From political campaigns to Halloween Scream Town, “Minnesota Nice” fails utterly to protect immigrants from Minnesota Nasty this year. The good news: across the state, resistance to prejudice remains strong and growing.
Four St. Cloud city council candidates take anti-refugee, anti-Islam stands. On the other hand, the lone incumbent anti-immigrant council member is not standing for re-election, and his anti-refugee resolutions have been solidly rejected by the rest of the council.
On the other hand, Aar Maanta, a Somali musician known around the world, will perform at the Paramount Center for the Arts on Saturday, October 13. That’s the last stop on a Minnesota residency sponsored by Cedar Cultural Center’s Midnimo project. The St. Cloud Times interviewed Maanta this week, and he talked about the reasons for the tour:
“Programs like Midnimo give opportunities to unique bands, like mine, who wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to share their experiences from west Europe to mid-western America. Social events like music and sports can help to create environments that can unite people of different backgrounds.
“My band consists of a French guitarist, an Italian bass player, an India-born drummer and a South Africa-born keyboardist and saxophonist. … My point is, you don’t have to be the same faith or ethnicity to unite, as long as you have a common interest.”
In another cultural event with an immigrant focus, the Children’s Theatre in St. Paul presents “I Come From Arizona,” a play centered on the experience of a young DACA recipient.
In sports, as in music and drama, immigrants star across the state. Worthington now has high school soccer players from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, with soccer growing in popularity for both boys’ and girls’ teams.
Political campaigns, statewide to local, feature Republican attacks on immigrants. They seem not to be scaring Democrats. A WCCO fact check reported:
“Walz defended his view that local police and federal officials should be separate.
“States that separate those two clearly have lower crime rates,” Walz said. “They have better integration, and they have safer cities.”
“So, when Jeff Johnson says Tim Walz will turn Minnesota into a sanctuary state, it’s 100-PERCENT TRUE — and Walz is proud of it.”
Apart from attack ads, the bigger political news is immigrants poised to run and win in Minnesota. Ilhan Omar, running for Congress in the solidly DFL 5th District, is likely to be the first Somali immigrant to serve in Congress. Besides Somali and Latino candidates, Hmong candidates are present in larger-than-ever numbers this year.
“Maiv PAC has endorsed some twenty candidates, including all Hmong candidates running at the state level. Yang says they are looking to see more investment in small businesses in the community, citing the number of Hmong small-business owners who contribute the state economy. In education, the goal is to close the achievement gap for Hmong students and to ensure that they graduate college- and career-ready. Immigrant rights are also an important value, says Yang, adding “we came as refugees, so we can’t abandon that.”
Minnesota is home to about 430,000 immigrants, almost half of whom are citizens. Immigrants live in Worthington and Willmar, Duluth and Rochester, Moorhead and Minneapolis—all across the state. About one Minnesota worker in ten is an immigrant. Immigration to Minnesota accounted for one-third of the state’s population growth between 2010 and 2016. In 2014, the largest groups of foreign-born Minnesotans were born in Mexico, India, Laos, Somalia, Ethiopia, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. Their contributions keep our economy strong and our state growing. They are Minnesotans, not just an “issue” for politicians to debate.