Iraqis still flowing to decaying Detroit

Just this week the Wall Street Journal published a story about how large sections of Detroit will be torn down as the population of the once powerful city shrinks.   At the same time, the Detroit area seems to be a mecca for Iraqis both Christians and Muslims who are staking out neighborhoods in the impoverished state.

This week also, the Detroit Free Press has a lengthy report on the Iraqi Chaldeans (Christians) who are flooding to Michigan.  Some refugee families are happy to be free of persecution at the hands of Muslims, others think living conditions here are so awful that they want to return to Iraq.   Below are just some sections of the Freep article that interested me, but I urge readers to visit the story and note too the sidebar statistics the reporters have included with this thorough report.

Intesar Najjar and her family are the latest of some 5,300 Iraqi refugees to move to metro Detroit since 2007, when the U.S. government, under pressure to protect Iraq’s minority Christian Chaldean community, eased visa restrictions.

Another 7,000 Iraqi refugees are expected by the end of 2011, the state’s refugee director said.


This isn’t the America Zuhair Yaqo imagined.

He’s jobless, uninsured and unable to afford surgery to remove painful kidney stones.

If I have to continue living like this, I’m going to have to go back to Iraq,” Yaqo, 60, said as he slumped onto a mismatched sofa in his sparsely furnished Sterling Heights apartment, waiting for the nagging pain to end.

Yaqo is among more than 5,300 Iraqi refugees to arrive in Michigan since the federal government  in 2007 relaxed restrictions to allow more Iraqis fleeing their homeland to enter the U.S.

Another 7,000 are expected to arrive in Michigan this year and next, more than in any two-period year since at least 1995, according to estimates by the state Department  of Community Health. Yaqo, a Chaldean Catholic, was twice kidnapped and robbed in attacks directed at Christian minorities in Iraq by Islamic and other extremists. He and his wife arrived here last summer.


In America, the refugees face an uncertain life in a state with a recession, few jobs and usually no more than eight months of benefits. For many, just being safe for the first time in years is enough to make the move and sacrifices worthwhile, though many hope for a better life here, at least for their children.


Al Horn, refugee program director for the Michigan Department of Human Services, said Michigan received $1.8 million in fiscal 2010 to help refugees with housing, employment, mental health counseling and English language training, up from $1.1 million in 2009.

The money does not include spending by the federal government for welfare and medical care many refugees receive for a maximum of eight months. A family of four receives $597 a month for housing and other basic expenses, plus Medicaid and food stamps.

Horn said he hopes Michigan will get another $200,000 to $300,000 next year to serve the state’s growing refugee population.

Read the whole report, it is very informative.  As I read the article I couldn’t help wondering that since the Muslims persecuted the Christians in Iraq wouldn’t the same thing happen in Michigan some day?  Or, is it just assumed that the American melting pot will work its magic?

Be sure to check out the sidebar stories including this one with the stats for where Iraqis are resettling in the US.

Want to learn more about Iraqi refugees? Visit our Iraqi refugee category where we have archived 469 previous posts on the subject.