Detroit Regional Chamber > Business Resources > COVID-19 > Detroit Uses New Research to Inform Immigrant-inclusive COVID-19 Relief Measures

Detroit Uses New Research to Inform Immigrant-inclusive COVID-19 Relief Measures

July 16, 2020
New Research from New American Economy shows that immigrants in Detroit play an outsize role in critical industries like Healthcare, Pharmacies, Groceries and Restaurants. Read the full research report and view highlights.

Detroit, MI– New research from New American Economy (NAE) released today in partnership with the City of Detroit, Detroit Regional Chamber, Global Detroit, Oakland County and Wayne County highlights 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.

“This critical research will help the City of Detroit, as well as other units of state and local government, to target our COVID-19 relief efforts to protect public health and safety, while assuring emergency aid gets to immigrant families who have been left out by federal recovery programs,” noted Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “COVID-19 impacted all Detroiters, and we are thankful for the support of organizations that have stepped up to help us ensure every Detroiter receives they help they need, but more must be done.”

“The New American Economy research makes clear that our region’s economic recovery from the pandemic must be inclusive,” added Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah. “Immigrant-owned businesses and workers are a significant part of Southeast Michigan’s economy and an inclusive recovery is the fastest way to reduce unemployment, raise wages and restore regional prosperity.”

“The immigrant population is essential to keeping Detroit’s critical industries running, yet especially vulnerable to gaps in our social safety nets,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “This new NAE research will support efforts by the city and local partners to work quickly and innovatively to fill critical gaps in federal programs and ensure that response efforts reach and support all residents of Detroit.”

Detroit is 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. Detroit’s customized research report highlights the demographic nuances of the metro area’s immigrant population and will inform the advocacy, development, and implementation of inclusive local emergency responses.

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. Among them, the top five languages spoken at home other than English were: Arabic (29.9 percent), Spanish (22.7 percent), Hindi and Related (10.8 percent), Chinese (5.8 percent), and Albanian (3.3 percent).

Read the full research report and highlights.

About Global Detroit
Global Detroit is a regional economic development organization that develops and implements immigrant-inclusive policies, practices, and programs to drive the revitalization of Detroit and the sustained prosperity of Southeast Michigan. Visit to learn more.

About New American Economy
New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more. Visit to learn more.