Michigan taxpayers are spending over $700,000 to “support newcomer integration” in Michigan through grants to “ethnic and community based organizations” that cater to immigrant populations.

A total of $738,000 in taxpayer money is flowing from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Office of Global Michigan to 17 organizations throughout the state as part of her “Capacity Building and Outreach Program.”

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The intent is to boost ethnic and community based groups that help connect immigrants with taxpayer-funded resources to ensure it’s “the state of choice for many newcomer populations,” according to news release.

The grant funding, allocated by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, includes $574,000 from a New Michigander Fund, and $164,000 from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.

LEO Director Susan Corbin said when the grants were announced in February that “the success of our state depends on” immigrants.

“Newcomers contribute significantly to Michigan’s vibrant communities and economy, and we look forward to ongoing investments to build a more inclusive state where everyone has equal opportunity for prosperity,” she said.

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Department of Homeland Security data shows Michigan has become a top destination for refugees, with 1,143 coming in 2022 alone, ranking the state 10th per capita nationally. Many others have come across the southern border.

In 2022, Michigan had about 695,203 foreign born residents, up 32.8% since 2000. That figure was 355,393 in 1990, when foreign born residents accounted for 3.8% of the population, according to census data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute.

Nearly 7% of Michigan’s population is now immigrants, or nearly double the national rate of 3.6%, data from the American Immigration Council shows.

“Michigan has been the state of choice for many newcomer populations, and nonprofit organizations help resettle and integrate thousands of newcomers every year,” according to the LEO news release. “The state expects to welcome an increased number of individuals and families as additional immigration pathways have been created at the federal level.”

Farmworker Legal Services, which serves seven northern Michigan counties, told the Mining Journal the nonprofit plans to spend its $50,000 from taxpayers to expand to the Upper Peninsula. The focus, staff attorney Dorian Slaybod said, will be to inspect housing camps and farm facilities, to ensure immigrant workers there understand their rights and Michigan businesses that employ them meet state standards.

“We know there’s a lack of information and support for farmworkers up in the Upper Peninsula,” Slaybod said. “But we haven’t had the resources to go up there before and see what these camps look like and make sure they’re really safe.”

The Grand Rapids-based nonprofit Les Clay, meanwhile, will use the funding to provide “second step” support for African immigrants coming to west Michigan, CEO Grace Lusamba told the news site.

While there’s plenty of well-funded nonprofits to help immigrants when they first arrive, Lusamba said Les Clay will focus on ensuring that support continues for five years.

“Organizations are usually there the first few months to help them get settled and get jobs in factories and get kids in school,” Lusamba said. “But, quickly, those services end and people are left to figure the rest out.”

Other nonprofits that received grants include Migrant Legal Aid, Ukrainian Society of Michigan, United Sikhs, Immigrant Connection, and the Empowering Youth Global Connection, among others.

The grants are among an array of programs from the Whitmer administration aimed at courting immigrants to stem population decline in the Great Lakes State. Whitmer’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes $8 million from taxpayers to provide legal services to immigrants seeking asylum, the vast majority of which use the process as a means to avoid deportation.

Another newcomer program created by Democrats last year is now paying immigrants $500 per month in rental subsidies, despite serious questions about eligibility loopholes from Republicans that have gone unanswered.

The spending comes as immigration remains the “most important problem” ahead of the November presidential election, with 28% of adults polled by Gallup in February concerned about the issue.

“A separate question in the survey finds a record-high 55% of U.S. adults, up eight points from last year, saying that ‘large numbers of immigrants entering the United States illegally’ is a critical threat to U.S. vital interests,” Gallup reports. “The prior high was 50% in 2004.”

Former President Donald Trump trekked to Michigan earlier this month to highlight the consequences of President “Biden’s border bloodbath,” pointing to two Grand Rapids murders allegedly committed by illegal immigrants in the last year. Others have been accused this year of soliciting sex from minors in Shiawassee County, sexually assaulting two teen girls in Sturgis, and other crimes.