Editorial: Immigrants are key to growth

Published 9:33 am Monday, March 6, 2017

Business groups are sounding the alarm over the need for reasoned immigration reform to provide the future success for outstate Minnesota.

There may be no more divisive issue at the moment than immigration.

Much of the rhetoric of the campaign leading up to the last election suggested that immigrants were a threat to the nation’s security and a major drain on the economy, taking away jobs from others.

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The security risk was always overblown and the economic argument flat out wrong.

Businesses and community leaders across the state know very well that immigrants are taking jobs that would otherwise go unfilled and providing the economic growth that will keep communities and businesses growing and successful.

From time to time, throughout history, immigrants have been targeted as a threat to safety and economic growth by politicians who believe they can capitalize on raw emotions and fear. Many of the immigrants who settled in southern Minnesota in the late 1800s faced persecution.

Now, with a renewed focus on deportation and the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico, business leaders are trying to provide a level of reason amid the din of anger.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and many other groups, including those in agriculture, are sending the message that immigrants must be welcomed if the state’s economy is to grow and rural towns are to survive. They note that the state will need immigrants to arrive at a higher rate than now in order to keep up with jobs opened by baby boomers’ retirements, not to mention any new job openings.

No one can accuse this group’s members of being politically motivated in their criticism of the current state of affairs over immigrants. No one has ever accused the chamber or other business groups involved of being radical liberals.

The chamber said that the focus on immigration enforcement and a wall is diverting attention from the real need of overhauling the immigration system. They note that the outdated static immigration quota numbers should be replaced by a dynamic system that allows different numbers of immigrants to enter the country based on current economic needs.

And they know reform needs to address the 11 million undocumented people already in the country, providing them some route to citizenship, with whatever requirements Congress and the president believe necessary.

They intentionally list border security as their last goal, believing that if good immigration reform is passed, border security would mostly take care of itself.

Finding ways for more immigrants to legally enter, work and strive toward citizenship doesn’t mean security or background checks need to be weakened.

At a time of overheated rhetoric, the message being delivered by Minnesota’s business community is a breath of fresh air.

— Mankato Free Press, Feb. 28

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