Minnesotans Respond To Anti-Refugee Claim By Celebrating The Contributions Of Their Somali-American Neighbors

The state is home to the largest Somali-American community in the country.

On Sunday, GOP nominee Donald Trump campaigned in Minnesota, home to the largest Somali-American community in the country. There, he delivered a grave warning to the crowd in attendance.

"Here in Minnesota, you've seen firsthand the problems caused with faulty refugee vetting, with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval," Trump said, adding that some of the refugees are affiliated with ISIS. "Everybody's reading about the disaster taking place in Minnesota. You don't even have the right to talk about it." 

Trump then backed up his unsubstantiated claim by saying he will put an end to Minnesotan's suffering at the hands of Somali refugees. "A Trump administration will not admit any refugees without the support of the local community where they are being placed," he said. "It's the least they can do for you. You've suffered enough in Minnesota."

While Trump's statements invoked cheers at his rally, many Minnesotans were surprised by the suggestion that their Somali-American neighbors were a cause of "suffering."

Some took to Twitter to debunk the claim, saying that it was against their Minnesotan — and American — values, and to celebrate the contributions of their immigrant neighbors. Somalis in Minnesota, they wrote, are as much a part of their community as everyone else. 

The state's politicians also decried the speech. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges posted a fierce rebuttal on Facebook, calling out Islamophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric

"Minneapolis is a better, stronger place for having our Somali and East African immigrants and refugees in it," Hodges wrote. "It is a privilege and an honor to be mayor of the city with the largest Somali population in this country."

Sen. Al Franken similarly addressed Trump's words on Facebook by holding up Minnesota's Somali community as "a group of Minnesotans that I am proud to represent every day in the United States Senate." 

Importantly, Minnesota is also on the verge of electing Ilhan Omar, who would become the state's very first Somali-American Congresswoman. A Somali who lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before settling in Minnesota in 1997, Omar boasts a political ascend that is a prime example of Minnesota's values of diversity. 

"It matters that I am a woman. It matters that I am a Somali-American woman. It matters that I am a Muslim and immigrant woman. It matters that our campaign won the primary by creating a multicultural coalition," Omar has said.

And in this tense racial climate, should Omar win, it might be the most fitting response of all to the swirling anti-refugee, anti-immigrant sentiment.

Cover image via Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com