Since our state’s earliest days, immigration has kept Minnesota strong and competitive. From our Scandinavian and German roots, to our Slovenians, Croatians, and Serbs on the Iron Range, to our Liberian, Hmong, Somali, and Oromo communities, our state’s heritage is filled with immigrants working on the front lines, starting companies, and expanding economic opportunity for all of us.
Some of Minnesota’s most successful companies were founded and are led by immigrants and children of immigrants. Minnesota’s story is also America’s story. More than 25 percent of U.S. Nobel Laureates were born abroad, and 70 of America’s Fortune 500 companies were started by people born in other countries. In an increasingly global economy, immigrants continue to be a major economic driver in our economy.
Immigrant families don’t diminish America, they define America. They strengthen America. They are America. While securing our borders is always a priority, we cannot afford to shut out the world’s talent or drive away those who call our country home—including immigrants who are now working as health care professionals and other front-line employees, often in rural and underserved urban areas. We don’t know who will create the next pacemaker or Post-it Note. But we do know one thing: when they do, we want them doing it here in America.
As Minnesota’s U.S. senator, I will continue to focus on these priorities:
- Finding solutions to reform our immigration system. I have continued to work in a bipartisan fashion on comprehensive immigration reform, which is crucial to moving our country and our economy forward. It is one of my top priorities. When I first got to the Senate in 2007, Senator Ted Kennedy asked Senator Whitehouse and me to be members of the immigration reform working group, and I was proud to work with then-Senator Kennedy on that bipartisan effort with the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, despite much effort, the compromise bill did not pass the Senate. And, years later, as a member of the Judiciary Committee, I was part of the successful effort to pass the 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate that included a pathway to citizenship, prioritized enforcement of existing laws, addressed border security, and reformed our visa system. It also included the DREAM Act. The bill would have decreased the deficit by $158 billion over 10 years. In the end, despite President Obama’s support, the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill was not allowed a vote in the then-Republican House.
President Biden has made passing comprehensive immigration reform a priority, and I hope we will use this opportunity to finally get it done. That’s why, in February 2021, I joined Senators Menendez, Padilla, Luján, Hirono, and Booker in introducing the U.S. Citizenship Act, a comprehensive immigration bill that affirms our values and strengthens our economy by providing a pathway to citizenship, equips law enforcement with smart and effective investments to effectively manage the border, addresses the root causes of migration, and supports refugees and asylum seekers.
- Treating immigrants, including DREAMers, with fairness and compassion. I will continue to seek solutions—particularly for people who know no other home. I have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect DREAMers. In Minnesota, we are proud to be the home of more than 5,000 DREAMers, who have already passed background checks, paid fees, and met educational requirements so that they can stay here in the United States, pay taxes, serve in the military, and contribute to their communities.
Since my first year in the Senate, I’ve worked to extend protections for Liberian immigrants in the United States, and in December 2019, legislation that I long supported to allow eligible Liberians on Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status to apply for permanent residency and provide them with a path to citizenship became law. While I support border security, I have opposed attempts to build a border wall. I also believe that there should be humane conditions for immigrants who are held at border crossings and support ending the use of for-profit immigration detention facilities. During the Trump Administration, I worked with a bipartisan group of many Republicans and Democrats to pass a version of the DREAM Act to solve the issues of people living in our country on deferred status and provide additional funding for border security. Unfortunately for our immigrants and our entire country, the Trump Administration rejected it.
- Welcoming refugees fleeing violence. Minnesota has a proud history of welcoming those fleeing wars and repression, with the largest Somali population in the country as well as Liberians, Hmong, and Oromos. I have visited refugee camps and heard from men, women, and children who have witnessed atrocities that, in the words of one refugee, would “make stones cry.” The United States must maintain our country’s leadership in providing refuge for people in need. Our strength and vitality come from the diversity of our people. That’s true in Minnesota and it’s true across this country.
