Others’ opinion: Workforce Immigrants, refugees key to economic growth

Published 5:50 am Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Free Press, Mankato
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The double whammy of Trump administration immigration policies and demographic changes is strangling job growth in Minnesota and the nation.

Economic development and individual prosperity are tied to jobs and job growth. And in Minnesota, employment can only grow with a workforce that includes immigrants and refugees.

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Indeed, our neighbors from other countries, like our ancestors, are key to a healthy and growing economy. But a recent report on minimal Minnesota job growth offered a troubling finding: It’s not because Minnesota employers don’t have the jobs; It’s because Minnesota doesn’t have the workers.

Baby boomers are retiring in record numbers, and the younger generation is not growing fast enough to fill the jobs that become open.

Conservative institutions like the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce have urged adoption of immigration policies that allow people who want to work for American companies to be able to do so. Studies by the left-leaning Center for American Progress have shown that immigration may be the economic savior of small towns and rural areas.

Immigrants will often take jobs Americans won’t take. Immigrants also start businesses and create entrepreneurial communities in rural areas across America.

It is counterproductive forthe Trump administration to restrict immigration through new policies on border crossing and refugees via administrative fiats that limit the number of legal refugees that can settle in America.

The number of refugees allowed annually during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations was in the range of 80,000 to 100,000. That number is now down to a mere 18,000 or so a year. Minnesota, as one of the most welcoming places for refugees, has seen a precipitous decline from about 3,000 refugees in 2016 to 700 in 2018.

Had refugees been allowed in Minnesota at the rates of years past, our employment problem would not be so dire. Had the state taken in 3,000 in 2019, and every one of them found a job, it would have nearly doubled total job growth in the state. Economic growth would be burgeoning as workers took jobs, earned incomes, paid taxes and built communities.

We should support fair and legal immigration. We should quadruple the number of refugees we welcome each year. If we do, we’ll expand our economy and bolster prosperity.