Detroit Illegal Migrant Surge Overwhelming City Resources

Detroit non-governmental organizations that work to settle migrants say they are so overwhelmed by the surge of arrivals illegally crossing the southern border that they are calling on private residents in the community to extend resources, including their own homes.

Elizabeth Orozco-Vasquez, the executive director of Freedom House Detroit, says, “We’re seeing far and above what we typically see, I would say double.”

City resources are insufficient to handle the non-stop arrival of new immigrants from over the border with Mexico. The African Bureau for Immigration and Social Affairs (ABISA), an NGO that provides support services for immigrants trying to settle in the U.S. — including finding them stable housing — is leading efforts to find places for illegal immigrants to live in Detroit.

ABISA’s founder, Seydi Starr, immigrated to the U.S. from the West African nation of Senegal. Starr recently told the Detroit News that she has been working since last year to put together a private network of housing support for illegal migrants. She says the immigrant housing crisis in Detroit is worse than ever this year.

“We’ve been calling on administrators. [ … ] We have seen the lack of supportive services for that specific community primarily working with Black immigrants.” Starr told the city paper. “We have been working to secure the understanding that these people are here, and something needs to be done about it.”

“Community members have been picking people off the street and taking them into their own homes.” Starr said. “Some people have 12, 18, 20 people in their homes. Every day, we’ll get a call from a driver who picked up someone at the airport, and the driver tells us the man hasn’t eaten in two days and doesn’t have a place to stay. It’s on us to find out who has space.”

Starr and her group may be skirting the law to address the massive influx of migrants. It is most likely illegal to house 20 people in a single-family home.

Meanwhile, David Bowser, the chief of housing services at Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department, insists the city is doing fine managing the crisis, “Despite occasional dire predictions, [our] efforts have continued to successfully prevent Detroit from experiencing tent cities popping up as has been seen in other communities.”