The Free Press, Mankato, MN

July 20, 2013

Refugee help program creates understanding

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Thumbs up to organizers of and participants in the Mankato Area Refugee Community Consortium.

The consortium hosted a panel discussion this week that aired the obstacles that refugees face when it comes to securing employment in the Mankato area. Employers who attended were guaranteed a greater understanding of the frustrations and challenges of newcomers who may have job skills but not the English language skills to land jobs easily.

It takes a long time to become proficient in a new language — seven or more years — so understanding that struggle is key to employers tapping into this field of eager workers. Those who have had experience with refugee employees talked about their work ethic. And often coming from cultures that value community over the individual, it’s important for employers to know that self-promotion in interviews may not come easily to many of these applicants.

These panel discussions, which also have included other topics, such as housing, are an important way to connect newcomers to the community and for long-established members to get a better understanding of who lives in the area today.

McCain continues to be a hard-working uniter

Thumbs up to Sen. John McCain for taking a leadership role in his Republican party to try and get a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed.

McCain helped craft a bi-partisan plan that overwhelmingly passed in the Senate. But House Republicans have stalled legislation, concerned mostly about a “path to citizenship” language in the bill.

McCain said last week that he and other backers of immigration reform “are not winning,” and must boost efforts to get the House of Representatives to pass a bill. He plans to help lead an effort in targeted congressional districts aimed at answering critics of the legislation.

The path to citizenship would allow for up to 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States to eventually become legal citizens — something House Republicans believe is an unfair “amnesty.” But giving those who have been in the country — often for many years, even decades — a hope of becoming legal citizens is a practical, moral and necessary part of immigration reform. Most of those immigrants are here because they filled the demand for farm labor jobs created by American companies — jobs that often won’t be taken by American citizens.

Community shows strong support for children

Thumbs up to the community’s continuing strong support for the Southern Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Last week the museum signed a 50-year lease for the city of Mankato’s bus garage, which will be converted into a home for the museum.

At the same event, the museum announced a major gift from the Coughlan family, which includes $300,000 in money and another $200,000 in in-kind donations of Kasota stone that will be used in the museum’s quarry exhibit, as well as for donated books.

The Coughlan family has long been in the quarry business as well as owners of Capstone Press, a children’s book publisher.

Including a quarry exhibit is appropriate in a city in which the local Kasota stone has been quarried since the settling of Mankato.

The most recent donation brings to roughly $4 million raised for the museum, with $1.3 million needed to complete phase one of construction and allow the museum to open at its target time in 2014.