Trump touted his immigration slowdown — what it could mean for Minnesota's workforce

A crowd waves American flags in August 2010.
A crowd waves American flags in August 2010.
Tim Nelson | MPR News 2010

At a campaign rally in Minneapolis last week, President Trump stirred up his supporters with comments about the state’s Somali community.

“For many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers,” he said, prompting boos from the crowd.

Trump promised to give local jurisdictions more say in the refugee resettlement process. But the latest census numbers show a drastic slowdown in immigration that could actually hurt Minnesota communities.

The number of immigrants coming to the United States decreased by 70 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to the American Communities Survey. Though not as drastic, Minnesota has also seen a substantial decrease in immigration that’s challenging an already-stretched workforce.

“In the middle part of the last decade, we had about 22,000 new immigrants coming from abroad,” State Demographer Susan Brower told MPR News host Tom Crann.

A woman with short hair and glasses
Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News

“In the last two years, it's been closer to about 16,000.”

“We sure have seen the refugee numbers drop, as they have in the U.S. overall. But we also see a slowdown in high-skilled workers [and] students,” she said.

This slowdown could have major implications for the state’s workforce.

“We expect very little growth in the labor force moving forward, and that is assuming that we have migration already,” Brower said. “If there is a restriction on that, we expect that the labor force will not grow at all or it will decline. Now, that’s really scary for a lot of employers who are now not able to expand because they can’t find the workers they need.”

To hear more about how this decrease in immigration might affect the state’s workforce, click play on the audio player above.