State Department pulling out of Michigan

John McCain isn’t the only one pulling out of Michigan. Gregg Krupa of the Detroit Times reports:

Michigan’s economy is so bad that the State Department is sending fewer Iraqi refugees to the area because of concerns that their future would not be bright.

After a request by relief workers, the policy of bringing Iraqis to metro Detroit if relatives or friends live in the area was changed to allow only those with immediate family to settle here, according to the State Department.

“The State Department has taken the measure of things and decided it would be better to send them somewhere else, where they might be self-sufficient, instead of coming to Michigan, because the economy is very bad here, and we have the highest unemployment in the country,” Belmin Pinjic of Lutheran Social Services of Michigan said.

But the Detroit area is the United States’s Little Iraq.

Michigan is home to 35 percent of all Iraqi-born residents of the United States, according to the Census Bureau.

The vast majority of them live in metro Detroit, where the Iraqi Muslim community numbers perhaps 12,000 and there are about 90,000 to 105,000 Chaldeans — Iraqi Catholics — according to sources in those communities.

 That is the largest population of Chaldeans outside of Iraq.

But the government can’t keep Iraqis from moving to the Detroit metro area, any more than the McCain campaign’s official decision can stop the unofficial campaign in Michigan.

Joseph Kassab, executive director of the Chaldean Federation of American, said he raised the issue with officials from the State Department.

“I explained to them that no matter what you do, if those people are sent somewhere else, they will end up here, no matter what you do,” Kassab said. “If they don’t have kin or relatives, they are still coming to metro Detroit because our people like to live together, and we support each other.

“We have people who own businesses who are willing to come forward, and they are doing that now to help them, to provide jobs until they are settled.”

The Chaldeans already had a settled community before the Iraq war, so they act like normal immigrants to America, welcoming their own and taking care of them.

…the Chaldean Federation is organizing a job fair and will begin providing some automobiles to the refugees with low-cost loans and easy payment terms.

Relief workers say the lack of public transportation in metro Detroit is often the most difficult barrier to resettlement, because it affects the housing, employment and education of the refugees.

Pay attention to this next paragraph.

“The refugees are doing well and prospering,” Kassab said. “We are extending our arms to them. The only problem is the transportation issue, and we are preparing a program so they will have cars.”

“We” are preparing a program. Not the government. Not the refugee agencies. The refugees’ countrymen. That’s not to say the refugees don’t take government aid. But real people who care about them make sure they are housed and fed and given the means to work. Many Chaldeans are small-businessmen, as in store owners. That’s also similar to previous immigrant groups, and that provides a path for newcomers as they can work in businesses owned by their countrymen.

I repeat from the article: The Chaldeans are Christians. They’re here to live their lives and prosper, not to change America.

Iraq’s professionals have left in droves; US making problem worse

The L.A. Times actually has a reporter in Iraq who found out some facts, and they are pretty discouraging. In an article headlined Iraq too dangerous for many professionals, Tina Susman writes about an educated family about to leave Iraq.

Their imminent departure is a major problem facing Iraq, which has suffered a brain drain in the last five years and is struggling to lure back or hang on to educated professionals.

In June, the government raised civil servant salaries 50% to 75% to attract state employees such as teachers and doctors, many of whom were fired after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration says tens of thousands of people have returned since last fall.

But more than 2.5 million Iraqis have fled, and the exodus continues. Political and business leaders believe it will be many years before the loss of professionals can be reversed.
Our refugee policy is working at cross purposes with Iraq’s needs.
“It’s counterproductive,” said Raad Ommar, president of the Iraqi American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Baghdad. “They’re trying to achieve their goal on one hand of taking Iraqis to the United States, and on the other hand they’re trying to get Iraq stabilized and improve the economy and everything else. The flight of qualified Iraqis is not going to help that.”
Anyone who honestly looks at the situation agrees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was all for bringing in a lot of Iraqi refugees until she talked to Prime Minister Maliki, who explained why Iraq needs its refugees back. The (former) head of Iraq’s Red Crescent asked who will rebuild Iraq if the refugees are resettled in other countries. Ann has posted many times on the dim prospects for Iraqi professionals who come to the United States — one post is here.
Although Iraq has become far safer, it is still not a good place to live, with a lack of basic services, and scattered violence that is still frightening to the population. Those who can leave have left, and continue to leave.  Here are some numbers:
More than 7,000 physicians have left, including virtually all who had 20 years’ or more experience, said Mustafa Hiti, a member of parliament who sits on its health committee. About 600 have returned, he said, but none are the sort of top-flight specialists needed here.
Some of the problem is sectarian.
Most specialists were Sunni Arabs who, to achieve their professional status, were members of Hussein’s Baath Party. Even if they did not adhere to its ideology, they were ostracized and forced from their jobs after Hussein was ousted. Now, they do not feel comfortable in a country run by Shiite Muslims, said Hiti, who expressed doubts about the government’s commitment to moving away from the so-called de-Baathification policies.
Other professionals want to return.
Spokeswoman Shujairi said the Ministry of Higher Education has received hundreds of e-mailed requests from professors outside Iraq who want to know how they can return to their jobs.
It could be that many more professionals will want to return when they find out they cannot automatically practice their professions in other countries. The government is taking steps to protect doctors, and those who have left might find it better to go back to a less than ideal Iraq than to face life as a taxi driver or hotel cleaner in America.
Meanwhile, of course, the drumbeat for bringing more Iraqis here continues. And that harms Iraq beyond the actual numbers of refugees admitted. Everyone wants to come to the United States, and as long as Iraqi professionals think they have a good chance to do that they will not focus on improving their own country.