- Associated Press - Sunday, August 13, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 8

Trump’s ill-timed plan to restrict immigration would hurt Minnesota

President Donald Trump’s proposal to cut in half the number of legal immigrants coming to this country each year would do a disservice to the nation as a whole and to many states in particular. There’s good reason to believe that Minnesota would be among the most harmed.

That’s a conclusion we draw not from politics, but from demographics and economics. Minnesota is in the early years of a long-expected and long-lasting slowdown in workforce growth - a product in part of a decline in birthrates beginning in the mid-1960s. Already, businesses are struggling to expand because of a shortage of workers, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development reports. If businesses can’t find the workers they need here, they’re a relocation risk.

That problem is likely to become more severe in the 2020s, when - if current trends continue - the 18- to 64-year-old population in this state will barely grow at all.

For Minnesota to stay prosperous, those trends must change. Increasing the state’s influx of international immigrants isn’t the only trend line that Minnesota should be trying to bend. Improving industrial productivity and maximizing the potential of those currently underrepresented in the workforce are also important. But opening the state’s door wider to immigrants was deemed “paramount” by a December 2013 report from the Minnesota Demographic Center. A University of Minnesota study last year said that if Minnesota is to maintain its current labor force growth rate, it will need to increase the number of people who move to the state more than fourfold.

That makes this a terrible time to constrict the flow of immigrants. It’s why several leading business organizations have come together as the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition to advocate for the kind of federal reform that would serve this state well. It would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have no criminal record; an easier process for employers to legally hire immigrants; and enlargement of both permanent and temporary admissions of foreign-born people, with flexible limits that can respond to the needs of industries as the economy ebbs and flows.

Trump’s plan, which fortunately faces long odds in Congress, bows a bit in that policy direction by holding steady the number of immigrants admitted on the basis of their job skills - now about 140,000 a year. But it would slam shut the nation’s door for would-be immigrants seeking to reunite with family members as it cuts the total number of newcomers in half. It would do nothing to move undocumented immigrants of long standing out of the nation’s shadows or make it easier for employers to hire immigrants. And it would cut in half the number of refugees admitted each year, disrupting the work of a number of Minnesota-based refugee resettlement organizations.

Trump justifies his proposal with a claim that American workers will do better with fewer immigrants. Minnesotans need to know that in this state, just the opposite is true. Reducing the number of immigrants would put a lot of jobs at risk.


Post Bulletin, Aug. 9

Attack on Muslim center is attack on us all

The bombing of the Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington last weekend was shocking and an attack on all Minnesotans.

It also was just the latest in a deeply troubling series of anti-Muslim incidents in Minnesota this year - 14 reported incidents, according to one count.

The attack at the Dar Al Farooq center, which primarily serves Somali members, occurred at 5 a.m. Saturday as people gathered for morning prayers. An explosive device went off near the imam’s office, causing damage but no injuries, and the FBI is investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.

Gov. Mark Dayton and Congressman Keith Ellison were among the leaders who gathered at the mosque Sunday to condemn the attack and call for Minnesotans to help their neighbors and reject racism.

The investigation is continuing and the motivation for the attack is unknown. Though it’s not clear it was a hate crime or an act of terrorism at this point, the result is the same - citizens who already feel marginalized and vulnerable, whether in Rochester, the Twin Cities or wherever, now have more reasons to be fearful and feel terrorized.

According to the Star Tribune, about half of the 14 anti-Muslim incidents in the state have involved physical harm, and fears of violence and bias apparently have contributed to mosques reporting declines in attendance this year.

The Rev. Curtiss DeYoung, of the Minnesota Council of Churches, was exactly right when he said Sunday, “An attack on a mosque is an attack on a synagogue is an attack on a church is an attack on all faith communities.”

Hamdy El-Sawaf, of the Islamic Community Center of Minnesota, called this is a moment when it’s important that people come together “in order to defend the values of our country, the values of our faith, the values of our people. No matter what happens, small or big, it will never scare us, it will never bring us to our knees. We’re here to help each other, to support each other.”

We can all help by speaking out against intolerance, in whatever ways we encounter it every day, and by offering compassion to our neighbors from all walks of life.

Dayton said, “Every place of worship, for all Minnesotans of every faith and culture, must be sacred and safe.”

So must the whole state and nation.


Mankato Free Press, Aug. 9

Ethanol: No need for a fuel trade war

President Donald Trump drew a great deal of electoral support from farm country USA last November, but his continuing interest in erecting trade barriers is not good for the ag economy.

Earlier this week Bloomberg News reported that the administration is questioning the rising imports of Brazilian ethanol into the United States.

Brazil, which makes its ethanol from sugar, trails only the U.S. in ethanol production. It is also a major consumer of the biofuel. Both nations import the alcohol from each other, with demand fluctuating with the prices of corn and sugar.

As the Bloomberg report notes, American ethanol producers (and corn farmers by extension) have more to lose in a trade war with Brazil. This nation ships four times the ethanol to Brazil as it imports from the South American giant.

U.S. ethanol production exceeds domestic consumption; we do well to export the surplus. But trade barriers with China have already arisen, with higher tariffs placed on ethanol and an animal feed byproduct. With one major market already dented, the ethanol industry can hardly afford to see another damaged.

Trump’s trade instincts favor protectionism; that is no surprise and consistent with the tone of his campaign. But quotas and tariffs don’t open markets, and the highly productive American farmer will always do better with freer trade. Washington should avoid an ethanol trade war.

Why It Matters:

Brazil and the United States are moving toward a trade war over ethanol, and Midwestern corn producers figure to lose.

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