Blog Archives

Security is a human right for all

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Security is a two-way street. None of us can be secure at the expense of another’s insecurity.

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What is security and how do we find it?

A sense of security—in our families, our homes, and our communities—is a basic human need and a human right. None of us is ever completely safe from the unpredictable dangers of our world. At any moment, a storm might blow up, or another driver might lose control of their car. But we do need to feel reasonably protected in our relationships with others, both near and far. We need to feel that the other drivers of this world are staying in their lanes.

What is reasonable protection? Does our security mean building an enormous Humvee, or blocking other drivers from using the road? The concept of “security” can easily become distorted, driving us into an aggressive “security” that makes us progressively less secure.

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Meet Salman Kirmani

By Salman Kirmani, Green Card Voices

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“Even if people did not know where I was from, they respected who I was; they respected I was different. Their respect was a very endearing thing for me and defined that this is the community I want to live in. This is the community I want my kids to grow up in.”

As a medical student. Dr. Kirmani was loyal to his community in Pakistan. And although his training led him to Minnesota, he believed he would return to assist and comfort the elders in his community back home.

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Meet Zaynab Abdi

By Tea Rozman-Clark, Green Card Voices

Since arriving in the United States, Zaynab Abdi has set goals for herself. She wants to have the best future possible.

Zaynab was born in Aden, Yemen. She grew up in a large household with her extended family. Her mother immigrated to the United States through the Green Card Lottery when Zaynab was very young. After sixteen years, her mother was eligible to sponsor her for a visa, and Zaynab made plans to immigrate.

Before she could move, a revolution erupted in Yemen, disrupting her plans. She moved to Egypt with her sister. After two years, Zaynab’s visa arrived but not her sister’s; she would have to find another way. As another revolution began in Egypt, Zaynab went to Minnesota. It was difficult for Zaynab to adjust to life in the United States. Not only was she introduced to American culture, but she had to learn about her mother’s Somali culture as well. However, Zaynab was glad to be reunited with her mother.

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Countering Islamophobia

By Karen Schraufnagel, Engage Minnesota

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On Tuesday, May 3rd activists from across the Twin Cities will gather at Cedar Commons to figure out how to work together to challenge Islamophobia – irrational fear and hatred of Muslims – and programs that are institutionalizing Islamophobia in our community. East African immigrants, mainly young Somalis, are being targeted and labeled “terrorists” for demonstrating any sort of connection to their religion, concern for fellow Muslims, or interest in US policies towards the region of the world their families come from. This is unacceptable!

Minnesotans Against Islamophobia formed several months ago in response to a national call to challenge the violent rhetoric spewing from political candidates during this election cycle and the broader threat beneath the surface of this rhetoric. We have held a very successful protest and a few town hall meetings. This is a good start! But the time is now to broaden the movement, so we are calling together representatives of religious, social justice and social service organizations (as well as unaffiliated committed individuals) to create a strategy for responding to these ongoing threats over the long haul.

To find more details, and RSVP (required!), please check out the Facebook event page.

An injury to one is an injury to all! Stop Islamophobia! Defend the Muslim Community!
Karen Schraufnagel is a local activist for social, environmental and economic justice, who helped to create Minnesotans Against Islamophobia in January (2016). Karen is a Jewish, anti-Zionist who has been active in Palestine solidarity work for more than a decade. She is the organizer for the Twin Cities branch of Socialist Action and a part-time Pilates trainer. Karen lives in Minneapolis with her husband, dog, and cat.

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Photo exhibit sheds light on cultural clashes between immigrant parents and their American children

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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The teenage experience can be an emotional roller coaster for many young people navigating through complex life choices as they transition to adulthood and establish an identity.

But for many American-born teens with immigrant parents, the challenges are even more pronounced in their day-to-day experiences, as their parents tend to reinforce lifestyle and religious practices that are foreign to their children.

That pressure often invites a cultural clash between parents and their teens — many of them feeling torn between two very different worlds: a conservative Muslim community and a secular American society.

For years, emerging Somali-American visual storytellers Muna Malik and Khadija Charif have been taking notes on how their friends have dealt with identity issues and the struggle of living at home in one culture, while attending school in a completely different culture.

The pair eventually turned their notes into two photography projects exploring one story: the experience of Minnesota teenagers and their struggle to balance different cultures. The joint exhibition will open Wednesday afternoon at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Malik, born in Yemen and raised in Minneapolis, created “Behind Both Fences,” a project featuring four Somali-American and Sudanese teens who came of age in the Twin Cities.

