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How Did Dearborn's Arab American Population Develop?

Got questions? We've got answers.

Dearborn Patch reader Lisa Wood Rodgers asked us via Facebook: How did the city of Dearborn become the largest Arabic city in the United States?

Indeed, Dearborn has the most concentrated Arab American population in the country–and the state of Michigan ranks second overall in the size of its population, too, according to the Arab American Institute.

The U.S. Census estimates that more than one-third of Dearborn's population of 98,000 identify as having some Arab heritage.

Many Arabs first came to America as part of the Great Migration from 1880-1924, according to the Arab American National Museum.

But why Dearborn?

Like many people, they came first for the jobs promised by the boom of the automotive industry in the early to mid 1900s.

A second wave of immigrants came to America in the 1950s and '60s from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine and Jordan, according to AANM. Many were highly educated, making them desirable community members in post-World War II America.

As the community started to grow and define itself, programs, services and religious institutions began developing that only drew more members of the Arab American community in to Dearborn.

The Founding Women's Club of the American Bekaa Moslem Society was formed in the 1930s, while the Islamic Center of America traces its roots back as far as 1949, when the mosque was located in Highland Park. And in 1971, ACCESS opened in Dearborn's south end, providing literacy and immigration services to new members of the community.

“When we started, we had very few programs,” Executive Director Hassan Jaber says. “These were primarily teaching English as a second language, which was done by volunteers, and we were also trying to help people find jobs."

Other significant numbers of immigrants to the U.S. and metro Detroit came from Yemen–looking for work–and from Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq–looking for refuge from war-torn areas.

It is estimated that there are 4.2 million Arab Americans living in America today.

Pat Mitchell February 21, 2012 at 09:15 PM
In High School (1963-1966), we had a wonderful teacher/football coach in Detroit, Mr. Haddad. Middle Easterners have been in the Detroit area for a long time.
Lee Jacobsen February 21, 2012 at 09:28 PM
The key word in the article is 'Americans'. We are 'Americans' first, then Arab, Norweigan, German, Spanish, Mexican , etc. It is an interesting ''hobby' to follow one's cultural heritage, but being an 'American' should always come first with respect to loyalty, respect, and freedom of choice, plus a lot of other perks that we take for granted being 'American', such as women's rights etc.
POWDERBURNER March 10, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Lotsa' alleged facts and figures. How many of 'em are on welfare? Highly educated? Yeah, you really need that to run a gas station or pimp lottery tickets out of a party store.

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