Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs

Immigrant and refugee affairs

Issued biweekly by the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs(OIRA), an  office within the Department of Neighborhood and Community Relations

Thursday, March 14, 2019

State Drivers Licenses for All: Freedom to Drive MN

A bill currently at the Minnesota state legislature  would  permit Minnesota residents to apply for a drivers license or state identification card regardless of immigration status. The measure, House File 1500, has just cleared its last committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The City of Minneapolis strongly supports this initiative to enure that Minnesota residents have access to a state drivers license and identity document.

News articles on this campaign recently appeared in the Star Tribune, as well as the Spanish-language publication La Matraca.  The Freedom to Drive MN campaign coalition, composed of many immigrant rights organizations, has a website and Facebook page. The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota has also put out a list of quick facts on the benefits of this bill.

This measure, if passed, would have an significant positive impact on Minnesota's immigrant and refugee communities, including on the approximately 90,000 residents of the state who do not currently possess immigration status. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will be closely following this bill, so please do not hesitate to reach out to OIRA for more information, including suggestions on ways to support this bill.

OIRA Outreach: Immigration Forums and Seminars

OIRA participates in Continuing Legal Education and other presentations and seminars to share information about immigration law as well as City of Minneapolis Welcoming Policies, Programs and Initiatives that benefit immigrant and refugee communities.

Upcoming Continuing Legal Education seminars and presentations:

Recent presentations and events:

  • 3/1: AILA Congressional Breakfast (meeting between representatives of the American Immigration Lawyers Association MN/Dakotas Chapter and staff members of the Minnesota federal congressional delegation)
  • 3/7: Hawthorne Huddle (Hosted by the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council and the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board)
  • 3/13: University of Minnesota Law School Latinx Law Student Association presentation

OIRA Outreach: Community Hours and Legal Clinics

Community Hours

OIRA holds community hours at various locations in Minneapolis. The purpose of community hours are to share information about the existence and mission of the office,  to inform community of immigration related developments and identify issues impacting communities, and to connect residents to legal service providers.

Upcoming/recent community hours are/were:

  • March 2 at Opportunity Center 
  • April 4 at Lao Assistance

Legal Clinics and Information Events

OIRA also helps coordinate "rapid response" legal clinics and legal information events (some in conjunction with city officials) where immigrants impacted by federal government decisions and actions can meet with an experienced immigration attorney to understand their rights.  Recent clinics include one on February 27 for individuals impacted by an I-9 audit of a local daycare and preschool.

Please contact OIRA directly for more information about these events, and to schedule community office hours or legal clinics, especially if you become aware of a community that is in crisis and needs immediate immigration related legal assistance.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Asian Pacific Islander (API) day at the Capitol will take place on Tuesday March 19 from 9AM-2PM in the Minnesota State Capitol Rotunda. 

A celebration of Ghana Independence Day, co-sponsored by the Council of Minnesotans of African Heritage, is scheduled to take place on March 23rd starting at 6PM at Shoreview Community Center, 4580 Victoria St. N. Shoreview, MN 55126.

Please check the OIRA website for additional events at

Local Immigration Related News

Liberian DED updates including City Proclamation

Citizens of Liberia residing in Minnesota held an event at the State Capitol on February 22nd to raise awareness of Deferred Enforced Departure, a temporary right to remain in the US which, for Liberia, is scheduled to end on March 31, 2019. Without an immigration alternative, DED beneficiaries from Liberia may face the possibility of being deported back to Liberia. 

At the Capitol event, OIRA presented a proclamation from Mayor Jacob Frey recognizing the contributions of Liberians in Minnesota, and proclaiming the month of February as DED Awareness month.

On Sunday, March 10, Senator Tina Smith and Representative Dean Phillips held a press conference to highlight the stories of Liberians impacted by the federal administration's decision to end DED. They used the opportunity to also address measures in the Senate and House to push for an immigration solution that would permit DED recipients to obtain permanent resident status in the US.

Meanwhile, a recently filed class action federal lawsuit in Massachusetts is challenging the government's termination of DED for Liberians.

St. Paul and Ramsey County team up for $150,000 immigration legal defense fund

Recognizing the importance of ensuring that individuals in immigration court removal proceedings have access to competent immigration legal services, St. Paul and Ramsey county are joining forces to establish a $150,000 fund for this purpose.

This step follows recent hiring of an immigration attorney, Jorge Saavedra, at the Ramsey County attorney's office to help identify the immigration impacts in criminal proceedings, as well as current efforts underway to select an immigration attorney to work within the St. Paul City Attorney's Office.

The State of Minnesota Joins Federal Lawsuit to Block Border Wall

Minnesota is joining a coalition of 16 states that filed a federal lawsuit Monday to block President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall without permission from Congress, arguing that the president’s decision to declare a national emergency is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction that would prevent action on the emergency declaration while the case proceeds in court.

National Immigration Related News

HR 6, The Dream and Promise Act, introduced in Congress

The Dream and Promise Act would permit individuals eligible for  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and individuals who hold Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)  a pathway to citizenship.

USCIS Planning to Close Overseas Offices

USCIS is planning to close its overseas offices during the next year. These agency offices have responsibility over matters such as assisting American citizens abroad who want to assist relatives in immigrating to the United States, processing refugee applications; enabling overseas citizenship applications; and assisting Americans who want to adopt foreign children.  The international offices can also process naturalization applications of U.S. military service members who are not already U.S. citizens. USCIS officers abroad also assist in fraud investigations relating to visa applications and provide technical immigration advice to other U.S. government officials.

Closing these offices is likely to further reduce the number of individuals able to legally immigrate to the United States.  Congressional Representative and Senators are interested in the impact this is likely to have on constituents.

Temporary Protected Status Extended for Citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador:

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a short term period of stay granted to individuals from countries experiencing armed conflict, natural disaster or other humanitarian crisis.  In response to a federal court order preventing the government from terminating TPS for citizens of Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador, on March 1, 2019 USCIS extended Temporary Protected Status extended for citizens of these countries. 

Naturalization Delays plague USCIS, result in inordinate delay in acquision of US Citizenship

It is estimated that the processing time for citizenship applications is at its lowest in a decade. Delays in processing applications are preventing nearly 740,000 naturalization applicants from becoming US citizens. These backlogs – processing delays for citizenship applications that exceed 30 months in some regions --prevent eligible immigrants from naturalizing and obtaining all the rights that attach to US citizenship, including the right to vote. Filing a Writ of Mandamus in federal court is a strategy which can compel USCIS to complete processing of delayed naturalization applications, particularly post-interview.

Nonprofit Focus: International Institute of Minnesota

The International Institute of Minnesota offers a broad range of immigration related services, including assistance in preparing and filing applications for US Citizenship.  IIMN, with Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accredited representatives on staff, screens naturalization applicants to ensure they qualify for citizenship, and prepares and files applications with USCIS. IIMN also offers a "Life in Minnesota" series of weekly classes for new Minnesota residents on topics such as money, health, housing, education and employment, as well as many other services. 

About this Bulletin

The Bulletin of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs is published biweekly and provides information on issues that have an impact on immigrant and refugee communities in the City of Minneapolis. During the state legislative session, the Bulletin may be published on a monthly basis.

Please contact OIRA Director Michelle Rivero at, 612-673-6103 or 612-357-1875 if you have information you would like to share in this Bulletin or for comments or questions.

For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact Michelle Rivero at, 612-673-6103 or 612-357-1875.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users can call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.

Para asistencia 612-673-2700, Yog xav tau kev pab, hu 612-673-2800, Hadii aad Caawimaad u baahantahay 612-673-3500.