2024 Equity Challenge Day 7: Welcoming Newcomers: Refugees and Immigration

I immigrated to the United States in 2019 from Kenya because I wanted to make a better life and really to actualize my full potential. It was not an easy journey, but I kept hope alive and yearned for a better tomorrow.

Brian Nagila

Shared by Office of Global Michigan
▶ LISTEN TO DAY 7 – 5:53

From leaving behind a home or family to navigating a new culture, language or way of life, the challenges and trauma that immigrants and refugees endure are difficult to grasp. Though our nation’s immigration and refugee policies have evolved throughout our history, new Americans still face many systemic inequities on their journey to a better life.

Refugees are people forced to flee their home country and cross an international border because of war, violence, and persecution. Fear of persecution in their country of origin may be based on race, sexual orientation, gender, involvement in social groups, political opinion, religion and more, that they cannot be protected from (UNHCR). Since 1980, the U.S. has taken in three million of the more than four million refugees resettled worldwide. The United States historically led the world in refugee resettlement up until 2017 (Pew Research Center).

Recent refugee resettlement in the US:

President Biden maintained the total admissions ceiling in the FY 2024 Presidential Determinations on Refugee Admissions at 125,000 (Department of State)

Since October 2023, more than 1,500 refugees from over 30 countries have found a haven in Michigan according to the Refugee Arrivals by State and Nationality Report from the Refugee Processing Center.

Immigrants are individuals residing outside of their country of origin, sometimes for work or education opportunities, joining family, or other circumstances that exist. The counties we serve – Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, and Washtenaw are in the top 5 counties in Michigan with the highest population of immigrants, along with Kent County which is ranked fourth (Michigan League for Public Policy).

The month of June holds importance in Michigan for both immigrants and refugees:

Immigrants and refugees contribute so much to our state socially, culturally, religiously, and economically, in fact over 11% of Michigan business owners are immigrants despite only making up 7% of state residents (Michigan Advance).

However, immigrants and refugees experience systemic inequities that stunt new Americans’ ability to succeed in our region. A report chartered by the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan shows that immigrant and refugee communities experience insufficient access to services like affordable housing and health care; inadequate federal support; negative public stigma (xenophobia: dislike of or prejudice against people from different countries or perceived as foreign) and a lack of a strategic plan to sustain our region’s new Michiganders.

We encourage you to explore today’s resources to learn more about the complex realities facing our immigrant and refugee communities not just in Southeastern Michigan but across America.




  • Watch short, animated videos about young people’s experiences seeking refuge in this series by BBC. (3-5 minutes per video)



Reflect And Share

  1. What information do you have access to about how immigration has played a role in your family history? Did your ancestors immigrate willingly or was their migration forced by other people or circumstances?
  2. How does your understanding of your own family history and the inequities that immigrant and refugee communities face impact how you see this community?
  3. Think about a time when you were new to somewhere or something – school, a job, a neighborhood, or community. What made you feel included? What made you feel excluded?
  4. What is one way you can be a welcoming force for new Americans?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hashtag #RiseToTheChallenge.