Many times I’ve heard this be said about undocumented youth: they live illegally in the US because their parents made a bad decision; they are here at no fault of their own.
Statements like that have ALWAYS made me uneasy."
Ahmed Ismail Yusuf’s Somalis in Minnesota is a short book that sets out to simply and straightforwardly tell a complex story: the story of how the coldest state in the continental U.S. came to be home to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of immigrants from the East African country of Somalia. The answer, in a nutshell, is that they’re here for the same reason everyone else is: to live in a place where quality of life is high, employment and pay rates could be worse, and people are just plain nice. Yusuf will discuss the book on January 24 at the African Development Center.
I’ve been reading lots of commentary on the June 25 U.S. Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law. It’s pretty clear that the court was solidly against the law, as exemplified by the majority opinion that, “As a general rule, it is not a crime for a removable alien to remain present in the United States.”
The court struck down three of the provisions of SB 1070 and left one in place, for now. The provision left in place is the “show me your papers” provision that allows law enforcement officials to ask for proof of immigration status in certain circumstances. The court noted that this provision has not yet been put into effect, so they could not tell yet whether it would prove to be in actual practice a racially discriminatory violation of civil rights.
As Javier Morillo Alicea observed in his Thug in Pastels blog:
The Court ruled that the Arizona legislature had prettied up the SB1070 law enough that we could not yet prove that it would lead to racial profiling. And let us not forget that racial profiling was precisely the intention of the bill as originally written.
The court specifically left open the possibility of future challenges: “This opinion does not foreclose other preemption and constitutional challenges to the law as interpreted and applied after it goes into effect.”
Locally, immigration attorney John Keller, director of the Immigrant Law Center of MInnesota, characterized the decision as “very positive” and said it reaffirmed the primacy of the federal government in the area of immigration law and enforcement.
“On the police provision,” he said, “I think it’s very important for the public to understand that the court saw the injunction of it as premature [because this part of the law had not yet been enforced.] … It’s not really a victory [for those who support the law]. It’s ‘We’ll judge that when we have a chance to judge that, as it’s applied.’ They do put in a warning about [this part of the law] — they almost predict that there will be challenges and say that there should be great caution and care.”
Keller added that, from a Minnesota perspective, this should be a clear sign that the legislature should be wary of passing any immigration-related legislation, because when they do, they get it wrong and then spend taxpayer money to defend the bad decision in court.
Marc Prokosch, chair of the MN-Dakotas chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), agreed that the ruling was “a pretty clear win” for opponents of Arizona’s SB 1070. Prokosch recalled that last year, “There was a version introduced in the Minnesota legislature and it pretty much didn’t go anywhere. I think this means it won’t be brought up in the future.”
Young people raised in the United States but lacking visas will have a new chance at the American Dream, starting now, according to an announcement made June 15 by President Obama. The Dream Act generation won’t get a path to citizenship — Congress has failed repeatedly to act on that. They will get a temporary safe haven, through an executive order that covers anyone who
• came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
• has continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and is present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
• is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
• has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety;
• is not above the age of thirty.
The president can’t give them legal status, but he can stop deportations, and that’s what today’s executive order promises. The status they will have is called “deferred action.” To get this status, each qualified young person needs to apply to the USCIS, through procedures yet to be set up. The status is good for two years, and will also allow the immigrant to apply for work permission. According to the New York Times, it could cover about 800,000 young people.
The executive order notes:
Our Nation’s immigration laws must be enforced in a strong and sensible manner. They are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Indeed, many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways.
An email from the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota noted that the executive order will “remove the danger of deportation during a time when many hundreds of thousands of educated, employable individuals are living in limbo, and give them the opportunity to work legally and continue to strengthen their communities.”
What can bring the SEIU, UFCW Local 1189, UNITE HERE Local 17 together with Ecolab, Cargill, Carlson Companies and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce? They’re all on the same page, signed on to a joint statement supporting immigration reform now. Also on that page are civic and advocacy groups, such as Isaiah and the League of Women Voters.
