September 15, 2021

Peter Leggett

Mayor Carter And Community Partners Announce Expanded Efforts to Support Immigrants And Refugees in Saint Paul 

Efforts Include Continuing to Invest in the City’s Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, A New American Loan Program for Residents Seeking to Naturalize, New Research to Inform Ongoing Support for Immigrants and Refugees, and  
Expanded Community Engagement Efforts 


SAINT PAUL, MN – Today, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter alongside community partners announced expanded efforts to support immigrants and refugees in our community. These efforts include continuing to invest in the City’s Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, a New American Loan Program for residents seeking to naturalize, new research to inform ongoing support services, and expanded community engagement efforts.

“Celebrating and supporting immigrants and refugees is vital to our city’s future,” said Mayor Melvin Carter. “We’re moving forward together to realize this vision with our community, as we continue rebuilding toward the brighter days ahead.” 

“Alongside our community partners, we stand with members of our immigrant and refugee communities in our commitment to keeping families together and safe,” said Ramsey County Board Chair Toni Carter. “We look forward to leveraging these expanded efforts as we continue to engage in this critical work to benefit our entire community.” 

“Our ongoing collaboration with an array of partners is critical to supporting members of our immigrant and refugee communities in Saint Paul,” said City Attorney Lyndsey Olson. “As we continue to re-envision how the City Attorney’s Office serves our community, these expanded efforts further our ability to create and sustain a welcoming and inclusive city in our pursuit of lasting equity, justice and prosperity for our entire community.”   

Led by our City Attorney’s Office, Welcoming Saint Paul encompasses the City’s efforts to ensure Saint Paul continues to be a welcoming place to live for all residents including immigrants and refugees. While the Saint Paul City Attorney’s Office does not represent individuals or provide legal guidance to residents, Welcoming Saint Paul engages in:  

  • Facilitating the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into Saint Paul’s civic, economic, and cultural life; 
  • Advocating on behalf of immigrant and refugee communities in Saint Paul to ensure justice and equity for all City residents; and 
  • Promoting a citywide culture that understands and values the benefits, including economic benefits, which all members of our society receive when immigrants and refugee communities are successfully integrated into our civic, economic, and cultural life. 

“Welcoming Saint Paul reflects our commitment to ensuring immigrants and refugees can access support, services and resources in our city,” said Assistant City Attorney Edmundo Lijo. “Alongside our partners, the Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, New American Loan Program, new research findings from Gateways 4 Growth, and expanded engagement efforts will be vital as we continue working to support our community.” 

Additionally, Welcoming Saint Paul supports our immigrant and refugee communities by providing access to tools and resources to help residents navigate the ever-changing immigration laws and policies that affect their daily lives. This includes developing programs designed to support and empower our immigrant and refugee communities and providing resources to inform and educate individuals so that they can more easily protect and exercise their rights.  

The Saint Paul Immigrant Legal Defense Fund is a collaboration with Ramsey County, the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM), The Advocates for Human Rights (AHR) and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid (MMLA). This fund supports residents who do not have legal representation, who are detained and face removal, and who earn less than 200% of the poverty guidelines.  

The New American Loan Program is a collaboration with Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union to provide no-interest loans to residents to pay for fees related to applications for naturalization or other immigration benefits from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This program will also support efforts to ensure all residents have access to financial services, resources and education.  

"The New American Loan Program will not only help remove barriers and support a pathway to citizenship for residents, but will also help expand access to financial services, assistance, and education,” said Affinity Plus CEO Dave Larson. “We look forward to the impact this program will have in our community.” 

The New American Loan Program is part of the City’s Citizen Encouragement Project, a major initiative of the Welcoming Saint Paul. The Project’s mission is to increase citizenship among eligible U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents living in Saint Paul and is based on the Cities for Citizenship’s founding principle that “when municipal leaders develop and invest in naturalization efforts, it produces substantial economic and civic benefits for all their constituents”.

For the approximately 10,000 permanent residents in our community, the two most common barriers to naturalization are an inability to speak, read, and write in English, and challenges in paying for the application filing fees, which the New American Loan Program helps support.  

“This partnership between the City of Saint Paul and Affinity Plus is truly groundbreaking as it creates an scalable and replicable model to connect immigrants to a financial institution that’s committed to providing responsible, affordable and sustainable financial products and services to a population that has been traditionally ignored by the mainstream financial sector,” said Pablo DeFilippi, Inclusiv SVP Membership and Network Engagement. “We’re grateful to have played a role in the development of this program as Inclusiv’s mission is to promote the financial inclusion and empowerment of minority, low income and immigrant communities across the country. We look forward to continuing to  supporting this project through the Juntos Avanzamos financial inclusion framework.” 

The Gateways for Growth Challenge is a competitive opportunity for localities to receive research support and/or technical assistance from New American Economy and Welcoming America to improve immigrant inclusion in their communities. The City of Saint Paul and Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce were awarded a grant in November 2020, and have worked over the course of the past 10 months to develop a report released today on New Americans in Saint Paul.  

