Posted on December 15, 2004

Critical Attitudes About Immigrants Not ‘Minnesota Nice’

Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio, Dec. 13

St. Paul, Minn. — Researchers conducted surveys and focus groups that reached more than 1,200 Minnesotans living in urban, exurban and rural areas. The harshest criticism of immigrants were exhibited by some of the white exurban residents in the focus groups.

A woman from Anoka County said immigrants “should stay home.” A woman from Scott County said immigrants “are only up here to have their babies to get the money.”

“I’ve lived here my whole life and pay taxes. And I see so much of our money going to — not the people who made the state or kept the state what it is — it’s going to all these other people that are coming in,” says Laurie Dennis.

Dennis, 45, is white and works in a dry cleaner store in downtown Chaska. A sign that says “Proud to be an American” sits in the bottom corner of the store’s front window.

Chaska is located in Carver County, one of the exurban counties examined in the study. Ten years ago, about 250 Hispanic people lived in the county. Today, Hispanic numbers have increased nearly ten-fold, due largely to an influx of immigrants from Mexico. Dennis says she believes the Mexican immigrants are exempt from paying taxes.

“I don’t get any handouts,” says Dennis. “I don’t even qualify . . . for any medical assistance. I’ve lived here my whole life, and they just come and they just take and they don’t give back to the community.”

Dennis says she has Mexican immigrant friends who are undocumented, but get around the system by using fake identification and falsely claiming dependents on tax forms. And, like some of the participants in the study, she says immigrants, legal and illegal are a burden on government entitlement programs.

“A lot of the locals, I think, are really angry,” Dennis says. “I think it’s mostly because there are a lot of elderly and people like that who can’t get help. And they feel like they’re being cheated.”

According to the report, 27 percent of all respondents said immigrants are a drain on public schools. Fewer respondents — 25 percent — say immigrants are hard-working and make a valuable contribution to Minnesota. The authors of the study say some of the attitudes expressed in the surveys and focus groups about immigrants are not “Minnesota nice.”