Minnesota's newest senator is taking a strong interest in Rochester. Senator Tina Smith came to town Saturday as part of her "constituent services tour."
Affordable housing and immigration were some of the topics of discussion.
Smith's first stop was at the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association. While taking a tour of the facility, she heard from members of the local immigrant community about issues important to them. Smith says the future of DREAMers affected by the stalemate over the DACA program in Washington, DC is tied to Minnesota's future.
"It seems to me right now when the entire state of Minnesota is trying to figure out how we can have more people to do the work that our great companies are creating, the jobs that they are creating, we shouldn't be trying to block people out of our country.," she explains, "We should be welcoming them in. And these DACA students, most of them are students or young adults now, want to be part of this state."
Smith says issues that are important to many people in Rochester, such as housing and healthcare, are important to members of the immigrant community as well.
She also visited the Olmsted County Government Center Saturday. The Senator met with leaders in the local housing industry to discuss ways to make buying a house easier in Rochester. At Saturday's meeting, ideas floated around about how to make housing more affordable in the area.
Another central issue was what kind of resources will be needed in the future to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing as Rochester continues to grow.
Smith says housing is a central issue in Minnesota, as it's tied to other important issues such as local economies, education, health, and transportation.
"We need to remember that owning your own home is the number one way Americans build savings and build equity that give them financial security for the long run," says Smith, "So, we gotta fix this problem so that regular Minnesotans, middle class Minnesotans, can go back to building their financial security through the homes that they own."
Smith says she's observed ideas used in other states that have been proven to be successful. She hopes to take what she's learned after having spoken to members of Rochester's community back to Washington to work on solutions for southeastern Minnesota.