On June 9, the business part of the coalition brought together about 70 people in Brooklyn Park to talk about how immigration leads to economic growth and American jobs. Under the auspices of the Business Immigration Coalition, the Partnership for a New Economy, and the Minneapolis Foundation, three Minnesota business executives spoke about Minnesota’s need for immigrants.
One-third of U.S. Nobel prizewinners in science, medicine and technology are foreign-born, said Ecolab chair and CEO Douglas Baker, and 45 percent of patents filed in the United States last year were filed by immigrants. Baker said that allowing more immigration is essential to U.S. economic health. Current immigration laws severely limit the number of highly trained professionals who can immigrate, which forces high-tech companies to locate abroad, where the scientists are.
For example, said Baker, Ecolab recently bought another company and inherited a center in India that employs 50 people in research and development, almost all of whom have PhDs from U.S. universities. Ecolab could not move the people to the United States because of immigration restrictions, so all of them will be paying taxes, shopping, and buying houses in India, not in the United States.
“Immigration has been the engine of growth,” said Hubert Joly, president and CEO of Carlson Companies. The contribution of immigrants to the U.S. economy is not something that ended in the 18th and 19th centuries. Joly said that immigration helps to create jobs, with immigrants at both the high tech and low-paying ends of the job spectrum. He said immigrants fill seasonal and low-paying jobs in the hospitality industry that U.S. citizen workers will not take, as well as immigrants with money who want to invest in this country.
For investors, Joly said, the current EB5 program is so cumbersome that investors are unable to come in, which means passing up “stimulus money from outside the country.” On the other end of the spectrum, Joly said, “the processes that employers have to go through to verify status are very cumbersome.”
Michael Fernandez, a corporate vice president at Cargill, noted that of the 30 top executives of the company, 14 were born outside the United States. He said that the argument that immigrants take U.S. jobs is without basis.
“We have people without jobs,” said Fernandez, “but we also have jobs without people. What is actually happening is that there are certain types of jobs, [such as] high tech requiring advance degrees, that are going wanting because we cannot keep that talent in U.S. On the other side of the coin, there are lots of jobs requiring tough, physical labor, that don’t happen to reside in metropolitan areas, that are dotting the map in many small towns across America’s heartland, and we have a very difficult time filling those jobs as well.”
Fernandez said that Cargill and food processing companies are finding employees in immigrants who are already in the United States, and that those immigrants are supporting the economic health of small towns and cities. He cited Albert Lea and Ottumwa, Iowa as examples of smaller cities that “would not exist without the immigrants who are now populating these small towns.” Unemployed urban workers are not willing to move to Ottumwa, Iowa for meat processing jobs. Fernandez asked: “Do they want to sit on a side of beef and do a Z-cut 25 times a day?”
The answer to unemployment is not either/or: either retraining U.S. workers or hiring immigrants, said Joly — it is both/and.
Baker noted that the employment/unemployment picture is not static — that hundreds of thousands of jobs are added and hundreds of thousands are lost, and there is no avoiding “change pain.” He pointed out that the Fortune 500 list was established in 1955, and only 71 of the original 500 companies are still on the list. The economy is dynamic, Baker said, but immigration is a core strength. “You have to ignore history and all the facts in front of you to say” that immigration is not an economic benefit.
Laura Danielson, “A Lot of People Are Dying to Come to the U.S.”
The Minnesota House of Representatives, in its infinite Republican wisdom, just voted 77-52 to limit the power of cities to govern themselves. Specifically, in a vote cloaked with the grand rhetoric of protecting the nation from 9/11 terrorism, the House voted to invalidate all local immigration separation ordinances.
H.F. 358 is not a bill that police need or want to do their job. It’s not a bill that local government bodies want or need. The bill applies to all public employees, not just police. Moreover, a threat contained in the law will prevent most local government bodies from passing any kind of law restricting any public employees from overreaching. H.F. 358 authorizes any citizen to file a lawsuit “to compel any noncooperating government entity, responsible authority or designee, or other official or employee to comply with reporting laws.”
