Just a quick round-up of the good, the bad, and the ugly in Minnesota immigration news during the first part of November. And there is a lot of good news, beginning with election results from November 5.
In Worthington, all three school referendum questions passed—a major change after five consecutive no votes since 2013. Immigration became an issue because most of the students are immigrants, including a large number of unaccompanied minors who have arrived over the past year. The vote means building new schools to alleviate crowding in the existing elementary and middle schools. The referendum won with support from students, parents, grandparents, and community members committed to education:
“The immigrant families, whose children sit in the majority of the desks in those crowded schools, fanned out across one of Minnesota’s most diverse communities, doorknocking, phone banking, translating ballots into some of the 37 languages their neighbors speak.
“Fifty high-schoolers knocked on doors. Rush-hour traffic on Interstate 35, they joked, is less crowded than the school stairwells when the bell rings. They told their stories in English, in Spanish, in Karen, in Laotian, to anyone who would listen….
“’I’m just really proud of my community,’ said Aida Simon, who works several days a week as a translator at the crowded middle school her children attend.
Simon, a member of the group Seeds of Change, which mobilized the get-out-the-vote effort, said the election result made her feel like she belonged in Worthington.
“’It felt like this is my town, my community. I’m going nowhere,’ she said. ‘This is where I’m going to raise my kids and I’m going to invest all I have.’
In the Twin Cities, city council races made news. Nelsie Yang, the daughter of Hmong refugees, was elected to the St. Paul City Council, the first Hmong-American woman to serve there. In St. Louis Park, Nadia Mohamed became the first Somali-American city council member.
“Mohamed won easily with 63 percent of the first-choice votes in the race to replace Miller. It sent a message that St. Louis Park is a place to ‘be inclusive in the day-to-day decision-making levels in the city,’ she said.
“Mohamed came to St. Louis Park as a Somali refugee at age 10 and enrolled in St. Louis Park public schools. After graduating from high school in 2015, she said she struggled as an adult to feel at home in a city where social circles are often segregated.”
More good news: two excellent reports featuring Minnesota DACA recipients, published on the day of the Supreme Court arguments:
- Watch Jacqui, an eloquent high school senior who came to the United States when she was 18 months old on KARE 11.
- Read the Star Tribune’s interviews with several MN DACA recipients, one of whom said, “This is about love, not anger. I love my community. I love Minnesota. And this is where I belong.”
The appearance of an anti-Muslim speaker in Willmar sounds like bad news—but his audience was about half the size of the crowd that gathered outside to oppose his message and support diversity in Willmar.
“’We have a community that is very diverse in ethnicity, in culture, in religion,’ Marchand said. ‘When you’re looking at bringing a person from outside of the community into the community who is going to get up on a public platform and basically denounce the religion that a group of people follow as evil … it’s only serving to undercut what our efforts of becoming a community of diversity and multi-nationalism.’
“Willmar, a city of fewer than 20,000 people, has for the past decade attracted immigrant groups looking for work opportunities at the turkey processing plant Jennie-O. About 1,300 residents are Somali, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. More than a fifth of the city’s population is Hispanic or Latino, and 9 percent is black or African American, according to 2018 census data.”
A similar good news /bad news story came from the Bishop Henry Whipple Federal Building, now home to immigration courts. Demonstrators said that either ICE had to go or ‘Henry Whipple’ should be removed from the building name.
‘Whipple was the Diocese of Minnesota’s first bishop back in 1859, but he’s best known for ministering to the Dakota and Ojibwe people in the area. At a time when the U.S. government was forcing Native people onto reservations and withholding the payments promised for their lands, he dubbed the U.S. Indian Administration a ‘stupendous piece of wickedness’ and called for extensive reform….
“‘The U.S. government made over 400 treaties with indigenous people across this land, and it’s broken every single one of them,” [Reverend Jim Bear Jacobs of the Minnesota Council of Churches] says. There’s a certain hypocrisy, he says—or, at least, a shortness of memory—in that same governing body deciding who is and is not ‘legal’ here. As he stood with many others outside of a detention facility, beside a sign that read ‘Whipple,’ he could feel the irony as keenly as the cold.”
Sahan Journal and MPR covered the story of an ugly attack on Haarun Galbayte, a Somali immigrant and resident of Eden Prairie. He was making a DoorDash delivery in Shorewood when a man flagged him down.
“Haarun said as he rolled down his window the man allegedly began shouting and making anti-immigrant remarks.
“’I said, ‘I came from Eden Prairie. I live there,’’ Haarun, 49, told reporters at a press conference called by the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American–Islamic Relations. ‘He said, ‘Eden Prairie is not your home. Go back to where you came from.’’
“Haarun said the man then punched him three times through the car’s open window before walking away.”
The man has been arrested, and CAIR is pressing for him to be charged with a hate crime.
Minnesota’s Immigrants and Refugees Over the Centuries
A new report from American Public Media looks at “Roots Beyond Race” in Minnesota and around the country.
“You may not be surprised to hear that Minnesota has the largest Norwegian community in the country. But our state also leads the nation in the number of people who identify as Norwegian and black, or Norwegian and indigenous….
“Minnesotans lead the nation in several heritage groups. A higher percentage of Minnesotans report they are Swedish (7.6 percent), Finnish (1.7 percent), Hmong (1.6 percent), Somali (1.3 percent), Liberian (0.3 percent), and Scandinavian, not otherwise specified (2.0 percent) than any other state. Our state also has the second highest percentage of Norwegian (13.9 percent) and Chippewa/Ojibwe tribe alone (0.7 percent) heritage, trailing only North Dakota for each.
“For nearly all these heritage groups, Minnesota also boasts the largest number of people nationally, except for Hmong (where California exceeds Minnesota) and Finnish (where Michigan barely outnumbers Minnesota).”
Minnesota’s tradition of welcoming refugees is threatened by the Trump administration’s opposition to admitting refugees, part of which has reduced the number of refugees per year from 95,000 to 30,000 and now to 18,000. The effect on Minnesota has been dramatic.
“Minnesota admitted just 663 refugees as primary arrivals in the 2018 fiscal year, the latest for which statistics are fully available. That was the lowest in at least a decade, reflecting Trump’s reduction of the refugee admissions ceiling to 30,000 nationally that year. In the first nine months of 2019, Minnesota took in 775 refugees….
“The senators raised concerns that the White House’s allocation of refugees was untenable, with 4,000 slots reserved for Iraqis who assisted the U.S. military even as a lengthy security check process has prevented them from gaining entry into the country. They said that the new refugee allocation appeared to keep out ‘significant vulnerable populations in need of resettlement,’ such as those under a special status that has brought in Congolese refugees and ethnic minorities from Burma.
“Such groups have been part of a newer wave of Minnesota’s refugees in recent years: So far in 2019, the largest country of origin for the state’s refugees was Burma (362) and the second largest was Democratic Republic of Congo (145).”