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Minnesota immigration as model for the nation

Historically, Minnesota has been a state with a racial makeup that is much whiter than the nation as a whole. In the last few decades, however, Minnesota has welcomed more and more immigrants from all over the world, not just Europe. The result is an increasingly diverse culture that has many lessons to offer the nation on inclusiveness and economic opportunity.

Tom Friedman, the prominent New York Times columnist who grew up in Minnesota, recently touted the changes he has seen. The St Louis Park native returned there for a visit and found a community enriched by immigration. He noted, for example, that there are more than 30 languages are spoken in the elementary school located near where he used to live. Thirty years ago, there was scarcely more than one.

Immigrants to Minnesota have long come from Mexico. Today, however, Hispanics are joined by many others. Somali refugees have come by the thousands to the Minneapolis area. Hmong and other Southeast Asian groups have come as well and often cluster in neighborhoods near University Avenue in St. Paul.

Increasing, too, are immigrants from India and other places with high-demand skills in high technology, engineering and other sought-after fields. Green cards, H-1B visas, work authorization, adjustment of status – all are in demand.

Of course, family immigration remains important also. One might say, then, that for reasons of both love and money, support for open immigration policies in Minnesota is strong.

To be sure, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is still active here. But Minnesota’s immigration story has much more to offer the nation than simply variations on the theme of deportation associated with Arizona and elsewhere.

Source: “Minnesota Mirror,” The New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman, 10-30-12

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