Last reviewed July 2023
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Immigrants in Minnesota
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
Legislative History • Books and Reports • Articles • Internet Resources • Additional Library Resources
The story of immigration to the United States began before the founding of the nation and conversation about immigration policy continues today. Over the past several decades, policy makers at the national and state level have made efforts to reform the immigration system, which includes complex policymaking regarding populations of immigrants, refugees, noncitizens, and undocumented or illegal immigrants.
Foreign Born Population in Minnesota
- Top 5 Immigrant Groups
|Data Source: All Minnesotans by Immigrant Group from Minnesota Compass using pooled American Community Survey data.
Minnesota's first large groups of immigrants arrived from Europe, primarily Norway, Sweden, Ireland, and Germany. Today, the majority of Minnesota's immigrants arrive from Mexico, Somalia, India, and Laos. In 2020, about 9% of the state's population were born in foreign countries.
Minnesota's foreign-born population includes a large number of refugees who have settled in the state. Hmong refugees began arriving in Minnesota in the mid-1970s, when the country of Laos was taken over by communist powers. Somali refugees began coming to Minnesota in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Somali government resulted in extreme violence. As of 2019, Minnesota has the largest Somali population and Hmong population in the United States.
As the state's demographics change, education is an increasing concern. To preempt a widening gap in educational achievement, Minnesota seeks to address the challenge of teaching more students whose first language is not English. In 2013, the state Legislature passed the Minnesota Dream Act (Laws of Minnesota 2013, chapter 99, article 4, section 1), also known as the Minnesota Prosperity Act, which makes certain undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition rates and provides them the opportunity to apply for state financial aid. In 2014, the state Legislature also focused on the education of immigrants by enacting additional measures to improve the academic performance of English learners (Laws of Minnesota 2014, chapter 272, article 1).
Minnesota's immigrant population is an increasing portion of the state's labor force. The Minnesota State Demographic Center predicted in 2017 that "by 2041-2045 Minnesota would need to welcome about 270,000 more net migrants than the 59,000 net migrants already projected for this period" to prevent reductions in the state's labor force growth rate (see Immigrants and Minnesota's Workforce).
In 2017, there was continued debate about legislation that would restrict the Commissioner of Public Safety from rulemaking that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses. It had historically been the case that Public Safety would not issue licenses to undocumented immigrants, but the provision restricting rulemaking solidified that standard. This provision was passed in the Public Safety omnibus bill (Laws of Minnesota 2017, chapter 95, article 3, section 5).
This subdivision was repealed by Laws of Minnesota 2023, chapter 13, which also expanded eligibility for a standard driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. Proof of immigration status will not be required to apply for a driver's license beginning October 1, 2023.
There may be additional statutes and rules that are not listed here. For additional laws, please see the Minnesota Statutes for Immigration or Refugees and Minnesota Rules index for Refugees.
Or search for other state's enacted laws and resolutions since 2008 in the NCSL Immigration Enactments Database.
Significant Books and Reports
Allen, Ryan and Karl Schuettler. Immigrants and Minnesota's Workforce. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2017. (F615.A1 A45 2017)
Allen, Ryan. The Unraveling of the American Dream: Foreclosures in the Immigrant Community of Minneapolis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2009. (HG2040.5.U62 M562 2009)
Almquist, Sarah. Closing the Gap: Guardianship for At-Risk, Immigrant Youth in Minnesota. St Paul: [publisher not identified], 2022 (KFM5506.A352022 A15 2022}
Chun, Randall and Danyell Punelli LeMire. Eligibility of Noncitizens for Health Care and Social Services Programs. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, Revised: 2019. (KF4800.Z9 C58 2019)
Corrie, Bruce. P. The Economic Potential of African Immigrants in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN : [publisher not identified], 2015. (JV6471 C677 2015)
Daniels, Paul, Laura Bordelon, and Bill Blazar. The Economic Contributions of Immigrants in Minnesota. St. Paul, MN : Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, 2021. (JV6471 .C67 2021)
Economic Impact of Immigrants. St. Paul, MN: Office of the Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division, 2006. (JV6471.E26 2006)
The Economic Status of Minnesotans: A Chartbook With Data for Minnesota's Largest Cultural Groups. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota State Demographic Center, 2023. (HA455 .E26 2023)
Educating Minnesota's Immigrant Students: Phase 1: Challenges and Opportunities. St. Paul, MN: Citizens League, 2007. (LC3732.M6 I56 2007)
Educating Minnesota's Immigrant Students: Phase 2: Solutions. St. Paul, MN: Citizens League, 2009. (LC3732.M6 I56 2009)
Fennelly, Katherine. The Economic Impact of Immigrants in Minnesota. St. Paul: Minnesota Business Immigration Reform Coalition, 2010. (JV6471.F46 2010)
Fiscal Impact of Refugee Resettlement: An Assessment of Data Availability: Special Review. St. Paul: Office of the Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division, 2018. (HV640.4.U5 F57 2018)
Holmquist, Jane Drenning. They Chose Minnesota: A Survey of the State's Ethnic Groups. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1981. (F615.A1 T45)
Hopkins, Nathan. Undocumented Postsecondary Students. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2018. (LC3727 .U53)
Immigrant Contributions to Minnesota's Economy. Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition, Partnership for a New American Economy, and Americas Society/Council of the Americas, 2014.
