Panel discusses immigrants’ issues

Jerret Raffety

Community leaders and members discussed what can be done to help immigrants who are adjusting to life in Minnesota on Tuesday at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

“Immigrants are here to stay,” said Emmett Carson, Minneapolis Foundation president and chief executive officer.

The foundation released a new report detailing the wave of foreign-born new residents who have migrated into Minnesota in the 1990s.

During that time, the state’s foreign-born population more than doubled from 110,000 to 240,000.

Panelists from several local organizations participated in the event, discussing issues such as urban development, the state economy and the state’s cultural landscape.

Bringing their families and cultures, immigrants have experienced multiple challenges in society, panelists said, and policy-makers must do more to help them.

“Are we not invested enough in affordable housing and better transportation in Minnesota because of policy differences or to keep immigrants out?” Carson said.

There are many disparities between immigrants and Minnesota residents, said Mary Brainerd, Health Partners’ chief executive officer.

Panelists said immigrants often struggle to find well-paying jobs because employers are not prepared to hire and train foreigners. Lack of education also limits what jobs are available to the new residents.

Immigrants struggle with the language barrier as well, the panelists said.

Providing better early childhood education and health care to immigrant families is another issue that needs attention, Brainerd said.

Immigrants also face racism or bigotry in some Minnesota communities, Carson said. Longtime residents react differently to increased trends in immigration, and some communities are uncomfortable with diversity, Carson said.

The many concerns add up and could hurt Minnesota economically if efforts are not made to improve immigrants’ lives, she said.

“What’s good for Minnesota communities is good for Minnesota businesses,” she said.

The survey’s findings have produced reactions from the international community at the University.

Aditya Malhotra, Minnesota International Student Organization vice president, did not attend the event but said the survey should be positive for Minnesota’s immigrants.

“The numbers and facts produced should help increase the quality of life for many people new to this country,” he said.

The Minnesota Community Project co-hosted the forum.