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President Trump scraps planned talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Also on our Friday rundown: California lawmakers support and emergency hotline for foster kids; and boating is a booming business in states like Minnesota.

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Welcoming Refugees a Win-Win for Michigan?

About 1,800 refugees arrived in Michigan in fiscal year 2016. (Pixabay)
About 1,800 refugees arrived in Michigan in fiscal year 2016. (Pixabay)
June 20, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Despite divisive political rhetoric over the past year on the issue of refugees, many cities in Michigan are welcoming with open arms those seeking safe haven.

Christine Sauvé, senior program coordinator of the Welcoming Michigan Project for the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, says there are large numbers of refugees in communities around Michigan, and more Syrian refugees have resettled here over the past year than in any other state.

She maintains there's always room for more, as the state's foreign-born population is about half of the national average.

"When we in Michigan think, 'Can we welcome more immigrants and refugees?' we definitely say, 'Yes,'” she states. “And we were the only state to lose population in the last census, so it's a win-win situation."

Today is World Refugee Day, which Sauvé says is an opportunity to welcome refugees and celebrate their resiliency.

According to the Refugee Processing Center, from October through May, more than 1,800 refugees arrived in Michigan.

St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing is among a handful of resettlement agencies in the state. Community Outreach Coordinator Marissa Nalley says her agency works to help those fleeing conflict start new lives and become part of the community.

"We meet everyone at the airport,” she relates. “We have already located them housing, furnished their housing, filled their cabinets and their fridge with appropriate foods.

“We help them through cultural orientation, housing orientation, employment orientation, enroll them in ESL classes, enroll kids in school."

Sauvé adds there also are neighborhood, faith and community groups with generous hearts that are willing to help refugees. She says refugees need all the support they can get since fleeing their home can be traumatizing.

"They're leaving not like in the situation of other immigrants where they might have planned ahead for their trip or had already learned English,” she explains. “Many refugees have to flee in the middle of the night with really no possessions or anything. They're really starting over."

Sauvé notes that refugees increase cultural diversity, contribute to the economy and revitalize communities with declining populations.

A new report from the Center for American Progress shows that 10 years after being in the U.S., refugees have similar rates of labor force participation and business ownership compared with U.S. born citizens.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI