‘Broken dreams’: Trump’s actions on refugees dismay local Somalis, officials

Published 8:12 am Friday, January 27, 2017

By Josh Verges

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Local Somali-Americans say refugees waiting to resettle in Minnesota are losing hope amid reports that President Donald Trump will temporarily halt new arrivals in the name of national security.

Email newsletter signup

As a candidate, Trump promised to ban Muslims from entering the country. Now, he reportedly is preparing to block Syrian refugees indefinitely and stop all refugee admissions during at least a four-month review of vetting practices.

He also is expected to enact a one-month ban on travel to the U.S. from Somalia and six other predominantly Muslim countries, the Associated Press reported.

Samakab Hussein, 34, a small-business owner from St. Paul, said he gets frequent emails from Somalis in refugee camps who want to resettle in the Twin Cities.

“Now, they’re hopeless. They have no hope that they can be coming to one of the greatest nations on the planet. Their dream has been broken because of Trump,” he said.

In a letter, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minneapolis, said the impact of Trump’s policies already are being felt.

“Just this morning, I received a call from a Somali family who has been waiting more than five years to have their brothers, sisters, and children join them here. They played by all the rules — submitted all the forms, paid all the fees, took all the tests. Yet in the first few days of his administration, President Trump has decided that this family doesn’t deserve to be together because of the religion they practice and the country they come from,” Ellison wrote.

Steve Meili, a University of Minnesota law professor who has studied U.S. refugee resettlement policy, said Trump can legally restrict refugees from certain countries but can’t target a particular religion.

A draft of an executive order Trump is expected to sign this week does not make explicit reference to Islam, but it says the U.S. must not admit people who would “place violent religious edicts over American law,” engage in “honor killings” or oppress members of a certain race, gender or sexual orientation.

The order asserts that the U.S. has convicted or implicated hundreds of foreign-born with crimes related to terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Meili disputes Trump’s view that the U.S. can do a better job of vetting refugees.

“Short of just completely blocking refugees from certain countries permanently, I don’t know how you can make that vetting process even more intensive,” he said.

Minnesota has received more than 40,000 refugees from dozens of countries since 2003, including some 16,000 Somalis. Others have moved here after first settling in other states.

Shortly before the election, Trump singled out Somali refugees during a visit to the state, saying the state has “suffered enough.” Several Somali-Americans living in the state have joined or tried to join the Islamic State, and the terrorist group claimed responsibility for a knife attack at a St. Cloud mall.

Dozens of Minnesota lawmakers, city officials, advocates and citizens packed a Capitol conference room Wednesday to protest Trump’s action on immigration.

“What you have before you here is … an incredible diversity: African, African-American, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, Christians, Jews. This is who we are. This is Minnesota,” Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul said, looking over the crowd. “We know that our strength comes precisely from this.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Minneapolis Democrat and the first Somali-American lawmaker elected in the nation, invited Trump to spend a day with her.

“The irony in this is that this country, too, is being one of tyranny, is becoming one of dictatorship and is becoming one that is turning face against the values that it is supposed to stand for,” she said.