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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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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 www.minnesotacivic.com.

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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.)