Beyond the data, Wilder asks good immigration questions

You’d think by now the outlines of immigration data in Minnesota should be coming into focus, and a Wilder Research study for the Minneapolis Foundation yesterday helped:

–6.5 percent of Minnesotans are foreign-born and the number is rising quickly.

–More than in the nation as a whole, this population is from a broad array of African, South and Central American and Asian countries.

–A good count of the immigrants who are here illegally is hard to make.

–Immigrants tend to cluster in low-skilled and high-skilled groups, and their age distribution means they are a good source of the future workforce.

–Outstate, immigrants tend to be clustered in southern and western Minnesota in communities with big meatpacking, poultry-packing and other agricultural operations.

–This population is putting big pressure on the English-teaching industry and the state is not doing as well as other places.

–Contrary to some claims, immigrants do not put a disproportionate load on the state’s public health system.

–Some groups do make heavy use of food stamps and cash assistance.

–There is no evidence immigrants contribute disproportionately to crime.

But perhaps the best part of the report is the set of questions that can serve as a guide to the continuing debate. Wilder sponsored a webinar last month that I helped moderate, and MPR News’ Michael Caputo continued that conversation in an online discussion a few days later.

But the nine questions in the report lay out particularly well the hard conversation that could take the state past platitudes and meanness.

My favorites, the ones that keep coming up and need answers:

–To what extent are immigrants competing for jobs and lowering wages?

–To what extent are immigrants competing with existing minority groups for resources and jobs?

–How do we keep schools and other resources from getting overwhelmed?

–Any successful models out there for communities?

–How does Minnesota have this conversation at a room-level decibel rate?

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