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From war-torn Somalia to graduating from UC Berkeley



Sayah Bogor will graduate with a master’s in public health from UC Berkeley on May 15. Photo: UC Berkeley/Anne Brice

By Anne Brice / UC Berkeley

Sayah Bogor, a UC Berkeley graduate student in public health, will make the short walk across the stage Monday to receive her master’s degree. For Bogor, a native of war-torn Somalia, the event will mark a joyous leap in a long and difficult journey.

“My mom is very very practical. She told me over and over and over, every single evening, ‘If you hear anything, run straight home. Straight straight home.’”

Five-year-old Sayah lived in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. It was the late 1990s. Although the country had been in a civil war since the early part of the decade, Sayah knew her home to be peaceful.

“You could go to anyone’s house and have food or go to anyone’s house and hang out. It was a very safe, comfortable environment.”

But there had been rumors that violence might break out, so the family had a game plan. Her father had taken Sayah’s two older brothers to New York, where he had worked for the past six months as a cab driver. Soon, he would be back with visas, so the whole family could move to the U.S.

One afternoon, Sayah was walking to the local gelato shop with her aunt, hand-in-hand with her cousin and best friend, Sarah.

“She also had three brothers, so we just clicked. Her name was Sarah and I’m Sayah, so we were like sisters in a sense. My parents said we were inseparable.”

But their walk was cut short.

“I heard shouting, then I started hearing screaming. Then, I heard this loud bang. I didn’t know it at the time, that’s a gunshot. I had never heard a gun before.”

Sayah tried to pull her cousin in her direction, but their hands dropped and, hearing her mother’s voice in her head, she sprinted home without looking back.

“When I got home, my mom is packing — whatever she can. And my brother is 3 and a half, so he’s a handful. He doesn’t know what’s going on, so he’s crying.”

Her mom used a long cloth to strap her son to her chest so she could carry him more easily. Sayah grabbed a bag and the family took off.

“We start running in the opposite direction.”

“But I told my mom, I was grabbing her skirt, and I was like, ‘Sarah and auntie, they’re at their house,’ and their house was just around the other side. So, my mom was like, ‘We can’t stop. We can’t stop. We gotta think about us.’ But I was a little kid. It didn’t click, the danger of the situation.”

So, Sayah turned around and ran away from her mother toward Sarah’s house.

“I was already pretty far by the time she noticed that I wasn’t right behind her. She turned around, but she couldn’t scream and shout out because you didn’t want to bring attention. So, she ran after me.”

“I saw my cousin’s house, and I’m kind of running around. I hear commotion. I come closer behind the house and I see the window, and I look inside the window. And there’s a bunch of men in the house. My aunt is on the ground. Sarah’s in the corner crying. My mom catches up to me right when I’m looking in the window. My mom knew what was going on, but I didn’t know. I just knew something bad is happening…”

“My mom is trying to pull me away from the window. I was like, ‘We gotta get them, we gotta get them, we gotta help them, we gotta save them.’ My mom was like, ‘There’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing we can do.’ Then, all of a sudden, I hear a gunshot in the house. And I look back over my shoulder and my uncle is on the ground. They shot him in the head. And we took off.”

There was no way to know that the next two years — a time when surviving required strengths she didn’t know she had — would also set Sayah on a path to tackle some of the world’s biggest medical problems.

Life as a refugee

“We would usually go at night. Then during the day, we would find a place to sleep. You don’t want to stand out too much. We traveled like that for two weeks. People would stop and help us — give us food and water, but we would always go at night.”

After two weeks, Sayah and her family crossed the border into Nairobi, Kenya, where the government had set up refugee camps for Somalis fleeing the civil war.

“It was dirty. It smelled. There was poop in the water. Whenever it rained, you’d have to try to find anything that’s plastic, garbage bags, stuff to put on the ground because it was mud. My mom was ill constantly. In and out of sickness. It was hard for her to get up. It was hard for her to move. Later on I found out she had multiple different diarrheal infections, one of which was shigella, because she had it at the time of departure, which is a killer. You know, you die. A lot of people died from illness in the camps.”

Sometimes she would see Red Cross workers come into the camp. They might set up a booth to treat basic medical ailments. They would sometimes drop off some food. But Sayah says because she was so small, it was hard to get the help she needed.

“People are walking away with multiple bundles or stealing each other’s bundles. Or maybe you have it in your place and then someone sees you have it and comes and steals it from you and if you don’t let it go, they’ll kill you. No one is helping. You can drop off whatever you want. But if there is not police or security to help ensure that people actually take these things home, then what are you really doing? You’re just causing more chaos. I avoided it at all costs.”

