Saying No to SOTU: Immigrants and Refugees Are Welcome Here

Welcome

Seed art from the 2018 Minnesota State Fair

Immigrants and refugees contribute tremendously to the vitality, economy, and culture of the United States. Most people in the country recognize and appreciate this contribution: a January poll found 62 percent agreeing that “immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents.”

That’s as true for undocumented immigrants as for those with legal permanent residence. Most undocumented immigrants have been here for years. They have raised families here, bought homes, worked and volunteered and helped to build their communities. Theier contributions are also recognized by Americans—81 percent believe there should be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.

While headlines often focus on conflict, quiet work continues in cities like St. Cloud, where Ahmed Ali lives and works as director of the Greater Minnesota Worker Center. He’s a refugee from Somalia, who came to the United States after living in a refugee camp in Kenya.

“In 2006, my family got an opportunity to resettle in the United States. I had my first experience of snow in Minnesota,” Ali said. “I’ve since become a Minnesotan; I don’t care about snow anymore,” he joked before admitting, “Language was an experience for me.”…

“I tried to see how I could be useful to the community,” Ali said, recalling he was at a Somali restaurant when someone approached him saying, “We’re trying to do something for immigrant workers. If you’re interested, please come.” It was the first meeting of the worker center, where he has been executive director the last two years. “We try to make America better than when we found it,” he added.”

Ali is one of thousands of refugees who are revitalizing rural communities across the country. Some are doctors, nurses, and health care workers. Some work in food processing and in other industries. Some are farmers, like Ruben Gomar:

“For the past three decades, he has continuously tended the farm and lived much of his life there. Now, he resides in a nearby house with his beloved wife and four children.

“The name of the American farmworker is Ruben Gomar. He is originally from Mexico and just earned his American citizenship this past summer. …

“Gomar is part of a recent, growing trend in rural America: Since the 1990s, immigrants have migrated to rural areas at unprecedented rates, accounting for 37 percent of overall rural growth from 2000 to 2018. They come and fill crucial roles vacated by native-born Americans, ranging from the much-needed labor force in agricultural industries to the vital healthcare professionals in underserved regions.”

Storm Lake, Iowa has welcomed immigrants from around the world for 30 years.

“If anything, some of our dreams are more American than many Americans here. We just want to do better,” said Matthew Marroquin,17, whose mother is from Honduras.

“When we live in a small town like this we are so happy. We see cattle goat, we see corn field,” said Steven Champion, who came to the U.S. 13 years ago from Sudan. …

“Every day we get to learn about people who have different living experiences. It’s a challenge but it’s a great opportunity to grow as humans, said Stacy Cole, Superintendent of Storm Lake Schools. “In our community we know who our neighbors are so when you know who your neighbor is you don’t want other people talking ill of them.”

As anti-immigrant rhetoric continues, remembering facts can help to lower the temperature of political discourse. Besides facts about immigrants, remember that most people in the United States quietly continue to support and recognize their value to the country.

 

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About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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