Immigrants: The fraternal faces of the Twin Cities (Part I)

By Chief Folarin Ero-Phillips
Associate Editor, West Africa –

chief-folarin-ero-phillips--in-blue-nativeWelcome to Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport with International aviation code MSP. The largest metropolis in the State of Minnesota known as Land of 10,000 Lakes. Currently, immigrants account for large and growing shares of the economy and population. To evaluate and discuss urban gentrification in Minnesota in the past forty years will be incomplete without mentioning sources of the critical demographic changes that are taking place, and subsequently changing faces of the people and multiple social activities. Yes, while immigrants from Latin America and many Eurocentric nations have been settling in Minnesota for ages, the diversity and distance of current groups are very different.

There is considerable diversity within the populations. Major factors responsible for the changing faces of Twin-Cities are traceable to some of the civil crisis in Asia and Africa. In 1975, a distinct ethnic group with roots in China began coming to Minnesota as refugees moving away from destructive wars that ravaged their homeland in Laos. According to a current report from Minnesota Historical Society, the Twin-Cities Metro is home to the largest concentration of Hmong population in America. To that effect, Hmong immigrants have made a profound impact on their adopted home of Minnesota. Suffice is to mention that anyone who drives around the Twin-Cities will see visible influence of Hmong, Latino and African culture, trade and services.

The first wave of Liberian refugees came to America following the first Liberian Civil War between 1989-96 when thousands migrated to the United States. Nonetheless, following the second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003), a larger number of Liberians arrived in the US and began settling in various communities in America with a larger number in the Twin Cities, especially in Northern suburbs of Minneapolis.

Current estimates of Somali immigrants living in USA vary widely. Year 2010 American Community Survey data indicates there are approximately 85,700 immigrants of Somali ancestry living in the US. Of that number, about one third live in Minnesota. According to Arab American Institute, Somalis are among the largest Arab-American population in the country. The heaviest concentration of Somalis in the US are in the Twin-Cities, followed by Columbus, Seattle, San Diego, the Washington DC area and limited numbers in a few other cities throughout the country.

In a more pronounced way, urban gentrification is beginning to show its largest impact in t Saint Paul and Minneapolis more than any other community in the State. According to reports from the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, “immigrant entrepreneurs have transformed commercial corridors such as University Avenue in Saint Paul and Lake Street in Minneapolis.” Studies about refugee resettlement have also shown that “from year 2000-2011, about 82% of refugees arriving into Minnesota were originally from Somalia, Ethiopia and Liberia.”

In recent years, other communities in the state have been experiencing some level of population shift due to the arrival of new immigrants and refugees. Increased collaboration among immigrant populations and positive dynamics between the leadership of the City of Saint Paul and Minneapolis will form the bedrock for a greater State of Minnesota.

April 4, 2016
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