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Roberto Torres lands key Detroit immigration post

 

By La Prensa Staff

 

DETROIT: Roberto Torres always seems to be off and running somewhere—whether the former US Marine and Bowling Green State University graduate is trying to stay in shape with a morning jog or a new professional adventure.

 

Mr. Torres has landed in Detroit, Michigan, where he was recently named director of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and Economic Inclusion.
 

Most recently, Torres had lived and worked in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was executive director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, which, by the way, is looking for a new director. In his work with diversity and inclusion issues there, he interfaced with the Michigan Office of New Americans—Gov. Rick Snyder’s effort to welcome new immigrants, help them assimilate, and become part of the state’s economy. Torres often spoke to groups across the state about economic development and empowerment.

 

Roberto Torres

“It was taking the notion of being welcoming and friendly and inclusive when it comes to economic growth,” he said. “In having those conversations, my profile was obviously raised in being introduced to other people outside the state.”

 

Torres credits a watershed moment over the summer at a national conference in Louisville, KY, where he met a group from Detroit. That led to a series of interviews and his eventual hiring.

 

The Swanton, Ohio native started his new role in September and has spent the past few weeks meeting community leaders during the week and attending weekend events such as the Global Detroit Gala and a celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day with a Peace and Dignity ceremony held on the Spirt of Detroit Plaza and organized by fellow Latino leaders such as Detroit city councilwoman Raquel Castañeda López and chief-of-staff Mariana C. Martínez, MPA.

 

“I’m in the process of putting together my 100-day plan that would be presented to the mayor and my chief,” he said. “From there, it’s going to be laying out the strategy on where to go.”

 

Torres emphasized that plan will heavily include economic opportunity for immigrants—from housing to ensuring services are provided to immigrants and refugees properly. Those efforts won’t just focus on the Latino community. He is meeting with representatives from Detroit’s many immigrant constituencies— the African, Caribbean, Bangladeshi, and Arab-American communities, among others.

 

To that end, Torres attended the Asian and Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) gala last week, which celebrated entrepreneurs from across Southeast Michigan. Each event lends itself to an opportunity to make contacts and exchange ideas on economic inclusion.

 

Torres credits 70-year old Bing Goei as a mentor, the first director of the Michigan Office for New Americans [MONA], who recently retired from state government after leading that agency from its inception in 2014. The Indonesian immigrant carried out Gov. Rick Snyder’s vision for harnessing the potential of immigrants and refugees and their ability to reinvigorate and diversify Michigan’s economy.

 

That office is staffed with four full-time employees and an annual budget approaching half a million dollars. The department’s duties include coordinating all executive branch agencies responsible for programs servicing immigrants, engaging in state and federal advocacy concerning immigration law and policy, and also publishing guides aimed specifically at immigrants that spell out requirements to get an occupational license.

 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently established a similar effort in Ohio by executive order.

 

Torres will take the knowledge gained from his mentors and also interface with city department heads and the Detroit business community to see what still needs to be done.

 

“It’s been a very exciting first month and really making some great partnerships,” he said. “I’m really excited about what we can do with services and opportunities for our communities.”

 

Torres believes his background in city government—first in multiple roles in Toledo and as economic development director in Canton, Ohio—have prepared him for his current Detroit role.

 

“The fact that I’m working with elected officials, working with school leadership, just every avenue that I’m touching on I’ve been acting based on my past positions,” he explained.

 

Torres moved to a loft in downtown Detroit in late October, directly across the river from Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He’ll have a scenic view of the soon-to-be Ambassador Bridge, along with a key role ensuring immigrant groups get to share in that work and the economic prosperity that is expected to result from downtown Detroit’s renaissance, as companies return and invest in the Motor City.

 

“It’s exciting to be on the ground for all this. There’s a lot of money that’s now being put into development there in the downtown. All you have to do is look at the cost of housing,” he said. “In some places, it’s more than tripled and that’s because there is a renewed sense of optimism.”

 

The new role for Torres also solves another problem—the tug of his hometown and ties that were tough to maintain in Grand Rapids, more than a three-hour drive from Toledo.

 

“I remain a Browns, Indians, and Cavs fan,” he said with a laugh. “That’s not going to change no matter where I go. The other benefit of being in Detroit is I’m only minutes away from my family and friends in Toledo. It will still keep me well-rooted with my family. I’m not too far.”

 

On the Internet:  http://www.globaltiesdetroit.org/  

 

https://www.michigan.gov/ona

 

https://detroitmi.gov/government/mayors-office/office-immigrant-affairs

 

http://www.globaldetroit.com/

 

https://www.apacc.net/

 

https://www.facebook.com/Raquel4CityCouncil/

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/06/18 13:35:24 -0800.

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