Immigration and refugee in Minnesota
All throughout history people have travelled to new lands to start a new life. The goal is almost always the same for these people. They are looking for a better life for themselves and their next generations.
The immigrants and refugees who travel from far off corners of the world to settle in Minnesota inspire to achieve the same goal of better life. Minnesota has always welcomed into its fold the citizens of the world who are looking at it for a better future. The immigrants who move to Minnesota face challenges which are similar yet different from their predecessors who have came and settled here for hundreds of years. The immigrants face many challenges but there are three challenges which are very difficult to overcome. The three are language barrier, employment opportunity and intergenerational conflict.
Language barrier is the first challenge that any non English speaking immigrant and refugee faces in Minnesota. Today's immigrants and refugees are learning English at the same rate as the groups which have gone before them. The Minnesota Meeting fact sheet Embracing Immigration explains that according to the experts "typically the immigrant generation makes progress but remains dominant in their native tongue, the second generation is bilingual, and the third generation speaks English only". Language barrier is one of the most important challenge which is faced by the immigrant and refugee community who have settled in Minnesota in the last few decades. The day to day tasks are overwhelming because the immigrants and refugees are unable to express themselves. Simple tasks like doing groceries, seeing the doctors or talking to the children's teacher are all dreaded tasks. One refugee went to the emergency room because she fainted but come back without treatment or medication because she was unable to speak with the medical staff about her health condition. They feel ashamed and resent doing simple tasks because they are unable to explain themselves.
Language plays a large role when it comes to better employment. Immigrant and refugees can attest to this because they struggle to find better employment but their efforts are hindered because of the lack of proper language skills. The immigrants and refugee community contribute to Minnesota economy in many ways. They pay sales tax, property tax, employment tax, social security tax and also generate economic activity with the purchase of goods and services. According to the study done by Minnesota Meeting a public affair forum "undocumented labor is worth $1.6 billion to the Minnesota economy and that if undocumented labor disappeared, Minnesota's economic growth would decline by an estimated 40%." Most of the unskilled immigrants and refugees are in the trade, services, agriculture, construction and manufacturing sectors. These jobs are important for them but when they try to find better job the language and trade skills become the problem. They want to improve their language but because of the time constraints, transportation and family responsibilities they are unable to achieve the proficiency needed for better jobs. Another factor which is constantly obstructs their effort is the lack of public transportation. A majority of the refugee population stays in areas which are not secure because of the unavailability of the public transportation away from the urban population centers like Minneapolis and St. Paul. Even when they find a better job they are unable to accept it because of transportation issues. It takes an immigrant or refugee family long time to acquire private transportation because of monetary constraints.
After a few decades in Minnesota the immigrants and refugees are faced with an unanticipated challenge. This challenge is the intergenerational conflict between the first and the second generation. Minnesota has changed a lot in the last few decades. There has been a mass migration of Hmong and Somali refugee in Minnesota. The second generation Hmong and Somali children came of age in Minnesota. With the passage of time there is a struggle between the two generations who both call Minnesota home. They struggle because the definition of assimilation is different by the first generation and the second generation immigrants. It is put very well by a Somali immigrant as "We have also faced difficulties in adapting with the new environment and the culture of this country; also it's a major problem to come to new life with millions of people of different cultures, language and religion." For the first generation migrants this struggle is more difficult and heartbreaking because they know they are fighting a lost fight. They come to this homeland for a new and better life but they never imagined that they will lose their cultural identity so quickly.
Language barrier, employment opportunity and intergenerational conflict are few of the challenges faced by refugees and immigrants. Minnesota has seen a lot of migrants in past centuries. The last couple of decades are no different. The immigrants who have come and settled in Minnesota have faced the same challenges as their predecessors faced. They struggled through daily life, put roots for their children, saw them grow up and leave the nest just like any other Minnesotan. The story of life with all its color and complexities is repeated. The daily struggle to put the food on the table, provide good education for the children, work for a better future for their children. Amongst this all the longing for the life in a far away land which was once called home comes and calls them. They know they are the fortunate ones who have settled here but sometimes they question this fundamental belief. The struggle goes on in their mind as it has gone with any other first generation immigrant. These are the people who cannot and will not let go of the past, as it is part of their life. These are the travelers of two worlds who call this home and talks about back home.