In the Senate, I cosponsored legislation to maintain our country’s leadership in providing refuge for people in crisis by reversing the Trump Administration’s dramatic reduction in the refugee admissions cap, while also maintaining thorough vetting and strong national security measures. I have also cosponsored legislation to allow qualified Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure recipients to apply for legal permanent residency so they do not have to fear being sent back to a country they no longer call home. In 2018, Refugee International presented our office with the Congressional Leadership Award for our work to support refugee communities.
- Supporting immigrant-owned businesses. About one in four of our country’s small businesses are started by immigrants. We must invest in the economic well-being of our immigrant communities, and I have long supported increasing funding for small lenders and community-based financial institutions that serve the needs of underserved small businesses—including immigrant-owned businesses. During the coronavirus pandemic, many immigrant-owned businesses, especially those in historically underserved communities, have faced unnecessary hurdles in accessing funding from the Small Business Administration’s emergency lending programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program. This is unacceptable, and I worked to ensure that the relief measures that became law in April 2020, December 2020, and March 2021 included dedicated funding for small banks, credit unions, and community lenders that serve businesses in minority communities and other underserved areas. We must do more to overcome historic disenfranchisement by considering the needs of minority communities.
- Protecting immigrant victims of domestic violence. When the Senate was considering comprehensive immigration reform, I took the lead in ensuring that the bill included provisions to help protect immigrant victims of domestic violence by allowing women in the U.S. with spouses on temporary visas to petition for independent immigration status—encouraging them to come forward and receive the assistance they need. No one should be forced to remain in an abusive relationship due to fear of losing their legal status.
Although the 2013 Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill was not allowed a vote in the House, I have continued to work to protect immigrant victims of domestic violence, and I have introduced legislation to allow immigrants facing domestic abuse with spouses on a temporary visa to apply for independent immigration status. And as victims of domestic abuse have been at heightened risk during the coronavirus pandemic, I have worked to ensure that immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other serious crimes continue to have access to programs through which they can obtain legal status independent of their abusers.
- Helping immigrant doctors to practice in areas of need. For years I have led bipartisan legislation to extend the Conrad 30 program, which allows international doctors trained in the United States to remain in the country if they practice in underserved areas, which is particularly important as these areas confront the coronavirus pandemic. Over the last 15 years, the program has brought more than 15,000 doctors to underserved areas, including many rural areas that are short on doctors and rely on the program to fill the gaps. During the coronavirus pandemic, I successfully pressed the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to waive certain restrictions that prevent doctors in the Conrad 30 program from providing medical care at locations where help is needed.
- Supporting families and children through adoption. Like so many Minnesotans, I share the belief that every child should have a safe home and a loving family. As county attorney and now as the Senate co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I have worked to expedite adoptions and assist families who are adopting children. Minnesota has a strong tradition of welcoming children from around the world and holds one of the highest per capita rates of international adoption. International adoptions should be as straightforward and affordable as possible for American families. That’s why I supported the American Taxpayer Relief Act in 2013, which made the adoption tax credit permanent, and now cosponsor the Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act to make this tax credit fully refundable. In addition, we must ensure that adoptive families—regardless of whether they are adopting here at home or internationally—have the full support and services they may need throughout the adoption process.
In addition, I authored the bipartisan Accuracy for Adoptees Act, signed into law by President Obama in early 2014, which cuts red tape for adoptive families and ensures that corrections made to adoptees’ birth certificates by state courts would be recognized by the federal government. I also authored and passed the International Adoption Simplification Act to help siblings stay together during an international adoption and protect adoptees from unsafe immunizations in foreign countries. Finally, I introduced the bipartisan Intercountry Adoption Advisory Committee Act with Senator Blunt of Missouri to establish an advisory committee at the Department of State to develop recommendations to improve the intercountry adoption process.
- Uniting children with families. Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Minnesota families who had pending Haitian adoptions began contacting my office for help bringing their children home. Over the course of approximately two months following the earthquake, my office worked with 25 families to help unite 39 Haitian children with their new families in Minnesota. I have also worked to help families impacted by the Russian government’s ban on American adoption of Russian children and called on the Russian government to allow for the completion of adoption cases that were initiated prior to the ban.