So, at 6 years old, Sayah became the sole provider for her sick mom and her 3-year-old brother.

During the day, she would stand guard, yelling and making noise when anyone walked by who might be looking to take advantage of a vulnerable woman and kids.

“At night, I would cover her with whatever I could find — garbage. Just make her look like a pile of garbage.”

Sayah would take her toddler brother and walk through the back alleys of Nairobi, collecting food thrown out by restaurants.

“Some days I wouldn’t have anything. Some days I would come back and I would have two loaves of bread that this bakery gave me. Those days I would come back, I felt like the king of the world. I was like, ‘No one can stop me.’”

She was wary. Stuck to herself. She thinks it’s what got her through — that she didn’t trust anyone but herself.

“I would look inside someone’s eyes and if I felt, you know, there’s not really a good person in there. The eyes don’t lie. I remember there was one situation, I was out by myself in the early evening. I was going through the alleys, kind of digging through things, and there was this man who saw me and called me over and I was like, ‘No thanks.’ Then he pulled out this tray of meats and it looked so good, it smelled so good. And he was like, ‘You can have this.

You can take it home.’ He was like, ‘Who do you live with?’ You know, things like that. And then, I got a little bit closer because I wanted to smell the food a little bit more and kind of like see him, but right when I looked into his eyes, I was just like, ‘I can’t trust you.’ So I ran.

I booked it, in the other direction. Ran as fast as I could. I didn’t have food that day, and I didn’t tell my mom that it was someone with food because she would get mad. But I was just like, ‘I don’t trust him. So, it’s not worth the risk.’ I’d rather be hungry than not come home.”

“The time went by, I feel like, the slowest in my entire life.”

Left to right: Sharmarke, Bogor’s older brother; younger brother Musse; her father, Omar, and her mother, Mai; Sayah; and older brother Dalmer. Photo: Courtesy of Sayah Bogor

An immigrant in Arizona

“Two years later, in the camp, someone came by and said, ‘There’s someone looking for you.’ And I said, ‘Who, you know?’”

She’d been on her own for so long that the memory of her father had faded. But her mother was hopeful.

“She was like, ‘Who? Is it Omar?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah’!”

He’d been looking for them since they fled Mogadishu. Everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, he would call around to different refugee sites near Somalia, asking if his wife and two children were registered at one of the camps. But because the sites were understaffed and overfull, it took two years for someone to find his family’s names on the list.

Soon after he found them, he sent them airline tickets and visas, and they flew to New York.

“We landed in New York. And, my father was at the airport with my older brothers. I was anorexic. I was extremely malnourished. Same with my brother. Same with my mother. We were all sickly. And my father and my brothers were just so big and hearty. And I was like, ‘What? This is another world.’”

In the camp, Sayah had developed a bad case of asthma and doctors said she needed to live in a warmer climate or she might die. So, her parents scraped together enough money for a beat-up car, loaded in their four kids and moved to Arizona. Her dad chose a small apartment in the suburbs of Phoenix.

“He wanted us to have a good chance at a good education, and for him, a good education is wherever the white kids go to school.”
But Sayah, who was now 7, was different from her classmates. She was the only kid with dark skin at her elementary school. And she’d experienced a lot of trauma. She found it hard to connect to kids her age.

“I had done so much living in my few years of life that it was hard for me to play with the other kids. So I didn’t have a lot of friends and I was definitely bullied a lot.”

Instead of disciplining the bullies, the school administration had Sayah sit in the nurse’s office during recess, where she spent a lot of time reading.

“I was killing books right and left. It was the best way to escape.”

Everyday, she’d walk to the library every day after school, check out a stack of books, go home, lock her bedroom door and read.

But in eighth grade, she caught a break. Her parents bought a house in Maricopa, a city far enough from Phoenix that Sayah could reinvent herself.

“I got to be in a school where no one knew me. Or knew my past. I could make my own story. I could make my own reality. And I did. I used that year to open up more — to talk.”

Aiming for citizenship, then medical school

Sayah Bogor always knew that getting an education was the way she was going to have opportunity. As she got closer to high school graduation, she wanted to leave Arizona and make a fresh start.

“I had big dreams. I was like, ‘I’m gonna go out of state. I’m gonna leave. I don’t want to be here anymore. I want a new life.’”

That’s when her mom told her she didn’t have a Social Security number. It had been too expensive for her family to apply for green cards for all of the kids. Her older brothers already had them because they needed them to get jobs. But her parents hadn’t gotten around to it for Sayah yet.

