Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown spoke with us about the city's Immigration Integration Initiative.
(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)
Chris Berg: Tomorrow afternoon, the city of Grand Forks is hosting an immigrant integration initiative meeting at 4:00 p.m. downstairs in the basement of City Hall. Joining us this evening is the mayor of the great city of Grand Forks, Michael Brown. Mr. Brown, thank you for joining us.
Mayor Mike Brown: My pleasure.
CB: Let's talk about -- I want to talk about this initiative meeting in a moment. You had an interesting piece you wrote to the Grand Forks Herald saying that immigration helps grand forks employers and economy. I think many people in our community, they want to previous what you're saying, but they're not seeing a lot of data to reinforce what you're saying. I'm curious what specific metrics or data are you using to show that refugees and new Americans are making a positive impact on our economy?
MB: Well, immigrant integration is a process that's connecting immigrants with their new community. And our local officials -- includes residents at work, school and neighborhoods and encourage their participation in the Democratic process. Strong community involvement by immigrants is more inclusive and stable community, reduces crime and poverty. And also maximizes social economic tricks of the immigrants for the life of the city of Grand Forks. We have over 1,000 open jobs in grand forks and we need people to fill those jobs. In order to have that happen, we need to be a welcoming community and so this immigrant integration initiative forum is a place where people can bring their concerns without judgment. And have an open discussion so that we can continue to be a welcoming community.
CB: I think most people concur with what you had to say there. I think most people I'm talking to say is all we want to see is the data. Where is the data that's showing new Americans are making a positive impact on our community? I'm curious when you say they're helping grand forks community, what data paints are you use to go say that?
MB: You can walk around town and you see they've integrated into the work force. I don't care if you go to the hospital or TSA or everywhere you go in up to, you see these people filling jobs in our community.
CB: The other side of the coin obviously on that is because we all know we need workers here. I will definitely give you that. But then many people are saying if we bring in a bunch of new American workers, then it lowers the wages for American born or North Dakota residents. What do you say to that?
MB: I don't think that's true. I think there is a job market that has rules and boundaries and it's a free market. I think people are paid what the market bears.
CB: The other question I get often is there is no real data on what it costs the state and our local communities when we're or taking in more new refugees. I know that right now the grand forks is working with the Global Friends Coalition. You've got your special events fund that helps fund part of that. If you can, what's some data points, how much tax money is being spent to help the new Americans that are coming to the grand forks community?
MB: I don't know how much it is of tax money is spent on this type of thing. I know it's like a federally mandated program and there are support services in place to help. I think the money is well spent. I think the U.S. has benefited greatly from what is spent on this type.
CB: Any kind of ballpark figure, by chance?
MB: No. I couldn't even speculate a guess. I just know that I can see we benefit greatly.
CB: I'm assuming that tomorrow's event is partly about hey, here is how we can help integrate new Americans in our community and one event taking place next Tuesday with the group you're teamed up with is hosting an events called decreasing the discrimination of new Americans. Are grand forks residents discriminating against refugees?
MB: No. We're a welcoming community as recognized by the White House staff. Grand forks is a great place to live. For immigrants and work, learn, live, play and stay.
CB: So why is the Global Friends Coalition hosting an event with that kind of title?
MB: I think that is to let people bring their concerns forward and have an open discussion if they need the discussion. Also you have all your support groups available for questions and answers. Social services, you're going to have job sources and all these people available to answer questions. I think it's more preemptive than community active.
CB: Are you getting a lot of people in Grand Forks raising concerns with you about bringing in new Americans? We get a lot of feedback on the show. I'm curious what would you say to those people in grand forks?
MB: I think we see a great benefit for diversity and health of the community and the vibrant financial future depends on diversity and immigration. It's a big part of that.
CB: I think that's obviously a lot of what tomorrow will be about. Let's tell people for those that want to go out, it's 4:00 p.m. at City Hall in grand forks that want to go learn more about the immigration integration initiation. What's happening tomorrow?
MB: Yes, sir.
CB: What's going on at the event tomorrow?
MB: What's going on? First the welcome introduction, go around the room. Social service also given an update. Talk about a welcome American update. 18 out of 20 -- and so they have discussion of community strategies, come prepared to share things you've been doing with or on behalf of new Americans we can add to our database. They're going to make a presentation. They're holding an informational session on Wednesday, July 20. To help people register for sports and become more active and integrated into the community and by doing that, they do better in school and the commune. Also we'll discuss grants. And welcoming week is September 17 through the 24. It's wonderful. 4 to 7 p.m. If you like pot luck or good food, I would encourage everyone to come. Also the social action is wonderful. Then the other events and activities and discussion. Then they'll plan the next meeting.
CB: Governor, I got 30 seconds. You mentioned you won an award for being a welcoming community. I think its welcoming communities America or whatnot. But it's teamed up with a partnership for new American economy. What is that award mean specifically about grand forks?
MB: It means Grand Forks is a welcoming community and we are welcoming the immigrants. We want to be welcoming to our people who are already here as well. It's a balance. We want to make sure we are safe. A place that people can be interactive and succeed. And I think it recognizes what we've done to achieve these ends.
CB: Mayor Brown, we appreciate your time and again, tomorrow 4:00 p.m. City Hall, the immigration integration initiative. You want to go and check it out. Mayor Brown, we look forward to having you back in the future. Maybe telling us what took place at this events.
MB: I'd be happy to.
CB: Mayor Brown out of Grand Forks. When we come back, a lot of great feedback to get to. We'd love to know your point of view on the event that mayor brown is holding tomorrow. It's easy to share. Go to our web site, 630POV.com. We'll be right back.