Years ago, Minneapolis enacted an immigration separation ordinance (Municipal Code, Title 2, Chapter 19). Similar ordinances have been enacted in St. Paul and in cities across the country. The ordinances basically say that city employees, including police, should not inquire about immigration status of any individual unless it is relevant to their job.
Mayor R.T. Rybak defended the immigration separation ordinance in 2007:
The role of the police officer is to protect and to serve every person who is in Minneapolis. We know that if there is a fear that reporting something to the police could jeopardize someone’s immigration status, including those that have legal status, then people will not come forward with the information that we need to know. We need people to report domestic abuse, we need them to report gang activity. We have seen many cases where people are afraid to come forward for fear that it will jeopardize their immigration status, even if they are legal immigrants.
The immigration separation ordinance means that when a victim of domestic violence calls the police, they won’t ask her about her immigration status — they will offer her protection from her assailant. When a crime victim calls police, they won’t ask about his immigration status — they will look for the mugger or burglar or thief who committed the crime. Police think that’s a good idea. The Minnesota House of Representatives disagrees.
The immigration separation ordinance also applies to other city employees. If your house is on fire, the fire department comes to put out the blaze, and the firefighters do not question your immigration status. The Minnesota House of Representatives thinks they should be able to do so.
The current Minneapolis ordinance provides that city employees “shall only solicit immigration information or inquire about information status when specifically required to do so by law or program guidelines as a condition of eligibility for the service sought.” Public safety officers may “Investigate and inquire about immigration status when relevant to the potential or actual prosecution of the case or when immigration status is an element of the crime.”
The ordinance details various ways that the prosecutor’s office can take immigration into account:
City attorney’s office - criminal division employees shall be permitted to:
a. Inform persons of the possible immigration consequences of a guilty plea.
b. Question and conduct cross-examination of a witness or defendant regarding immigration status.
c. Inquire about immigration status for purposes of bail or conditional release.
d. Investigate and inquire about immigration status when relevant to the potential or actual prosecution of the case or when immigration status is an element of the crime.
e. Take immigration status and collateral effects of possible deportation into consideration during discussions held for the purpose of case resolution.
That’s fine with the police and the prosecutors, but it’s not good enough for the legislature.
The Advocates for Human Rights published a fact sheet on the city separation ordinances. You can read the full text here.
Police departments are among the strongest advocates for immigration separation ordinances, which help to establish trust and increase reporting of crimes by immigrant communities. These ordinances support community policing and do NOT protect people who are charged with crimes. They protect people who are victims of crimes and witnesses — and that protects all of us.
Too bad the Republicans in the legislature aren’t listening to the police on this one.
4,100,000 American children have at least one parent who is an undocumented immigrant. Many of those children are students in Minnesota, and they live in fear.
When it comes to workforce replenishment, immigrants are not only important: they are essential. That’s the conclusion of several studies, with findings that challenge a common perception that immigrants are stealing jobs from U.S.-born citizens at a time when jobs are scarce.
Based on figures from State Economist Tom Stinson and State Demographer Tom Gillaspy, a 2009 report produced by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and other members of the Minnesota Business Immigrant Coalition, explains that, “Unlike native-born Americans, who are aging rapidly and creating what some have called a ‘silver tsunami,’ immigrants are generally in their prime working years when they come to the United States, thus providing a crucial infusion to the work force.” The report adds that without new, young workers, “certain sectors of the economy will continue to contract.”
“Obviously, one of the ways to increase the size of our future workforce is to welcome and educate young immigrants coming to our region,“ writes Craig Helmstetter, a Wilder Foundation researcher, in Immigration In the Twin Cities: 10 Things to Know.
There are several far-reaching implications if the workforce is not replenished. According to A New Age of Immigrants: Making Immigration Work for Minnesota, a study commissioned by Wilder and the Minneapolis Foundations, “Many policymakers and economists warn that the entitlement systems of Medicare and Social Security will topple and fall if they are not supported by the labor of younger workers, both immigrants and native-born alike.” The League of Minnesota Cities points to National Research Council and Social Security Administration reports, both of which show that younger immigrants “have a positive impact on the financials of government programs, including Social Security.”