Immigrant Health, A Call to Action: Recommendations from the Minnesota Immigrant Health Task Force. Minneapolis: Minnesota Dept. of Health, Minnesota Immigrant Health Task Force, 2005. (RA418.5.T73 I46 2005)
The Impact of Illegal Immigration on Minnesota: Costs and Population Trends. St. Paul: Office of Strategic Planning and Results Management, Minnesota Department of Administration, 2005. (JV7012.I47 2005)
Johnson, Ryan et al. Improving Access to Minnesota Health Care Programs for Hispanic/Latino Communities. St. Paul: Minnesota Dept. of Human Services; Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, August 2008. (RA638.I47 2008)
A New Age of Immigrants: Making Immigration Work for Minnesota. Minneapolis: The Minneapolis Foundation, August, 2010. (JV7012.N49 2010)
Moving from Exclusion to Belonging: Immigrant Rights in Minnesota Today. Minneapolis: The Advocates for Human Rights, March 2014. (F615.A1 M68 2014)
Noncitizens and Minnesota Law: A Guide for Legislators. St. Paul: Research Dept., Minnesota House of Representatives, 2004. (KF4800.Z9 N66 2004)
Public Health Care Eligibility Determination for Noncitizens: Evaluation Report. St. Paul: Office of the Legislative Auditor, Program Evaluation Division, 2006. (KF4800.P83 2006)
Bringing Vitality to Main Street: How Immigrant Small Businesses Help Local Economies Grow. Fiscal Policy Institute, January 2015. (HD2358.5.U6 K35 2015)
Blau, Francine D., Christopher D. Mackie and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering. The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press, 2017. (JV6471 .N38 2017)
Evans, William N, and Daniel Fitzgerald. The Economic and Social Outcomes of Refugees in the United States: Evidence from the ACS. National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2017. (HV640.4.U6 E93 2017)
Morse, Ann. Immigration Policy Project: Report on State Immigration Laws, 2020. Denver, CO: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2020.
Reich, Gary M. The Politics of Immigration Across the United States: Every State a Border State? NY: Routledge, 2021. (JV6477 .R45 2021)
Rueben, Kim and Sarah Gault. State and Local Fiscal Effects of Immigration. Urban Institute, June 2017. (JV6471 .R84 2017)
Yearbook of Immigration Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics. (REF JV6461.S8)
(articles in reverse chronological order)
Galvan, Alfonzo. Drivers Licenses for All: Minnesota Gov. Walz Signs Bill into Law. Sahan Journal, March 7, 2023.
Derosier, Alex. "Minnesota to Issue Driver's Licenses to All Regardless of Immigration Status" Rochester Post-Bulletin, March 7, 2023.
Mulrooney Eldred, Sheila and Ibrahim Hirsi. "Looking Back at Minnesota's Refugee History." Mpls St Paul Magazine, December 19, 2021.
Budiman, Abby. "Hmong in the U.S. Fact Sheet." Pew Research Center, April 29, 2021.
Warren, Peter. "Curious Minnesota: Which Countries Do Immigrants to Minnesota Come From?" Star Tribune, March 28, 2021.
Kaul, Greta. "As Minnesota Counties Vote on Accepting Refugees, Here are the Counties Where Refugees have Actually Moved in the Last Decade." MinnPost, January 9, 2020.
Ibrahim, Mukhtar M. "Minnesota's Racial, Ethnic Diversity Grows even as Immigration Slows." Sahan Journal, October 15, 2019.
Rao, Maya. "How did the Twin Cities Become a Hub for Somali Immigrants?" Star Tribune, June 21, 2019.
Kaul, Greta. "State of Immigration: Where New Minnesotans Have Come From, From Statehood to Today." MinnPost, April 4, 2018.
Hine, Steve and Cameron Macht. "Immigrants and the Economy." Minnesota Economic Trends, December 2017.
Magan, Christopher and Tad Vezner. "Protester Penalties Out, Ban on Undocumented Immigrant Driver's Licenses In." Pioneer Press, May 22, 2017.
Cooney, Tony. "Minnesota Index: Immigration in Minnesota." Session Daily, April 24, 2017.
Yang, Nancy. "10 Things About Hmong Culture, Food and Language You Probably Didn't Know." MPR News, March 1, 2015.
Hirsi, Ibrahim. "Immigration has Become a 'Driving Force' in Minnesota's Economy." MinnPost, December 22, 2014.
Beal, Dave. "Immigration Reform: Minnesota's Changing Face of Labor." MinnPost, August 7, 2013.
"States and Immigration Reform." State Policy Reports, Vol. 31, Issue 13 (entire issue), July, 2013.
"Is Immigration Good for America?" (Twelve articles within this issue explore the topic of immigration). The CATO Journal, Winter 2012.
Cameron, Linda A. "Common Threads: The Minnesota Immigrant Experience." Minnesota History, Fall 2010, p.96-106.
Salisbury, Bill. "Pawlenty Immigration Report Ignites Firestorm: Study on Illegal Residents Angers Immigrants; DFL Accuses Governor of Creating Wedge Issue". St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 16, 2005, p. A1+.
Sweeney, Patrick. "Illegal Residents Cost State $175M: Study Comes as Pawlenty Prepares to Propose Changes". St. Paul Pioneer Press, December 9, 2005, p. A1+.
Significant Internet Resources
Additional Library Resources
For historical information, check the following codes in the Newspaper Clipping File and the Vertical File:
I8 (Immigration), R50 (Refugees)
For additional reports at the Legislative Reference Library, use this Library catalog search: