In revitalizing Wilmington’s southeastern side, the focus is on fostering and growing a multiethnic economy

The city plans to rejuvenate its southeastern side, emphasizing diversity and exploring an Office of New Americans.

Rowhomes in Wilmington on a street.

Rowhomes in Wilmington, Del. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Plans to rejuvenate Wilmington’s southeastern side are underway.

The east side of Wilmington’s Christiana River is abundant with restaurants, hotels, condos and walking trails.

The idea is to mirror this on the southeastern side of Wilmington.

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Leading the initiative is “Opportunity LIVES Here,” which unites neighborhoods, businesses and legislative leaders to transform Wilmington’s Three Rivers region into an economically and culturally thriving community.

“We recognize with the changing demography of our state that Delaware will become a majority-minority state similar to Texas, California, Florida and other states in our country,” said Sen. Darius Brown, who launched the initiative. The term majority-minority refers to the idea that non-white people will inevitably outnumber white people.

“We have to be about inclusion. We have so many businesses from our different diverse ethnic groups and communities in the second Senate district already doing the work, already taking the risk, already building and growing businesses,” Brown added.

Delaware has a population of more than one million residents. Immigrants make up more than 100,000, as reported by 2022 state immigration data from Migration Policy. This group comprises approximately 43% from Latin countries, 32% from Asia, nearly 14% from Africa and close to 10% from Europe.

Discussing the advantages and disadvantages for all ethnic groups in Delaware was a point of conversation at an April 24 symposium at Wilmington University.

Attendees pointed to State Senate Bill 44, which aims to create the Office of New Americans to address the lack of resources that would lift up opportunities.

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Who are the ‘new Americans?’

Carlos de los Ramos, chair of the Delaware Hispanic Commission, was one of the panelists who explained who is considered a “new American.”

“New Americans are the 110,000 people that are here in Delaware that are not American citizens yet,” he said. “Those people are the ones that bring in 2.8 million dollars every year paying income tax here in the state of Delaware, 789,000 million dollars that goes to the state federal government. Those 2.6 billion dollars of spending power.”

“We don’t have a well-organized system or platform for those new Americans to come and gain knowledge or find resources for them. So this Office of New Americans will provide that platform,” he added.

Across the country, 17 Offices of New Americans help refugees and undocumented people lay down roots and achieve a better quality of life.

De los Ramos said the state of Delaware faces challenges in providing economic and humanitarian resources for undocumented people. For example, some organizations, like La Esperanza in Sussex County and Jewish Family Services, provide resources for undocumented individuals. However, not all ethnic groups receive the same level of support as others, he said.

Another panelist at the symposium, Ajawavi Ajavon, CEO and founder of Ajavon Consulting Group, emphasized that the Office of New Americans will bridge that gap and provide resources to help every ethnic group, which ultimately will lead to economic growth.

“The Office of New Americans is going to be the best. I am an African. I’m an immigrant. I came here. I came here as a child, went to school here,” Ajavo said. “We’re going to have an office now that can help students like myself be properly documented, find jobs, get scholarships, go to college, have a voice in the community, follow the American dream. You know, buying a house, getting a college degree [and] owning a business, that’s all part of the American dream.”

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