Make Minnesota A Dreamer Destination

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Make Minnesota A Dreamer Destination


by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News


The clock is ticking on the six-month deadline President Donald Trump set last week for Congress to pass an immigration law to protect the status of the nearly 800,000 children and young adults known as Dreamers.

Dreamers are the children of illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents. Many have known no other home. They attend our elementary schools, high schools and colleges. They serve in the military. They are engineers, designers, electricians, medical personnel, teachers, welders and fill many other jobs in our economy. They are neighbors and friends.

Back in 2001, Utah Republican Sen. Orin Hatch and Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin introduced the Dream Act to give children of immigrants conditional residency and an eventual path to citizenship. Conservative Republicans who stood fast against a path to citizenship for anyone here illegally, whether adult or child, repeatedly blocked their legislation.

To protect Dreamers from deportation, then President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2014 called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.) Republicans were outraged. They called it an unconstitutional overreach. Candidate Donald Trump said that he would overturn it on “day one” if elected president.

When President Trump hesitated on revoking DACA, 10 Republican state attorneys general threatened to take legal action by Sept. 5 if he didn’t act. Faced with their threat Trump revoked DACA last week, but added that he would extend its benefits six months giving Congress time to pass immigration legislation that would address Dreamer status.

While we find Trump’s action, as well as the threatened legal action by the Republican attorneys general, cruel and unnecessary, we see a silver lining for Minnesota.

Republican Gov. John Kasich has the right attitude. “This is not the America that we all love. This is a melting pot,” Kasich told CBS “This Morning.” “And, by the way, if the Dreamers want to go somewhere and live? Come to Ohio. We want all the immigrants to come to Ohio, because we know how much they contribute to America.”  Minnesota shouldn’t let Kasich get out ahead of us.

In the 10 Republican states whose attorneys general threatened to file a lawsuit to end DACA there are 163,900 documented Dreamers and nearly 370,000 who likely qualify for Dreamer status. Minnesota should be marketing itself in these states, promoting our job opportunities, our quality of life, and our compassion. We should be telling Dreamers they are welcome and wanted here.

For all Minnesotans to welcome Dreamers with open arms those who reject the idea first have to understand a few truths about this group of young people.

In a column titled “Only Mass Deportation Can Save America,” The New York Times’ conservative columnist Bret Stephens points out the falsehoods that accompany the right wing’s overwrought warnings about illegal immigrants:
- Nonimmigrants, that means people born here, are two to three times more likely to be incarcerated for a crime than an illegal immigrant. Immigrant teens, both legal and illegal, are far less likely to be involved with the law than American-born teens. You can’t get Dreamer status if you have a criminal record.
- Immigrants as a whole excel in high school and college. Eighty-three percent of the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search were  children of parents who weren’t born in America.
- Eighty-three percent of illegal immigrants identify themselves as Christian while only 70.6 percent of Americans do.
- Immigrants, illegal and legal, are twice as likely to start a business than are second, third or fourth generation Americans. In fact, the number of businesses being started by those born in America of American parents is falling.
- Studies show that immigrants don’t steal jobs from Americans and, for the most part, they don’t lower wages for America workers.

As we have pointed out before, the rural population of Minnesota has fallen by nearly one-third or more, with the negative impacts of that lost population felt in our schools, churches, businesses and on main street. We can’t fill the jobs available in rural Minnesota because we can’t find the people to fill them. We are seeing businesses leave, moving to more densely populated areas.

The Pew Research Center has found that without immigrants our state population as a whole would be falling. It is only because of the births among our immigrant population that we are seeing positive growth.  You want someone to pay for your Social Security when you retire? Well, you had better hope that there are enough young people in the workforce earning a paycheck to pay for it.

Stephens points out that immigrants, legal and illegal, are “more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future…” than are complacent Americans. The immigrants show the same qualities that our grandfathers and grandmothers showed when they arrived in America, a quality that appears to be fading among succeeding generations.

America’s greatness comes from its immigrant heritage. To ensure future greatness, we need to embrace the qualities that new immigrants bring to America.

Military might, economic strength, geographic territory, and population size are not the best indicators of a country’s strength, Stephens writes. “A better measure of national greatness is the ability of nations to cultivate, attract and retain human capital. People tend to vote with their feet. To trace the rise or decline of nations is to watch where those feet go — and where they leave.”  And people around the world are still voting for America. People leave other countries to come to America because its “greatness” lies in its inherent promise of opportunity, Stephens writes.

Can this same theory be applied to states?  Could Minnesota offer the promise of jobs and a commitment to fight for a secure life for Dreamers attract more of them here? We believe so. We should get them walking, driving, and flying to Minnesota as soon as possible.
(When Stephens talked of mass deportation, he was referring to deporting Americans who lacked the ambition, sense of community, and an appreciation for the opportunity we have to better our lives, but then he adds – who would want them.)

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