Welcoming Week

By Anisa Hajimumin, Assistant Commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is proud to
participate in Welcoming Week September 12-20, a national initiative to celebrate and affirm
the importance of inclusivity and connections for immigrants, refugees and long-term residents
of Minnesota. As an agency, we focus on workforce and economic development and know
firsthand the positive impact of immigrants and refugees on our state’s community and
economic development.
My role as the Assistant Commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is central to helping
the State of Minnesota make connections and create pathways for workers and business
owners to be successful.
I wanted to join DEED because I saw real barriers that immigrant and refugee business owners
face in Minnesota. In my previous role as a consultant, I helped people connect to state
information and resources. Many immigrant and refugee business owners were relying on
other people to help them know what forms to fill out or what fees to pay and how to grow
their businesses. I saw a real opportunity to work with state agencies to improve access to
information for our immigrant and refugee communities and bring people together.
In my first few months of the job, I can report that conversations to make transformative
changes and create new and improved programming are happening—we are making progress.
I’m partnering with local and state leaders to better understand the business registration
process and build a communications process that reaches more immigrant and refugee
business owners. There are 100,000 people who live in Minnesota who speak English less than
“very well,” but of course, entrepreneurship doesn’t wait for English fluency.

For example, my neighbor built a snow-removal business that expanded from one truck to four
trucks. I really admire his entrepreneurial drive. He’s providing a needed service and also
providing employment. That’s the spirit of Minnesota’s business and community development
that benefits all of us. So, we’re exploring what more the state can do.
Our CareerForce system, with counselors and support staff available to assist people in finding
jobs, is developing new ways to serve immigrants and refugees who seek professional jobs, in
addition to entry-level jobs. Immigrants and refugees have been and continue to be vital to the
labor force and economy in Minnesota. 80,000 foreign-born Minnesotans joined the workforce
between 2010-2018—that accounts for 60% of the state’s labor force growth in those years.
Just over 60% of the foreign-born population are in the prime working years of 25-54,
compared to just 36% of the rest of the population.
Immigrants and refugees make up a large percentage of the labor force in many in-demand and
critical infrastructure occupations in Minnesota. Based on this data from 2018, foreign born
workers make up:
 39.5% of butchers and meat packers
 30.3% of software developers and computer application and system engineers
 18.4% of Personal Care Aides
In healthcare, the service industry, agriculture and food production and more, immigrants and
refugees are critically important to our state, not just as workers, but also in bringing cultural,
language and artistic assets to our neighborhoods in rural, suburban and urban communities in
Join me in celebrating Welcoming Week, a time for all Minnesotans to recognize the many
contributions and assets of our diverse state. Together we can recommit to improving services
and systems in Minnesota so that immigrants and refugees can connect with the state and find
relevant resources