Detroit’s Immigrant Workers

Immigrant Workers, photo by Ryan Southen

3 out of 4 people in 1910 were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Wow. Ryan shared this photo on Facebook and wrote:

I stumbled upon this stone along the riverfront this afternoon. This region is what it is today because people came here seeking opportunity, or refuge and we are absolutely better for it. Something to ponder the next time you find yourself discussing immigration.

As the descendent of immigrants to the Detroit area, I completely agree. Crain’s Detroit Business has a nice feature by about how foreign-born workers have been an integral part of Detroit’s history, economy. It says in part:

Detroit once was the third-largest U.S. settlement for immigrants, said Kurt Metzger, the retired founder of Data Driven Detroit who spent nearly 40 years compiling information and statistical analysis locally.

“In 1930, the foreign-born accounted for almost 30 percent of Detroit’s population. The data show that more immigrants settled in Detroit between 1900 and 1920 than any other city but Chicago and New York,” Metzger said via email.

“The makeup of Detroit — European (Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, etc.) was heavily influenced by the national quota system that either forbid certain groups (Asians, for instance) or maintained extremely small quotas.”

The second, much broader and more diverse wave of immigration began around 1970 after Washington relaxed the quota system on a wide variety of groups, he said.

“We began to see large flows of Chaldeans from Iraq, Muslims from Lebanon and other areas of the Middle East, Asians from Taiwan, India, the Philippines, Albanians, Puerto Ricans and Mexicans,” he said. “Since that time, we have added, through war and displacement, Hmong, Cambodian and Vietnamese, Chaldeans, Syrians, Yemeni, and many more.

…Foreign-born workers and their families helped swell Detroit’s population to nearly 2 million people at its 1950 peak.

Ryan doesn’t have this pic on his Flickr, but you can see a lot of great shots from Detroit and elsewhere there and by following Ryan Southen Photography on Facebook.