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'They want to pay it forward' | D-FW is fastest-growing metro area in the country for immigrants, study says

The D-FW metro area added more than 48,000 new immigrant residents in 2019, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from a recent national report.

DALLAS — The Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area is the fastest-growing metro area for immigrants, according to a recent national study.

The D-FW metro area added more than 48,000 new immigrant residents in 2019, based on U.S. Census Bureau data from a recent report released by New American Economy. This is a bipartisan immigration research and advocacy organization.

No other metro area in the country added more immigrants during the same year, according to the study.

While there are many factors that led to North Texas seeing this growth, Jeremy Robbins, who is the executive director of New American Economy, said there are two key reasons people are choosing to move to D-FW.

"People are coming to work and they're coming to where there's a community of people they know is going to be accepting," Robbins said. "It's a growing city with lots of jobs."

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Maisaa Alkhdir and Rania Alahmad recently took two of these jobs after moving from Syria.

"We moved to this country because of war in our country," Alkhdir said. "We liked America before we came. It looks like a dream."

Alkhdir and Alahmad didn't know much English when they moved to America. They both said it was daunting at the start.

"I thought that people would not accept me because of my religion, my scarf or my wear," Alahmad said.

Credit: Jay Wallis
Maisaa Alkhdir and Rania Alahmad moved to America because of the war that was happening in Syria. They now work as cooks for Breaking Bread, Breaking Borders.

Not only did they say the "smiles" from people in North Texas helped ease their concerns, but getting in contact with Jin-Ya Huang, the founder of Break Bread, Break Borders, gave them newfound skillsets as not only cooks but women in the workforce.

"They taught us how to ride a bus," Alkhdir said. "They taught us how we apply for the work. They taught us everything online. They helped make this easier for us."

Break Bread, Break Borders is a culinary training program that provides jobs and entrepreneur training for refugee women from war-torn countries.

Huang has ancestors who escaped from communism in China and took refuge in Taiwan. That's where Huang grew up until she was 13 when her dad lost his job.

Her aunt and uncle started a restaurant business in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which is what brought Huang and her family to America. Her parents eventually saved enough money to buy one of the restaurant's franchises from her aunt and uncle and run that location in Dallas.

Credit: Liu Liu
Jin-Ya Huang (right) takes a photo with her family.

"Every day, I saw my mom train immigrants, refugees and migrants from all around the world and just really educate them with job skills in the kitchen," Huang said, remembering her mom's hard work in her family's restaurant.

When Huang lost her mom to cancer in 2015, she knew she wanted to continue her mom's work and provide opportunities for refugees around the world. So, while still working in the corporate world, Huang started building the company that would eventually become Break Bread, Break Borders.

When her business first got up and running around 2017, Huang was more focused on providing community dinners for refugee women. 

However, she said once she started listening to what people were telling her they needed, she shifted her focus to job opportunities.

"You want innovative and also sustainable solutions," Huang said. "They want to be good citizens. They want to contribute. They want to pay it forward."

Credit: Brian Maschino
Break Bread, Break Borders founder Jin-Ya Huang helps serve food at a Break Bread, Break Borders dinner.

Ruaa Gardner is an interpreter for Break Bread, Break Borders. She moved from Yemen to North Texas back in 2013 with her husband. She and her husband eventually got divorced, which was around the time she met Huang and the women a part of Break Bread, Break Borders.

"They honestly helped me go through the toughest time of my life," Gardner said. "They would help other people. They helped the economy, invigorated it."

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The women from Break Bread, Break Borders are just a small piece of the many immigrants helping to support the North Texas economy.

In 2019, immigrants in the D-FW metro area paid $12.8 billion in federal, state, and local taxes and held $37.5 billion in spending power, according to the New American Economy study.

In the D-FW metro area, the study said immigrants are more than 25% more likely to be entrepreneurs when compared to American-born residents, and in 2019, there were 104,341 immigrant entrepreneurs.

Credit: James Coreas

Huang said the support she has seen from the people of North Texas makes this type of impact possible.

"That sense of camaraderie, community and togetherness," Huang said. "I think that's what Texas is all about. It's a community that everyone wants to invest in to build together."

And Alkhdir said food is the perfect way to create a connection.

"We want to be a good addition for this country," Alkhdir said. "When you eat our food, this is like a bridge between you and other people to make them know your culture."

To learn more about  Break Bread, Break Borders, you can visit the company's website here.