The Italian-Ame…

by Nancy Ngo

The Italian-American mayor of New York City was introduced to a conference on immigration by Swedish-born University President Nils Hasselmo at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute on Monday.
“We are a nation of immigrants and so the University serves immigrants,” Hasselmo said.
The conference, which took more than a year to plan, became timely this weekend as the U.S. House and Senate moved to pass an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 1997, which includes changes to federal immigration policy.
In his remarks, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani announced that his administration will file a lawsuit against the federal government to prevent the enforcement of provisions of the new immigration measures that deny government benefits to legal immigrants.
Giuliani has also recently filed suit to block other sections of the proposed reforms that require city workers to notify federal officials when illegal aliens or their children use city services.
St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman said he plans to have his city attorney look into the possibility of joining both lawsuits.
“In St. Paul, we have a growing Southeast Asian population and we face some of the very same issues as New York,” he said.
Giuliani said immigration brings much to a campus. “In a University it creates competition, it creates a wide variety of opinion.”
Giuliani added that immigrants can add academic vigor to a university. Many immigrants are focused on education because of a deep sense of appreciation of living in the United States, Giuliani said.
Education was one of the many issues surrounding immigration addressed at The New Immigrants Conference held Sunday night and Monday. The conference was sponsored by the Humphrey Institute and the Swedish Institute for Futures Studies, and celebrated 150 years of Swedish immigration to Minnesota.
The conference provided a forum for prominent academics and politicians, such as Hasselmo and Giuliani, to discuss modern immigration trends and policies.
Doris Meissner, commissioner for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, addressed the conference. Her speech drew protests from several opponents of U.S. immigration policy.
University students and teachers, among others, picketed outside the Humphrey Institute protesting actions of the service.
Meissner said she noticed the group, but she was concentrating on her speech.
“The picket line was directly aimed to protest the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service,” said protester August Nimtz, a University associate professor in the political science department.
Nimtz said he opposes the anti-immigrant sentiment as well as physical attacks on immigrants, which such attitudes can encourage.
One of the signs read “Doris Go Back To Europe,” which Nimtz said is based on the assumption that Meissner is of European descent. Nimtz said that if the service can summarily deport immigrants, then European-Americans should also be prepared to return to their ancestral homelands.
The protesters were part of Coordinadora ’96 Minnesota, a group that advocates for the rights of the Latino immigrant community.
Meissner said she is glad that the educational provisions of the new immigration reform bill were removed. The provisions, which were removed in a House-Senate conference committee, would have prevented children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools. “I don’t believe that punishing kids is an appropriate way to respond to illegal immigration.”
Meissner also said that having foreign students in higher education is good for colleges and universities and that the desire among foreign students to come to the United States is an indication of the importance of maintaining an open system of legal immigration.
Meissner’s speech emphasized that effective support of legal immigration is one of the key elements that should be addressed by immigration reform efforts. Meissner also stressed the importance of her agency’s ability to deport aliens and the need for aggressive regulation of U.S. borders.
Maria Leissner, the chair of the Liberal Party of Sweden, said Americans should work to change congressional hostility toward the United Nations.
Leissner said that the United States is not an isolated nation, and must have a more global consciousness.
After her speech, Meissner added that the spirit of isolationism is less prevalent in American universities. “The American system of education is quite open,” she said.
Robert Kudrle, a conference moderator and the director of the Freeman Center for International Economic Policy at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, said legal immigration has no negative impact on higher education.
Anecdotal evidence, Kudrle said, suggests that some of the best scholars at the University are immigrants.
“The University community is enriched by people from all over the world,” he said.
Hasselmo said the University and the Humphrey Institute are models for how to debate freely about important issues and that the conference allowed the sharing of expertise and of different viewpoints.
Hasselmo delivered the keynote address Monday. Other speakers included Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul; and Tim Penny, former Minnesota congressman and current Humphrey InstitutePolicy Forum co-director.

This story contains information from the Associated Press.