Understanding diversity better


A new working group aims to help better understand cultural diversity.

Sen. Patricia Torres Ray (DFL-Mpls) and Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake) were elected to co-chair the Ethnic Heritage and New American Working Group at its first meeting.

Group members include two representatives and two senators, as well as six members of the public appointed by the governor, House and Senate.

The group opened with a presentation by State Demographer Tom Gillaspy, who broke down statistics about Minnesota’s immigrant population, which comes primarily from Somalia, Thailand (Laotian and Hmong populations), Ethiopia, Mexico and Liberia.

Torres Ray said the group’s mandate was very broad, leaving flexibility in taking up specific issues and goals.

According to a law passed last year, the group “must undertake activities it determines are necessary to assist state government to foster an understanding and appreciation of ethnic and cultural diversity in Minnesota, to identify underutilized resources within the immigrant community, and to facilitate the full participation of immigrants in social, cultural and political life in this state.”