By R. MARK FREY
Immigration Law & You
What’s going on with the presidential campaign? We hear Donald Trump demanding the construction of a Great Wall between Mexico and the United States to stem the flow of “illegals” and criminals from Mexico. More recently, Scott Walker has called for a second Great Wall to be built between Canada and the United States to halt the entry of terrorists across our northern border. And, not one to be outdone, Chris Christie has proposed that we track “illegal” immigrants like FedEx packages.
The controversy of the day for the current pack of presidential contenders centers on elimination of birthright citizenship guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of our Constitution through either the amendment process or some other mechanism. (It’s not entirely clear what they mean by some other mechanism, however). We hear Trump disparage Latinos by claiming they come to the United States to have “anchor babies” in order to gain a quick pathway to citizenship. Ted Cruz joins in the melee with choice incendiary words and Jeb Bush, not far behind, offers “clarification” that Asians are in fact the ones having “anchor babies” here. This from a scion of one of the more prominent families in American politics, what with a brother (former President George W. Bush), father (former President George H.W. Bush), and grandfather (former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush) providing public service to our nation.
One can’t help but reel from this disturbing display as the candidates race to the bottom with inflammatory rhetoric and appeals to our most basic instincts aroused by fear. How about a little truth? What are the facts when it comes to immigrants and immigration? Recent data collected by the American Immigration Council provide some important insights about immigrants and their political and economic power, offering a startling contrast to the ‘reality’ presented by many of the candidates vying to become our next president. Take Minnesota, for example:
7.4 percent of Minnesotans are immigrants from another country with 51.5 percent of them naturalized U.S. citizens and eligible to vote. In fact, 7.7 percent of all registered voters are either immigrants or their children.
From 2000-2013, immigrants accounted for almost 29 percent of Minnesota’s population growth. And, from 2000 to 2010, all of Duluth’s metropolitan area’s population growth came from immigration. The story is similar with immigration-based population increases in such other Minnesota cities as Minneapolis (35.2%), Rochester (20.3%), and St. Cloud (16.4%).
The 2014 purchasing power of Minnesota’s Asian population amounted to $8.6 billion, an astounding increase of 1,024 percent since 1990.
The 2014 purchasing power of Minnesota’s Latino population totaled $5.7 billion, a staggering increase of 1,026 percent since 1990.
Eight years ago, in 2007, Asian-owned businesses had sales and receipts of $2.4 billion while employing 16,950 people. In similar fashion, Latino-owned businesses had $1.6 billion in sales and receipts while employing 5,970 people.
In 2010, 6 percent of all business owners in Minnesota were foreign-born. In 2013, 8.5 percent of business owners in the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington metropolitan area were born in another country. And, the percentage increased to 13.3 percent for so-called “Main Street” business owners (i.e., retail, accommodations, and food services) in the same metropolitan area that very year. Again, in 2013, our state’s foreign-born population added $22.4 billion to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP), 7.5 percent of total state GDP.
In 2013, foreign-born residents contributed $1.2 billion to Social Security and $295 million to Medicare, comprising 7.1 percent of the total contributions to Social Security and 7.5 percent of the total contributions to Medicare.
During the 2013-2014 academic year, Minnesota’s 13,765 foreign students contributed $354.2 million to the state’s economy in tuition, fees, and living expenses.
The English proficiency rate of children with immigrant parents was 79.1 percent in 2009, more specifically 74 percent Asian children and 84.8 percent Latino children.
And, finally, if all unauthorized immigrants were deported from Minnesota, the state would lose $4.4 billion in economic activity, $2.0 billion in gross state product, and approximately 24,299 jobs.
Minnesota’s immigrants are not a drag on our economy and way of life as some would have us believe. They are, in fact, a positive force and contributing to a better quality and varied life in the North Star State. As so frequently happens in life, the reality is far more nuanced and subtle, requiring a closer and more mature examination; one less susceptible to framing with such crude concepts as “illegals”, “aliens”, “anchor babies”, ”we versus they”, or “the Other”. As Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has observed, “You who are so-called illegal aliens must know that no human being is illegal…How can a human being be illegal?”*
R. Mark Frey is a St. Paul, Minnesota attorney who has practiced immigration law exclusively for more than 25 years with an emphasis on political asylum, family and marriage-based immigration, naturalization, removal defense, appeals, H-1B visas, and religious workers.
*Information about the American Immigration Council and the data used in this essay may be found at http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/new-americans-minnesota.