MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota attracted more immigrants from a wider range of countries during most of the 1990s than in past decades, according to a Minnesota Planning report.
Minnesota's jobs, educational opportunities and reputation as a safe haven for refugees -- as well as substantial populations of recent immigrants already living in Minnesota -- attracted people from other lands, according to the report released Monday.
About 40 percent of the immigrants were refugees, a higher percentage than in any other state, the report said.
Immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Bosnia, Mexico, India and China topped the list of newcomers.
From 1990 to 1998, 67,777 immigrants came to Minnesota, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. Nationwide, there were 9,141,551 immigrants in that time span.
The report, "Immigrants in Minnesota: An Increasingly Diverse Population," captures many of the changes that the state's schools, workplaces and communities have witnessed in recent years.
African immigrants did not come to Minnesota in large numbers during the 1980s, but that changed during the 1990s. In 1997, Somalis were the largest group of Minnesota immigrants with 1,008 arriving that year.
The number of Russians immigrating to Minnesota increased sharply after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1998, the 651 immigrants from the former Soviet republics constituted the biggest group of Minnesota immigrants, followed by Somalis with 582. Years of civil war have caused many Somalis to flee to the United States.
Abraham Lincoln High School, an alternative school in Minneapolis, opened four years ago to help immigrant teens make the transition to U.S. life.
The school serves 420 students from more than 20 countries. Because so many of the students are refugees, the school places a premium on helping ease emotional wounds, according to assistant principal Tsultim Tsagong, 38.
"Before you teach anything, you need to heal these students," he said. "They have gone through a lot of things in their lives. So you have to make them feel comfortable before you try to teach them."
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