“On net,” a study commissioned by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco concludes, “immigrants expand the U.S. economy’s productive capacity, stimulate investment, and promote specialization that in the long run boosts productivity.” The Fed adds that, “Consistent with previous research, there is no evidence that these effects take place at the expense of jobs for workers born in the United States.” http://www.frbsf.org/publications/economics/letter/2010/el2010-26.html
As a result of such findings, many analysts find it encouraging that the region’s immigrant population is not only growing, but growing rapidly, at ten times the rate of the native-born population. More than 130,000 new immigrants came to Minnesota between 2000 and 2009, from every corner of the globe. Somalia, Ethiopia, and Mexico were the three largest sources. http://maryturck.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/advocating-for-immigrants-and-reform-in-minnesota-and-across-the-country/ Compared to immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Minnesota League of Cities points out, today’s immigrants are learning English faster, and are less likely to return to their country of origin.
Significantly, immigrants coming to Minnesota tend to be well-suited for the types of jobs that most need filling. People born in the U.S. either have too much or too little education to meet urgent workforce demands. On the one hand, those with higher levels of education are unwilling to take low-wage, low-skill jobs. On the other hand, there are not enough native-born workers with advanced degrees to fill professional health care, engineering, and high tech positions. Because immigrant workers are concentrated at the very-low and very-high skills end of the spectrum, they fill the gap, according to Wilder’s research.
Findings published by Wilder and the Minneapolis Foundation reveal that regional economic benefits of immigration outweigh costs by a ratio of two to one. Pointing specifically to the amount of net income immigrant-owned businesses generate for the state, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development concludes that those businesses “not only benefit the local community, but are a source of economic growth.” In part this is because immigrants are almost twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans.
So what would happen if immigrants suddenly disappeared? The Minnesota Business Immigrant Coalition says that by one estimate, the state would lose over 24,000 permanent jobs and $1.2 billion in personal income. In its view, anything that shrinks the number of immigrants is detrimental to the economy.
“The question that the state of Minnesota and the nation should be addressing is what will be done if economic conditions and harsh immigration policies further reduce the number of foreign-born workers.” Citing “dire consequences,” the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has become a staunch advocate of comprehensive reform.
The Chamber and fellow Coalition members have called for increases in visas to match the demand for labor, and a path to legalization for those who remain undocumented. The Coalition has also cited “a critical need for local efforts that insure the full social and economic integration of immigrants.” Primary among the efforts called for are state-sponsored initiatives to improve high school graduation rates for immigrant youth, and employer-sponsored programs that provide opportunities for job training and advancement. “Absent such educational initiatives, immigrant youth will be unprepared to fill the jobs of retiring, native-born workers.”
To those who charge that such initiatives are cost prohibitive, the Coalition responds that immigrants are most “costly” when they first arrive, or—like U.S.-born residents—when they are in school or retire. “Analyses that focus exclusively on short-term costs greatly underestimate the fiscal benefits and the fact that, over the course of their lifetimes, immigrants provide a net benefit to state and national economies.” Economic contributions increase as immigrants gain experience and earn higher wages, which in turn translates into higher levels of consumer spending and taxes.
Across the state, immigrant workers have proven to be crucial to the survival and vitality of communities, observes Minnesota Compass. “Particularly in smaller communities, the arrival of new immigrant families has helped to prevent the closing of some schools due to dwindling numbers and also has helped to reinvigorate main streets through new businesses.”
Taxes paid, jobs created, and consumer dollars spent are all quantifiable. However, the Chamber of Commerce and its partners stress that with diversity come a number of less tangible, but equally important benefits of immigration. “Diversity in the labor force, in our communities, and in our schools brings energy, ideas, and skills that spark innovation and that will help Minnesotans prepare to live in a globalized world.”
Photo by Mary Turck
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