She had two options: She could apply for a green card and wait three years, then apply for colleges out of state. Or she could transfer her high school transcripts to an Arizona school without any questions being asked.

“So I decided I wanted to go to school. I didn’t want to take time off. I felt like school is what I love and that’s what I’m going to do.”

At Arizona State University, Bogor majored in genetics and cellular development. She wanted to understand the rampant sickness she saw in the refugee camp.

“I’ve always been, since I was a child, just seeing people getting sick, seeing things you don’t even see that can kill even more indiscriminately than a person could, fascinated me. So, I wanted to learn how it works. How does our body work? What are our defense systems? How do things enter? How do they manipulate our body to use our body against us to kill us and to kill others?”

After she graduated with a bachelor’s in science, she wanted to know more. So, she applied to UC Berkeley’s master’s program in public health and started in 2015. She received a full fellowship from the School of Public Health that paid for her tuition and gave her a stipend to pay her rent. (The fellowship has since been discontinued — Bogor was the last to receive it.)

“Coming from needing to work 40 hours to pay tuition. Coming from, you know, reading in the dark in my parents’ place, it was just like, ‘Wow, Berkeley, one of the top schools in the entire world, wants me.’”

During her time at Berkeley, Bogor started to investigate some of the infectious diseases that afflicted those living in the refugee camp in Nairobi. Many of the illnesses were diarrheal infections.

“There are so so many now I know. Just like, people dying from too much diarrhea, which happens all the time in developing countries. It’s hard to tell what it was.”

As part of her research, Bogor traveled to Bangladesh with the help of a fellowship, where she studied at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, an institute committed to solving public health problems facing low and middle-income countries through innovative scientific research. Sayah worked at the center’s clinic, where she saw people with a number of diarrheal infections, including cholera.

“That’s why I was so excited to go to that center and just be able to see how they work. And be able to meet the patients who wait in line all day in the heat to have their children or their parents be looked at. In America, or in any developed country, you would be fine. If you have diarrhea, eat some bread and have a Gatorade, or something like that, and you’ll be okay. But, if you’re already malnourished and then you get a diarrheal illness, and you don’t really have access to a lot of water or food, then you die. It’s the number one killer of children, especially.”

In Bangladesh, says Bogor, as in a lot of developing countries, patients are prescribed antibiotics without being tested for their sickness. You can even buy antibiotics at the local corner store.

“In America, it’s a huge worry. With MRSA and all of these other infections that can’t even be treated with antibiotics anymore. The biggest fear, in the future, there’s definitely going to be a day when antibiotics don’t work anymore. This is a problem that’s going to be for the entire world.”

Now, two years later, she’s about to graduate with a master’s in public health with a focus on infectious diseases and vaccinology.

Her dream is to be a doctor, but she doesn’t have citizenship yet. She has a green card, so legally she can do anything but vote, and next year she is eligible to apply for citizenship. That’s when she also plans to apply for medical school.

“I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get citizenship. Honestly, I think that’s all I can do. I think if I tried to think about the possibility that I won’t… I think it just hurts too much to think about that because it’s something I can’t control, you know? I just gotta do everything on my part and if it happens, yes. If it doesn’t, well, I’ll keep waiting. I want to be a doctor. It doesn’t matter how old I am. A doctor is a doctor is a doctor. I’ll make it happen no matter what.”

The eyes have it

Bogor is now engaged to a man who looks at her with eyes she can trust. She and Shane met as undergraduates in Arizona.

“Immediately I looked into his eyes and I just felt this kind of warmth that I actually hadn’t seen in anyone else other than my father. I was just like, ‘Woah.’ I was taken aback by that. You know how guys will come up and say, ‘You look good,’ and all this other garbage. He just shook my hand and was like, ‘I don’t want to sound weird, but I saw you a few weeks ago on campus and I just wanted to come over and introduce myself.’ And I was like, ‘That’s a very genuine thing to say,’ and his eyes matched. So I was like, ‘Wait, I’m interested.’”

Shane grew up in a poor part of Phoenix with an alcoholic dad and a single mom. Now, he works as a financial adviser for a firm in Berkeley.

“Sometimes the best people, they come from the worst situations. It really tests you — your soul, your character. It really tests you. If you’re able to be tested over and over and over and you make the right choice each time… yeah.”

She says being at Berkeley and having the support of a fellowship has allowed her to relax in way she couldn’t before.

“I feel like I’ve grown up so much during these two years. I’ve really come into my own. And just my confidence has grown and I’m just so happy. I’m so happy!”

She’s a graduate mentor for a program called “Getting into Graduate School,” which helps underrepresented undergraduate students apply to graduate programs. She’s worked with three young women, all of whom have been accepted to their top schools.

