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Immigrants & Refugees: Challenges/Contributions/Action
New Normal 2012: Get Connected!
“They’ve come for the same reason that attracted immigrants in the past: opportunity. And they experience the same difficulties of adjusting to life in a new country….”--Immigration in Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground, The Minneapolis Foundation
Understand the Challenges
Some of the major challenges facing immigrants and refugees are:
Foreign-born: refers to naturalized citizens, legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, foreign students, and undocumented immigrants.
Immigrant: a person who moves to a country where he or she intends to settle permanently.
Refugee: a person who is unable or unwilling to live in his or her native country because of fear of persecution, and who applies for protection while outside the United States.
Asylee: someone who fears persecution in his or her native country, but applies for protection after arriving in the United States.
During the 1990s, Minnesota’s foreign-born population more than doubled, jumping from 110,000 to 240,000. Today, over 370,000 Minnesotans are foreign-born. While that may sound like a large number, it amounts to only about seven percent of Minnesota’s population.
By country of origin, the 15 largest groups of foreign born residents in Minnesota today are from: Mexico, Laos (including Hmong), India, Somalia, Vietnam, Canada, Ethiopia, Korea, Liberia, China, Thailand, Germany, former USSR/Russia, Kenya, and the Philippines. (Source: Minnesota Compass)
“Immigrants and their children represent an important component of the state’s current and future workforce, and are vital contributors to our state’s educational, cultural, and civic life.” --Minnesota Compass
Photo by Araceli Arroyo, celikins’ flickr photostream (Creative Commons)
Boosting Minnesota’s Economy, Enriching the State’s Culture
Economists, demographers, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce agree that immigrants should be welcomed, not pushed away. They say that immigrants are essential to Minnesota’s economy, in part because they fill two key employment niches:
- Low-skilled jobs not requiring a high school diploma
- High-skilled jobs requiring advanced degrees
Even so, legal pathways are not available to enough workers to fill demand.
Fact: Only 5,000 visas are provided each year to unskilled workers nation-wide. (The Advocates for Human Rights)
Fact: High-skilled workers have more legal pathways available, but too few visas are issued to meet market demand. That number is capped at 65,000 per year.
|The Minnesota Chamber says that without new workers to fill jobs of retiring baby-boomers, “certain sectors of the economy will continue to contract.” “Unlike native-born Americans…immigrants are generally in their prime working years when they come to the United States, thus providing a crucial infusion to the work force.”|
Immigrants impact the state’s economy as job creators and consumers, too.
- Immigrant-owned businesses in Minnesota employ approximately 21,000 workers and generate sales and receipts of $2.2 billion. (Minneapolis Foundation)
- Asian American and Latino consumers in Minnesota account for approximately $7 billion in purchases annually, according to economist Bruce Corrie. (Wilder Research)
- Immigrant entrepreneurs revitalize major Twin Cities commercial corridors.
The Minneapolis Foundation points out that the state benefits in many ways, not just economic. Immigrants and refugees provide intellectual capital—ideas and innovations of immigrant scholars—and arts, culture, and cuisine. In other words, “Sharing new ideas and customs with Minnesotans to enrich our lives.”
There are lots of resources to help ground you in facts. Here are some places to start online:
The Economic Impact of Immigrants in Minnesota/Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
Energy of a Nation: Immigrants in America/The Advocates for Human Rights
Immigration in Minnesota: Discovering Common Ground/The Minneapolis Foundation
Living in America: Challenges Facing New Immigrants and Refugees/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
A New Age of Immigrants: Making Immigration Work for Minnesota/Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
This Much I Can Tell You: Stories of Courage and Hope from Refugees in Minnesota/Minnesota Council of Churches Refugee Services
Minnesota is home to many organizations working on immigrant and refugee issues. These are a few that provide opportunities for civic engagement:
The Advocates for Human Rights: works for immigrant rights in Minnesota and the United States by providing innovative educational materials to schools and communities, building the capacity of local immigrant organizations and activists, and advocating for policies that protect the human rights of immigrants. Recently, The Advocates created the One Voice Minnesota Monitoring Project to investigate, document, and assess how fully Minnesota welcomes all residents of our state. The Advocates is looking for interested individuals and organizations who want to be part of this ground-breaking monitoring project. For more information, please contact: OneVoiceMN [at] advrights [dot] org http:www.theadvocatesforhumanrights.org/
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota: provides quality immigration legal services, law-related education, and advocacy to meet the steadily increasing needs of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities. Its Action Center invites members of the community to create and send messages to decision-makers.
Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network: a state-wide immigrant integration group whose mission is to fix the broken immigration system in the U.S. They do this by empowering and engaging new Minnesotans and their allies through access to education, civic engagement, and leadership development. Their initiatives help eliminate discrimination based on immigration status to ensure all new Americans can fully participate in building a more united and sustainable Minnesota economy.
Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAc): organizes the immigrant community and allies to try to win legalization for all and equality in all aspects of life. MIRAc was formed in Spring 2006 and has organized many protests, marches and other activities for immigrant rights since then.
Other organizations that provide opportunities for engagement may be found at:
http://www.energyofanation.org/Links.html and http://www.mncompass.org/immigration/ideas-at-work.php
Twin Cities Media Alliance offers several ways to stay informed, connected, and engaged through the Twin Cities Daily Planet, including:
>Citizen journalism classes
>Social media classes
>Social media clinics
>An annual fall media forum
For more information, contact Marcos Lopez-Carlson: marcos [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net
Take a few minutes to identify a challenge that you or your organization faces in respect to using your social networks. Stay focused on identifying challenges and opportunities at this point, not moving into solutions.
- We are unable to connect with new people outside our networks.
- It’s easy to get people excited, but hard to maintain that energy.
- It’s been difficult to get people to share our message with their networks.
- Not enough people understand the background, or context, of our focus issues.
- People only think of our issues a few times a year. It’s hard to “stay on their radar.”
- With so many worthwhile organizations and causes, it’s challenging to stand out.
- It’s a challenge to give our followers the type of content they can share with others.
- In a 24-hour news cycle, it’s increasingly challenging to stay relevant.
- We have been unable to form a real connection between our stakeholders and our donors.
Add your own unique challenge:
New Normal 2012 is a project of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and Twin Cities Daily Planet, supported by a generous grant from the Bush Foundation.
For More Information: Contact Bruce Johansen: brucejohansen [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net
Follow Us on Twitter: #newnormal2012
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