63 million comes at the hands of Trump’s announced termination of DACA.