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MAYOR MIKE BROWN: Immigration helps Grand Forks employers and economy

Photo by Jesse Trelstad

Note from the author: Grand Forks recently celebrated World Refugee Day. I prepared remarks that I would like to share with the community, and those remarks are presented below.

I also want to invite Herald readers to attend the next Immigrant Integration Initiative meeting on July 21 at 4 p.m. at City Hall. I know there are questions about the refugee and immigration process, how the community is addressing any impact and how residents can be more involved as volunteers, mentors or otherwise.

Professionals from all appropriate agencies attend these meetings, so all questions, suggestions and comments are encouraged. Herald readers also can contact me directly at mbrown@grandforksgov.com.

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GRAND FORKS—As a welcoming community, Grand Forks is proud of our newest neighbors, friends, co-workers and citizens.

Together we are pursuing the American Dream—building a future for ourselves and, most important, for our children.

What we share is so very important.

We are bound by our dreams, our commitment to a bright future and our dedication to strengthening community and country.

As this melting pot has done for nearly 250 years, we embrace those seeking better lives, and we are committed to working hard together, investing in our society and helping to build a community we are proud of.

I am proud of Grand Forks. We have had our struggles over the past year. There has been pain, anger, sadness and disbelief.

Together, we have faced a lot in a short time.

But we have endured and even grown—again, because of how we have responded as a whole.

We have forged a stronger community: A more welcoming, trusting, richer and vibrant community with greater opportunity.

I have the deepest respect for all those involved with helping to raise our community.

More than anyone, the Juba Café owners and those around them have stood tall, demonstrated grace and generosity and remain committed to Grand Forks and its future.

I look forward to the reopening and to re-welcoming the café and its delicious food.

Let me also take this opportunity to thank all of the volunteers who have invested their own time and talents to work with our new refugee and immigrant friends.

I want to thank those working day to day at Lutheran Social Services and at the Grand Forks Public Schools.

When I recently visited an elementary class working on English, it was reinvigorating to talk with the children. It was amazing that when I asked how many languages the children spoke, even at the age of about 5, the answers were two, three and more.

There is so much talent, so much potential that our New American population brings, and it is incumbent on us to help realize that and put it to work for Grand Forks.

I also want to recognize the city's Immigrant Integration Initiative. It is helping to keep us all on the same page, address concerns together and maximize opportunities together—all so we can promote a smooth transition into our community for everyone.

Just this past year, there also have been major strides in workforce development through expanded English Language Learning and specifically manufacturing training spearheaded by Northland Community and Technical College and including North Dakota Job Service, Minnesota Adult Basic Education, Global Friends Coalition, the Chamber, the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., several local employers and many others.

These are the efforts that benefit our new neighbors with finding good solid, employment and a pathway for further career development.

Importantly, it does not just benefit the employees, but also the employers and our whole community's economy. We need workers. Moreover, we need skilled workers, and these are the types of approaches that create win-wins for Grand Forks.

Finally, let me say a very special thank you to Cynthia Schabb and the Global Friends Coalition. I have yet to see an equal organization in communities across the country in leadership and the ability to provide direct services, tangible benefits and an everlasting stream of hope for individuals and families coming to Grand Forks.

We are proud to have New Americans in Grand Forks. We're here to celebrate all the work that is going on and most important, we are here to celebrate our welcoming community and the refugees and immigrants who call it home.

Brown is the mayor of Grand Forks.

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