Minnesota is not exactly in the center of the immigration debate. In fact when people –out of state- hear about Minnesota and it’s blooming immigrant community they all ask the same question: “Why Minnesota?” The answer is simple, “because Minnesota has always been one of the most liberal and tolerant states in the nation”. But when two US Representatives –Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois)- agree to be part of a community forum on immigration in the Twin Cities, the eyes of the nation turn to Minnesota and then we say, “Let’s talk about immigration” right now, right here.
Opinion: Let’s talk about immigration
The fact that two U.S. Representatives decided to come to Minnesota to talk about immigration proves that even though Minnesota may not have a “big” immigrant community –as other states such as New York or California-, its political importance is becoming more and more obvious as a swing state. But Minnesota is more than that. Minnesota is home for thousands of Hmong immigrants; thousands of Somali immigrants; thousands of other African immigrants and thousands of Latino immigrants. Minnesota is an important state in terms of immigration and a state where the debate needs to be addressed.
Saturday was just a taste of the attraction of having such important guests talking about immigration. Nearly three hundred people gathered at Washburn High School in South Minneapolis to hear them. It felt like a breath of fresh air to hear them both, Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois), talk about immigration and the proposals being debated in Congress. But most troubling of all were Gutierrez’s remarks about the amount of calls opposing the immigration reform received at his office since he announced his proposal (known as STRIVE). He said that his office receives nearly five hundred calls from people opposing the immigration reform every day and only one, just one phone call, in favor. The numbers are devastating and the gap between them points to more concerning things like a terrible polarization in the country over one issue and a growing sense of racism and segregation.
Troubling as well was another assertion by Rep. Gutierrez, who assured that, so far, his proposal has the support of only 180 members of the House. Troubling because Democrats have majority in the House (232) and that means that at least 52 Democrats are voting against the immigration reform. In other words, at least 22.3% of them are voting against it. The necessary question is: “What is going on inside the Democratic Party? Is this the Party that is supposed to help the Latino and immigrant community?”
If the Democratic Party is not able to deliver the necessary votes from within the party when it has majority in both Chambers, are there any real chances to approve anything at all? The Democratic Leadership should be looking for answers and results before it’s too late.