A report by the Census Bureau two weeks ago revealed that Minnesota’s major immigrant groups — Hmong and Africans — are climbing the educational and economic ladder faster than anyone thought likely.
A subset of the report particularly riveted my attention: An immigrant is more likely to have an advanced degree than a native-born Minnesotan. This revelation should not only be celebrated, but should inspire legislators to go back to the drawing table and pass the Minnesota Dream Act in the next session.
Abdi Aynte :: Immigrants’ Success a Good Case for Dream Act Revival
The legislation would have permitted undocumented children who graduate from a Minnesota high school to attend college at the resident tuition rate. (Currently, these kids are treated like non-residents, which causes many of them to fold their college dreams).
Under the shadow of a gubernatorial veto, the Legislature whisked the Dream Act from an omnibus bill during the last session. A watered-down version, which allows undocumented kids to attend two-year colleges, was later passed.
The Census Bureau’s report offers an insight into how documented immigrants can achieve the great American dream, barriers notwithstanding. Poverty among immigrants is slashed in half of what it used to be a decade ago. Families are bouncing off welfare faster and home ownership is high compared to the general population.
But it also indirectly reflects on undocumented immigrants: If their documented brethren were able to register all these successes in a relatively short time, why can’t they do the same?
Because the undocumented were not given the opportunity to prove themselves. And in the cases where they had an opportunity, or where they maneuvered around the system, they attained success.
Take the housing market for undocumented immigrants: The Wall Street Journal today estimated it at $85 billion a year. And although the mortgage industry is in the middle of a meltdown, the paper reported that banks that cater to the likes of undocumented immigrants have far less of a delinquency rate.
This while anti-immigrants claim that undocumented immigrants are a burden to the system. Our own governor, Tim Pawlenty, issued a report two years ago estimating the cost of the undocumented population at $85 million a year. Of course, he totally ignored the revenue they generate.
Congress is trying to help. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has introduced legislation similar to the Dream Act. If it passes (and it has a chance, according to experts I spoke with), it could fold millions of people into the economic market.
The net gain is clear: a well-trained workforce that can replace the baby boomers who will be retiring in record numbers over the next several years.