Charif’s “Jaded Youth” exhibit features four local Somali-American and Ethiopian college students to shed light — as Charif noted — on “the beauty of what it means to be an immigrant, although it’s jaded and it’s hard trying to balance both our cultural life with our life here.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com.  Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Minnesota advocate looks forward to serving on federal human trafficking council

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Bukola Oriola, a longtime advocate for victims of trafficking and domestic abuse in Minnesota, is looking forward to serving on the newly formed U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

“It’s unbelievable that I could get such a platform,” she said. “I see it as the highest platform I could have to really lend my voice to help victims and survivors of human trafficking.”

Oriola was among 11 council members that President Obama picked last month from states across the country to identify issues and make recommendations to the federal government on policies addressing human trafficking in the United States.

“I am honored that these talented individuals have decided to serve our country,” President Obama said in a statement. “They bring their years of experience to this administration, and I look forward to working with them.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Ibrahim Hirsi can be reached at ihirsi@minnpost.com.  Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Experts on refugee process dispel misconceptions about prospective Syrian immigrants

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Suzan Boulad has recently noted a new depiction of the Syrian refugees: America’s new enemy.

“Syrian refugees are painted as sort of this new threat,” said Boulad, a Syrian-American and a University of Minnesota School of Law student.

The debate on refugees escaping the deadly conflict in Syria began to unfold two weeks ago, after it came to light that one of the suicide bombers who carried out the attacks on Paris may have sneaked into Europe on a Syrian passport.

This claim led some state and federal officials to call for more scrutiny of Syrian refugees. Until a tougher resettlement process is in place, the officials have proposed a pause in the plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States in the coming months.

“I think the presidential and other elections coming up have a lot to do with that,” said Boulad, whose aunt and cousins still remain in Syria. “There’s always a convenient scapegoat in society. It’s unfortunate that those political elements have a very real impact on people’s lives.”

Petition against Syrian refugees

Thousands of Minnesotans have also responded to the issue as they took to the Internet to sign a petition that accentuated their demand to keep Syrian refugees out of the state.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Why do many highly educated immigrants face underemployment?

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Earlier this month, Zewdu Negash sat in the lobby of a Minneapolis homeless shelter with a pile of credentials detailing a two-decade experience as a legal professional in Ethiopia.

The résumés showed that Negash has indeed been a well-established legal expert: a prosecutor for the Ethiopian government, an attorney with several private institutions, a judge in Addis Ababa and a 1994 graduate of the Kiev State University in Ukraine, where he earned an international public law degree.

When Negash moved to Minnesota in February, however, he could only secure a food-packing job at LSG Sky Chefs, earning $9 an hour to sustain his family, which has been living in the Sharing and Caring Hands homeless shelter in north Minneapolis.

“I have to work for my family,” he said softly, as his 6-month-old twin sons and 3-year-old daughter tightly clung to him. “I am supposed to leave this shelter in a few months and find my own place.”

For more than seven months now, Negash, 45, has been calling and sending emails to local governmental and nonprofit legal organizations seeking employment — to no avail.

Negash is hardly alone in his struggle to find employment in his chosen profession. More than 1.3 million U.S. immigrants who attained higher degrees from universities in their native countries are unemployed or underemployed, often working as cab drivers, cleaners or security guards, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Trump won’t win the GOP nomination, but his candidacy has accomplished something else

By Jamal Abdulahi, Star Tribune

Abdulahi_Jamal_colCircleDonald Trump probably won’t win the GOP nomination. Yet his candidacy has accomplished one thing: He has ratcheted up the rhetoric on immigration.

Trump has called immigrants “rapists” and “criminals” and, no doubt, some supporters are seduced by the racist rhetoric. Shouting “white power” at a public rally is only the most distributing illustration of Trump’s racist supporters. In addition, almost half of Trump supporters in Iowa believe Obama is foreign-born and not a legitimate president. There is no other explanation but racial rigidity.

But many Trump supporters believe he’s speaking truth about America’s immigration problem. There’s a deluge of people coming to America illegally and the federal government is doing nothing. Trump supporters also believe immigrants as a group are unpatriotic and present a danger.

But there’s a problem with this thinking, a failure to recognize the symbiotic relationship between immigrants and America. The truth is, immigrants are good for American and vice versa. Nearly 40 percent of America’s largest corporations including Proctor & Gamble, Pfizer, U.S. Steel, Ebay and Google were founded by immigrants or by their children.

