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West Michigan celebrates refugees, immigrants and new Americans during “Welcoming Week”

Welcoming Week is part of a nation-wide push highlighting the importance of bringing neighborhoods of all backgrounds together.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer officially declared Sept. 9-18 as Welcoming Week in Michigan. It’s part of a national movement to highlight the importance of bringing together neighbors of all backgrounds to build connections and achieve growth.

According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, as of 2020, there were 686,647 immigrants living in Michigan, and 46.6% of immigrants in Michigan arrived in the United States before 2000. Immigrants have contributed heavily economically, with $20.3 billion in spending power.

“Naming the importance of welcoming our neighbors from around the world and empowering our neighbors to be successful and thrive and stay. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we want. We want to value and celebrate,” Hollin De La Cruz, Welcome Plan Coordinator for Kent County said.

Kent County launched a network of connections and its own Welcome Plan for new neighbors in 2020. The group works collaboratively with refugees, immigrants and new Americans over strategies that help incoming residents thrive. De La Cruz told WGVU that means going beyond initial steps and ensuring sustainable success.

“Specifically for refugees, there’s a time limit right? There’s support for, depending on what the service is, anywhere from three months to five years, and beyond that it’s just hoping that they can continue to thrive,” she explained.

Currently, De La Cruz said things are still “pretty abstract,” but added her team is working with diverse communities to bridge opportunities in areas like language and talent development. The goal is to welcome in new arrivals and create mutually beneficial relationships of learning and growing together.

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