By R. MARK FREY
ST. PAUL (Jan. 28, 2015) — Earlier this month, Congress commenced a new legislative session and President Obama delivered his State of the Union address.
The coming months look to be marked by lively and rancorous debate, provocative legislation, and vigorous politicking before the 2016 election is upon us. Immigration reform will no doubt be in the fore, both with respect to implementing President Obama’s recent executive actions and Congressional efforts to pass relevant legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court will be in the mix, too, as it reviews several key immigration cases this term. The fireworks will start soon enough, and it might be wise to first catch our breath before the squabbling truly begins in earnest.
Here in Minnesota, we are in the throes of winter with near freezing temperatures and the threat of snow ever present in nightly weather forecasts. And, it’s only January! One might feel inclined to grouse about too much time indoors. But, “heck”, the old timers tell us, “this is nothing compared to winters years ago, and last winter with long subzero days and nights and lots of snow.” With several more months to go before spring, we must make the most of it. So, what’s a person to do? Well, as they say, up here in ‘the North’, embrace the cold!
There’s lots to do. Just think about last year’s long, cold winter and take solace in the relatively milder temps this year. Go outside for a bit of reflection and walk in the snow to breathe in the crisp, frigid air while listening to your boots crunching through the crusty snow, and, perhaps, catch a glimpse of shimmering northern lights in the sky. How about some cross-country skiing? Or, a jaunt on the ice, for a brisk game of hockey or cutting a few figure eights with your loved one? A stop at a local coffee shop for some hot chocolate? Perhaps prop your feet up on the fireplace, eh?
One of several defining moments in a Minnesota winter is the St. Paul Winter Carnival, now running in full force until February 1. Ice carvings, snow sculptures, snowplow competition, music, fireworks, frozen bean bag tournament, snowball soccer tournament, parades, 5k and 10k runs, the eternal battle between the forces of cold and heat (King Boreas and the Queen of Snows against Vulcanus Rex and his Krewe), skating, and a snow slide all take center stage in this effort to embrace the cold and celebrate the eventual return of spring.
According to local historians, the Winter Carnival was first organized in 1886 as a response to a group of Eastern journalists visiting St. Paul in 1885 who, upon their return home, dismissed Minnesota as a wasteland, just another Siberia, “unfit for human habitation.” Local business boosters rejected this snub and promptly made plans to promote Minnesota and its winters through the Winter Carnival. And, it’s been running ever since.
For the past four years, St. Paul has played host to the Red Bull Crashed Ice downhill competition, an event reflecting the spirit and hardiness of those who brave the harsh elements and obstacles to lay claim to the adage that, yes, this too can be overcome. And, it was something to behold just a few days ago on Saturday, January 24. Approximately 140,000 spectators literally roared support throughout the final evening of the event as skaters hurled themselves, four at a time, down an extraordinarily steep slope, racing to the finish line. These skaters held nothing back. Their passion, energy, ferocity, and sheer will were truly remarkable.
Watching the various heats and finals as these men and women raced in this grueling and challenging competition, flinging themselves down the slope, I couldn’t help but pause to reflect more broadly on the human spirit and the possible. Why, I wondered, can’t Washington tackle immigration reform, having left it to founder for so many years? Where is the spirit, where is the will to confront this issue and finally resolve it? Why, when so many varied groups and interests support reform, doesn’t Washington act?
Let’s hope with a new Congress, it may be different. But, why leave anything to chance? Tell Congress it’s time to pass a bill, pure and simple. Pass some comprehensive immigration reform legislation, something that addresses current problems with family immigration, business immigration, our immigration courts, border security, and humanitarian relief.
It’s a new year and, with that, cause for hope. Let’s do it!
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.