Others’ Opinion: Trump’s bungled travel ban may aid extremist recruitment in Minnesota

Published 10:05 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

President Donald Trump’s temporary ban on travel from seven majority-Muslim countries could have a particularly ruinous effect on Minnesota, where officials have labored long to counter efforts by terrorist recruiters to zero in on the nation’s largest Somali refugee population.

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Minnesota has been a leader in the effort to find productive ways to counter the narrative of terrorist recruiters. It has invested enormous effort to disrupt those networks and persuade refugees — the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and looking to make a new life — that they are not second-class citizens, but fully vested in the freedom and values that guide this nation. Recruiters, meanwhile, continue to attempt to lure young men and women vulnerable to their insidious message of hate. Through a barrage of videos, tweets, chat rooms and websites, they whisper in young Somali-Americans’ ears that they will never be accepted in American society, that they will always be despised and mistrusted because of their faith, that America will turn on them and that their only refuge lies in Islamic extremism.

Now, sadly, the recruiters’ message is being reinforced by what refugees see coming out of the White House itself. Over the weekend, even those who risked their lives to aid American troops in the Middle East, those who carried green cards, children — all found themselves blocked from entry, many unable even to consult an attorney, as is their right. Somalia, along with Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Yemen, fall under the temporary ban that was sprung on an unsuspecting public Friday, touching off a weekend of confusion and protest that continues.

Jaylani Hussein, of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Trump’s ban “will play into the hands of our enemies.” Minnesotans now will have to work even harder to reinforce the narrative that refugees have a place here. Hopefully, they’ll take some comfort in the way Minnesotans have rallied to their defense. State Attorney General Lori Swanson denounced Trump’s order and said her office stands ready to assist any legal action taken on behalf of detainees in Minnesota. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken were scheduled to meet with Homeland Secretary John Kelly. And Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen released a statement saying that the order was “too broad and has been poorly implemented and conceived.”

Minnesotans long ago decided to welcome refugees, be they Hmong, Somali, Ethiopian or, lately, Syrian. Doing so has paid dividends for this state, adding to its diversity and vitality. Somalis here have begun the ritual immigrant climb up the American ladder to success, producing small-business owners, professionals, college graduates and the nation’s first elected Somali state legislator.

The large refugee population also makes this state uniquely vulnerable to the intemperate, ill-considered orders of a president who has yet to fully grasp the responsibilities that accompany his new powers. Trump from the beginning has appeared unmindful of what Somali refugees have to offer their new homeland. They got their first warning during the waning days of the campaign, when Trump stopped here long enough to make a snide reference to Somali refugees, saying the state had “suffered enough” from their presence.

Well, Minnesota values its Somali-Americans, even if the president does not. Of course this nation must balance their freedom against the need to keep all Americans secure, but the travel ban appears to do more harm than good in that regard.

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham said in a joint statement that, “Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism” and “may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.”

To avoid further damage, the order should be rescinded until cooler heads can determine whether it is even needed and, if so, how best to implement the restrictions without aiding those who want to use them to expand and motivate their terror networks.