Minnesota: A Place of Refuge?

The original Minnesotans were people from the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes. Eventual immigrants included those who moved west to find land for farming, Irish who fled famine, and Finns who sought to escape Russian control. Recently, immigrants moved here after escaping devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and drug wars. Rochester is home to Mayo Clinic doctors from around the world. Medtronic, 3M, and other local headquarters — including the college system — employ many immigrants. 

Early refugees arrived because they worked on behalf of the U.S. military and their homeland was bombed during the Vietnam War. Since1979, Minnesota has welcomed 100,000 people with refugee status from 100 different countries. Refugees are allowed to relocate to the U.S., after a government vetting process, to offer safety from persecution and civil war. Often those who arrive as refugees become U.S. citizens after five years. 

According to a 2016 report by Minnesota Compass, 80 percent of the state’s immigrant community live in the Twin Cities metro area, but a growing number of Somali, Mexican, and Korean immigrants are moving to towns like Marshall, Worthington, Owatonna, Faribault, Willmar, and St. Cloud. 

A recent MinnPost article indicated that nonprofit leaders in these communities hear three primary reasons for the move to Greater Minnesota: access to jobs, affordable housing, and the desire to live in a place similar to small town and rural communities left behind.

How do Minnesotans authentically create inclusive and equitable communities? How do immigrants and refugees find a sense of belonging in a space and place that is not their home of origin? How do Minnesotans become aware of each other’s diverse cultures?

Our July 2018 issue about Place included these stories:

Did You Know?

  • Minnesota is home to 208,571 immigrant women and 52,176 immigrant children. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey, 1-Year
  • The top countries of origin for Minnesota immigrants are Mexico (13.9 percent), India (7.2 percent), Somalia (5.7 percent), Laos (5.5 percent), and Ethiopia (4.6 percent). Source: American Immigrant Council
  • Undocumented immigrants in Minnesota paid an estimated $83.2 million in state and local taxes in 2014. Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
  • $250,000 has been set aside by Hennepin County toward a legal defense fund for immigrants, making it one of the first Midwestern jurisdictions to start chipping in for immigration court costs. Source: Star Tribune, 3/25/18

Policy Around Arrests and Detentions

  • Pew Research reports that Minnesota saw a 67 percent increase in ICE arrests in 2017. That includes more than 4,000 arrests in St. Paul. Details: https://pewrsr.ch/2EbOL0m
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered immigration judges not to grant asylum to victims of domestic and gang violence. Source: Los Angeles Times, 6/11/18
  • While cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul have declared themselves sanctuaries, counties and sheriff ’s departments like Hennepin County do turn over undocumented immigrants to federal immigration authorities. Source: Star Tribune, 7/9/17
  • Immigrant pregnant women will no longer be released automatically on bond. Source: The Washington Post, 3/29/18
  • Companies and local governments have proposed building immigration detention centers in the Midwest, responding to a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. The proposals, most by for-profit corrections contractors, were submitted to ICE after it put out a request in October for detention sites that included St. Paul. The proposals, all preliminary, include one to build a 640-bed detention center in Pine Island, Minnesota, near Rochester. Details: https://bit.ly/2l1lLAB