- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 27

Immigrants are key to Minnesota’s future prosperity

Restricting international immigration may be in vogue politically during these first days of the Trump administration. But economically, it’s a terrible idea for Minnesota - more so than this state’s citizens may realize.

That’s the timely word that came this week from the Office of University Economic Development at the University of Minnesota. A report commissioned by the office’s Committee on Minnesota Workforce and Immigrants advises that Minnesota is in for at least two decades of slow or no economic growth unless it can attract more immigrants and more quickly put them to work.

How many more? To maintain through 2045 the average annual 0.5 percent labor force growth rate it experienced from 2010 to 2015, Minnesota will need to more than quadruple the number of immigrants now projected to arrive in the state, the report says. Given net negative domestic migration trends since 2000, “it is likely that any additional migrants that the state attracts in the future will be disproportionately foreign born.”

That daunting projection quantifies the implications of a longforeseen downward trend in the growth rate of the state’s native-born, working-age population. That skid is forecast to last at least until midcentury. It’s a trend that is combining in this decade with the retirement of the large baby boom generation and a plateau in the share of women participating in the workforce to create a labor shortage that’s already a drag on business expansion, the report says.

“When business owners can’t find what they need to grow in Minnesota, they are more likely than ever to look for a non-Minnesota solution,” explained Bill Blazar of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, who serves on the committee that commissioned the report. “They can’t afford to be patient in today’s economy.”

To its credit, Blazar’s organization has been a leader in calling for new federal policies that would allow the flow of newcomers into this country to grow as economic conditions warrant. This page has long called for comprehensive immigration reform that balances the needs of the country, protects U.S. citizens from illegal immigration, and offers compassion and hope. The state’s largest business organization also favors a path toward permanent status for the estimated 11 million undocumented foreign-born people in the United States.

The university’s report does not offer such specific policy recommendations. Rather, it poses a series of questions that urgently need answers. Among them: What can be done to make Minnesota a more attractive place for immigrants to live? How can Minnesota become known as a state with an inclusive culture? How can immigrants be more quickly incorporated into the state’s economy? How can disparities in education, health and economic status between native-born and immigrant Minnesotans be eliminated?

Our hunch is that many Minnesotans are not aware of the extent to which the future prosperity of their children and grandchildren depends on how well they answer those questions. Maura Donovan, executive director of University Economic Development, said her office intends to help increase awareness by convening a series of public meetings around the state in coming months.

Those conversations could provide a welcome antidote to a 2016 presidential campaign that stoked fears about immigration. Minnesotans deserve facts, not fear, as they consider the state’s looming labor challenge. It’s good that the institution to which Minnesotans have turned for 150 years for the knowledge self-governance requires is on the job, on this issue, right now.

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The Journal of New Ulm, Jan. 31

Trump’s plan needed more planning

President Donald Trump’s order banning travel to this country by citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries was his first order that was put into effect immediately. His order to start building “The Wall” will take a lot of planning and financing, but his order on Friday had airport security and immigration officials stopping people as they stepped off of planes. Many of them were legal permanent residents of this country, holders of “green cards.” Some of them were families who have spent the last couple of years undergoing a rigorous “vetting” process of interviews and security checks that suddenly counted for nothing.

Critics of the plan say it does little to increase our security, will make the job of radical Islamic terrorist recruiters easier by reinforcing their main argument - that America and the West hate Muslims - and does nothing to deal with the threat of potential terror recruits already living in the U.S., including native born citizens who become radicalized by ISIS propaganda.

This is an idea that certainly could have benefited from more planning. Trump’s rationale for the order does make sense. The seven countries named in his order are hotbeds of terrorist activity. They are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. For years, efforts to ensure would-be terrorists from those nations do not infiltrate our country have been lacking.

Improving the “vetting” process during Trump’s temporary suspension is important and should improve homeland security.

The sooner that can be done - and harmless travelers from the affected countries can be welcomed - the better.

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The Free Press of Mankato, Jan. 28

Laws to stop protests not in public’s interest

Discontent is afoot. Overreaction to it has surfaced like scum on a lake in August in the form of proposed legislation and vicious attacks of protesters on social media, including by those in public office.

Minnesota is among a growing number of states - eight as of the middle of last week - considering laws that would discourage big protests deemed disruptive.

On the face of it, that doesn’t seem that unreasonable an idea. Lots of people don’t want to be inconvenienced by a road being closed or access restricted to the airport if they are traveling. Clogging up general movement of the public doesn’t seem to be a good way to gain allies, and public safety shouldn’t be put at risk.

But laws already exist that make it illegal to obstruct highways or trespass. When lawmakers strategize ways to discourage public dissent by making it too impractical and too expensive to do so, that should alarm every citizen.

Today the legislation would most affect Black Lives Matter gatherings and Women’s March participants. Tomorrow it could be anti-abortion protesters and tea party groups. Restrictions on freedom of speech affects everyone, no matter what your cause or political affiliation.

Among the proposed bills in Minnesota, one bill would raise obstruction of legal process to a mandated felony in all cases. Another would heighten penalties against those intentionally blocking freeway routes from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. The third would make anyone liable for the costs of a public-safety response if convicted of creating a nuisance or participating in an unlawful assembly. (One opposed lawmaker suggested if this bill is about the public dollars used for law enforcement’s response to protests, maybe another bill needs to be drafted to look at the public cost of settling cases alleging police use of excessive force.)

Throwing up barriers to people assembling to speak out might seem like a practical way to take care of things, but it doesn’t really get to the bottom of the discontent, does it?

When Women’s March groups recently gathered across the country and world, those who didn’t support the protesters took to social media to attack them. Indiana state Sen. Jack Sandlin credited Donald Trump with getting “more fat women out walking than (former first lady) Michelle Obama did in 8 years.” A state senator resigned in Nebraska last week after he retweeted a joke implying that three women’s march demonstrators in a photograph were too unattractive to sexually assault.

Clearly we have a long way to go when it comes to tolerating one another when public officials stoop to this kind of crude behavior.

Attacking those you disagree with or legislating them out of existence is a simplistic reaction to not liking what you see. Minnesotans have a constitutional right to be heard and to have lawmakers represent them who understand the importance of being able to speak their minds and lawfully assemble in public.

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