“The St. Paul Area Chamber is grateful for the partnership with the City of Saint Paul on the Gateways for Growth initiative and grant,” said B Kyle, President and CEO at St. Paul Area Chamber. “Here’s what we know: immigrants are good for our country, our communities, and our economy.  Over 60,000 immigrants call Saint Paul home, representing nearly 20% of our population. In 2019 alone, their economic impact was $1.3 billion. And those numbers are growing. It is our charge, our opportunity, to ensure immigrants have all they need to thrive and grow here. We look forward to this tremendous opportunity to do so.” 

“Immigration has played a critical role across the Midwest, and Saint Paul is no exception,” said Mo Kantner, Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy. “From revitalizing neighborhoods and boosting local business corridors, to growing the city’s tax base and helping sustain essential services throughout the pandemic, immigrants are integral members of the Saint Paul community.” 

“St. Paul’s efforts to combine data with a strategic plan demonstrate its commitment to taking a comprehensive, community-driven approach to immigrant inclusion,” said Molly Hilligoss, Network Director of Welcoming America. “By meshing numbers with residents’ voices, the entire community of St. Paul and the East Metro Area is included in the process.” 

While making up approximately 19.9 percent of the city’s population, the report underscores the critical role immigrants in Saint Paul and the East Metro Area play in population growth, business creation, and reviving the manufacturing sector. Findings from the report include: 

  • Immigration is driving population growth in Saint Paul and the East Metro Area. Immigrants accounted for over 62 percent of the population growth in the City of Saint Paul and 40 percent of the population growth in the East Metro Area between 2015 and 2019. As of 2019, 11.9 percent of the East Metro Area and over 19 percent of Saint Paul’s population were immigrants.  
  • Immigrants’ spending power has helped revitalize local businesses in the city and region. In 2019, immigrants held $966.2 million in disposable income, or 14.7 percent of Saint Paul’s total spending power. Similarly, immigrants across the East Metro Area held over $3.4 billion of spending power in 2019 alone. Robust consumer spending by immigrants supports small businesses and keeps local economic corridors vibrant.  
  • Immigrant households support federal social programs. Immigrants in Saint Paul contributed $145.7 million to Social Security and $36.4 million to Medicare in 2019.  
  • Immigrants in Saint Paul play a key role in supporting and preserving local manufacturing jobs. As of 2019, immigrants made up over 35 percent of manufacturing workers in the city. Because of the role immigrants play in the workforce in helping companies keep jobs on U.S. soil, immigrants in the region helped create or preserve approximately 2,800 jobs that would have otherwise vanished or moved elsewhere. 
  • Immigrants play a significant role in the city as entrepreneurs. Immigrants represented 33.2 percent of the entrepreneurs in the city of Saint Paul in 2019. Over 11 percent of immigrant individuals worked for their own businesses, generating $43.8 million in business income.  

This report will be leveraged in the City’s and Chamber’s ongoing efforts to draft a multi-sector immigrant inclusion strategy. The City of Saint Paul and the Saint Paul Area Chamber are currently hosting a series of focus groups and surveys to garner community feedback on how to make our community more welcoming and supportive for immigrants and marginalized communities. Read the full research brief here.  

As part of the City’s ongoing efforts to promote and encourage naturalization, the City will engage in expanded community engagement efforts to ensure all residents have access to information, support and services around the Immigrant Legal Defense Fund, New American Loan Program, the Gateways for Growth Research Report and other Welcoming Saint Paul programs. Activities will include legal workshops and clinics in collaboration with community partners.  

At the local level, we remain committed to ensuring Saint Paul is a safe, welcoming and inclusive city for all of us. While we are not aware of any planned ICE enforcement actions in our city, the City of Saint Paul, and our Saint Paul Police Department will not cooperate, facilitate enforcement actions, or ask for immigration documentation or status. 

 Learn more about the City’s work to support immigrants and refugees in our community:  

New American Economy (NAE) is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization founded to educate, empower and support policymakers, influencers, and citizens across the country that see the economic and social benefits of a smart approach to immigration reform. NAE has created a coalition of civic, business, and cultural leaders who span the political spectrum and represent all 50 states. NAE makes the case for smart immigration reform in four ways: 1) we use powerful research to demonstrate how immigration impacts our economy, 2) we organize champions at the grassroots and influencer levels to build support for immigration, 3) we partner with state and local leaders to advocate for policies that recognize the value immigrants add locally, and 4) we show immigrant contributions to American culture through film, food, art, sports, comedy, and more. Visit to learn more. 

Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Through the Welcoming Network, we work to change systems and culture by providing communities the roadmap they need to create welcoming policies and share new approaches to inclusion to create an environment where everyone can truly thrive. Learn more at



Last Edited: September 15, 2021