Michigan’s large immigrant population adds to the state’s vibrant cultural and ethnic diversity, generating forward momentum in our communities and economy. In the United States today, there are 37 million immigrants, making up 12 percent of the total US population. Of those, 35 percent are naturalized citizens; 33 percent are residents; two percent are here with some type of temporary status; and 31 percent are undocumented. In Michigan, 9,270,486 people are US-born and 652,090 are foreign-born. Of those 652,090, approximately 150,000 (or 23 percent) are undocumented. Importantly, Michigan ranks among the top five states accepting refugees. In 2016, Michigan welcomed more than 5,000 refugees.The key to maintaining and supporting the momentum immigrants bring to Michigan is to provide services that welcome, include, and aid these immigrant communities as they seek to make a home in Michigan.
In the spring of 2015, Lighthouse’s founder saw a need for immigration legal services along the Lakeshore, particularly in Ottawa County. Ottawa County, home to 17,067 foreign-born individuals, lacked services to welcome, include, and aid immigrants and refugees. While Grand Rapids is home to several excellent nonprofit immigration law offices, for a variety of reasons, those offices were not adequately meeting the needs of Ottawa County. On November 2, 2015, Lighthouse Immigrant Advocates opened its doors, helping to bring stability to West Michigan through high-quality, low-cost immigration legal services, advocacy, and community-wide education. Since opening its doors, Lighthouse has served more than 600 individuals and families who may have otherwise gone without legal services or paid a high premium for those services.
While most nonprofit immigration law offices focus exclusively on legal services, Lighthouse offers a unique service model that provides holistic case management, advocacy, education, outreach, in addition to legal services.