New Sterling Heights office welcomes Chaldean immigrants

Metro Detroit, already said to be home to the largest Chaldean community outside the Middle East, will be the destination for thousands of Chaldean refugees in coming months.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 Chaldeans from Iraq, many of them Catholics fleeing persecution of their Christian faith, are expected to resettle in the Detroit area in 2011 and 2012, and one of their first stops could be a new immigrant assistance office in Sterling Heights.

The office is operated by the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation. The Sterling Heights location become the second such office. The other is in Southfield.

Martin Manna, executive director of the organizations that run the offices, says the goal is to offer help, be it transportation, housing, English language lessons, and job help so that the new residents can become self-sufficient after their eight months of federal assistance ends.

Manna says one aspect of assistance will be helping Chaldeans, who are the indigenous people of their part of the world, where they traditionally excel. “They are historically merchants and entrepreneurs,” he says.

And a survey of local Chaldeans by Walsh College and the United Way found that 2/3 of Chaldean households own one business and and 39 percent own two or more.

He says the residents, many of whom will stay in Macomb County, will add to metro Detroit’s growing number of Chaldean Catholic churches and organizations.

The new office has filled a vacant storefront at 15 and Ryan and resulted in the hiring of three employees, and more will soon be added to keep up with the arrival. There are also plans to expand the office, Manna says.

“Part of the goal of the grant is to grow a campus,” Manna says.

Source: Martin Manna, executive director, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation.
Writer: Kim North Shine