Aaron J. Brown is an author and community college instructor from Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. He writes the blog MinnesotaBrown.com and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio (KAXE.org).
We’ve outlived our immigrant ancestors. Imprints of hungrier times remain etched on our communities, but they are easy to ignore. The fight for workplace safety and fair pay. The demand for free public education. The streets and amenities built to last beyond the mines on the edge of town. The shared humanity of the many over the tyranny of the few.
But I cannot escape a terrible notion. Transported to another time, the surnames painted in charming fashion on our Northern Minnesota cabins would have been the names on the clipboards outside the immigrant camps we read about in today’s news.
Dress it up however you like. You can claim that one dark skinned foreigner is legal and another illegal, but the only thing that’s different is our government’s policies, then and now.
Here you might logically reply that the distant plight on America’s southern border means little to us here on the northern border. After all, as some have told me, we want to protect *our* jobs and *our* way of life.
It’s true, people here in Northern Minnesota broadly support trade actions against unfair foreign steel dumping by countries like China. During downturns, such actions affect local taconite mines and thousands of workers. This was one of the reasons Trump gave Republicans their first presidential win in several Mesabi Range towns since Herbert Hoover in 1928.