Many first-generation immigrants serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Some sustained life-altering injuries in the latest wars of Afghanistan and Iraq. Others gave the ultimate sacrifice, paying with their lives while fighting for America. Data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services show that posthumous citizenship was awarded to 138 noncitizens between 2001 and 2012.

Immigrants come to America to better themselves, often times escaping brutal economic or political condition. No doubt America provides better alternatives.

Continue reading at Star Tribune

Jamal Abdulahi is an independent analyst. He writes about politics, economy and Minnesota’s Somali-American community. He also blogs at http://www.minnesotacivic.com.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

St. Cloud immigrants get global news in unusual ways

By Ibrahim Hirsi, St. Cloud Times

IbrahimHirsiIllo400When Mohamed Jama Mohamud dashed through a busy parking lot on a recent afternoon at a small African business hub in north St. Cloud, some shoppers stopped him to ask, “When can you install my box?”

Towering over each person he interacted with, Mohamud gave a soft smile and carefully chose his words as he explained his busy schedule.

Then Mohamud, a bilingual communication support specialist at North Junior High, promised that he would call them over the weekend to install ethnic channels that connect the immigrant communities to their native countries.

For nearly a year and a half now, Mohamud has been involved in providing international television service, which installs foreign-language channels for the swelling St. Cloud immigrant population, many of them from Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Mohamud explained how the process works: “I install the channels on Roku or Android TV streaming boxes, but mostly Roku. When installations are done, I take the boxes to whoever needs the service. And then, I connect it on their TV.”

With customers in St. Cloud, Fargo and Willmar, Mohamud said he charges people about $250 per box, which has as many as 500 channels that carry entertainment programs, movies, sports and news.

“People don’t have to pay a fee every month or every year,” he said. “They just buy the box one time.”

Generally, immigrants maintain strong family ties with their homeland and are eager to learn about the day-to-day politics that affect their loved ones back home.

Continue reading at St. Cloud Times

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

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If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

Karen man’s journey takes him from a Burmese jungle to a life in Minnesota

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

IbrahimHirsiIllo400One thing Saw Poe Thay Doh experienced at age 7 still remains fresh in his mind: seeking refuge in the jungle as the Burmese army burned his village to the ground.

“I was very afraid of them,” he said of the regime, which continues to target and persecute people of his Karen ethnicity, a group that’s been fighting for separation since Burma, also known as Myanmar, gained independence from Britain in 1948.“They [would have] killed us all if they saw us.”

When Doh emerged from hiding, he entered a Thai refugee camp and lived with his grandfather, Padoh Mahn Sha Lah Phan, a prominent opposition leader.

Even though life in the camp didn’t provide Doh all the basic needs, he said it was better than living in the jungle. “There was no place to sleep,” he added. “No food or clean water.”

Rainy seasons were particularly dreadful, he added.

In the camp, however, there was at least a place to call home. Plus, he was able to visit a nearby United Nations food station twice a month and collected free rice, beans, oil and salt, among other things.

But in 2008, his grandfather Phan, who spent decades fighting on behalf of Karen state and its people, was assassinated.

Continue reading at MinnPost

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

University of St. Thomas to screen documentary on sexual abuse among immigrant women

By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost

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Filmmaker Katie O’Rourke longed to create a documentary film that has a direct impact on communities whose stories have been overlooked.

So she joined forces with other filmmakers who wanted to accentuate the trials and hardships of the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. But O’Rourke and her team didn’t have the means to produce the story they wanted to tell.

Despite that grim financial reality, however, they found a way to create “Don’t Tell Anyone (No Le Digas a Nadie),” a documentary film about Angy Rivera, an unauthorized immigrant activist who endured an ordeal too common to the plight of her immigrant community: sexual abuse.

The documentary film, directed by Mikaela Shwer, is scheduled to screen Thursday, from 7-9:30 p.m., at the University of St. Thomas.

Some Twin Cities residents helped fund the film, which records the personal story of 24-year-old Rivera from the days she lived in Colombia as a child to her current life as a rising immigration leader in New York City.

“We did sort of a crowd-funding campaign,” said O’Rourke, a St. Paul native who now lives in New York. “So many people in the Twin Cities came out. They were so generous with their support.”

The filmmakers raised about $26,000 to produce the documentary, which has been screened so far in San Francisco and New York City. “We always knew that as soon as we finished the film,” O’Rourke said, “we were going to bring it to Minnesota and have it here for the community.”

Continue reading at MinnPost

Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you like this piece, share it on social media.  We invite you to join us in this project on our social media sites.  We welcome your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a commentary, podcast or photo story. (For more information, email engageminnesota@gmail.com.)

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