“Aahhh. Just like that. It just feels like, Aaahhh. Life is good, you know, and I haven’t had to worry about anything. Like, truly worry about anything. I can just have normal problems, right? Like, what do I want to do after graduation?”

After she graduates with a master’s in public health, Bogor is looking to work for a nonprofit that helps people who need it. Maybe an organization that helps families find affordable housing or healthcare.

“I’m sure I’m not going to be rich from it. But rich in soul, right? That’s what I would love to do.”

This story was first published by UC Berkeley on May 9, 2017.

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ICE detainees describe beatings, other abuses



Guards at an immigrant detention center in West Texas were spoiling for fights with their charges, heaping verbal abuse and threats on them and delivering beatings and using pepper spray indiscriminately, two men held at the facility said.

The West Texas Detention Facility in Sierra Blanca, which is operated by Louisiana-based LaSalle Corrections under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was criticized this week in a report by immigration rights groups. They’re asking the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to look into allegations that immigrants from Africa were physically assaulted, called racial slurs and denied medical care.

Guled Muhumed, a Somalia immigrant who said he came to the U.S. in 1996 when he was 9 years old, said he’s been in nine detention centers since he was arrested by ICE six months ago. But nowhere did he encounter the harsh and violent treatment he faced in the Sierra Blanca center, Muhumed said in a phone interview from another facility in Robstown.

“On the first or second day, one of the Somali guys was thrown on the floor. Another guy, he was jumped by four or five officers because he talked back to them,” Muhumed said. “The day that we were leaving, a guy in front of me who was shackled was beaten too, because he told them the handcuffs were too tight.”

“These officers at West Texas were anxious to do something to us. Anytime one of us speaks out, says something in the hallway, they would get in the person’s face and tell them be quiet, shut up,” he added. “You go there with your own eyes, you can see the officers, these are young officers, they look like they’re on steroids, they’re buff, big guys.”

The report released by the San Antonio-based Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, the Texas A&M School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic is based on interviews with 30 Somali immigrants and alleges that, during a brief stay at the West Texas Detention Facility in late February and early March, about 80 men from Africa were subjected to brutal conditions.

In a statement, ICE said it “takes very seriously any allegations of misconduct or unsafe conditions.”

“ICE maintains a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive behavior and requires all staff working with the agency to adhere to this policy,” the statement reads. “All allegations are independently reviewed by ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility. ICE has not been made aware of any allegations prior to this initial reporting from RAICES.”

LaSalle Corrections did not respond to requests for comment.

Muhumed also described what he said was an indiscriminate use of pepper spray. On one occasion, guards sprayed dozens of people in a sleeping area because two detainees were fighting. On another occasion, he said, an ICE officer instigated a tense situation by insulting and cursing at the detainees.

The ICE officer left and detention center staff again filled the sleeping area with pepper spray while the detainees were menaced by Hudspeth County sheriff’s deputies with shotguns, Muhumed said. On both occasions, the guards were behind a gate that protected them from the detainees.

The Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

During the second pepper spray incident, Muhumed said, he tried to drag a man who was vomiting and struggling to breathe up to the gate so he could receive medical attention.

“When we brought him to the gate one of the officers cocked his shotgun right at me and one of the other guys, and one of the shells from the shotgun fell on the floor,” he said. “I didn’t understand what was the point of him doing that. His life was not in danger. None of the other officers … was in danger. The door was closed. It was locked.”

Abdilahih Mohamed, 36, also from Somalia, said he witnessed the pepper spray incidents as well.

“They did a whole lot of threatening and pushing and shoving around, enticing people to get aggressive and fight, but we never did anything to them,” he said “So when the Macing had started, the officers were definitely not threatened. This was just one of the captains and leaders of the jail trying to show his manhood.”

Mohamed said he was menaced by a guard, who threatened to gouge him with a key. After about a week in detention, as the shackled detainees were loaded onto a bus for transportation to another facility, a group of LaSalle employees stalked between the seats trying to goad the men into talking back and threatened them with a pepper spray canister, Mohamed said.

“When we went inside the bus, there was four or five six officers came onto the bus, screaming at us, saying, ‘Say something,’” he said. “They lifted up the guy’s glasses and held it right up to his eye and said, ‘Say something.’”

Immigrant rights advocates involved in the report said the abuses reported by detainees were extreme for immigration detention centers.

“These are very severe abuses even compared to the types of things I’ve seen in other detention centers in terms of the level of physical assault that we saw,” Fatma Marouf, a law professor and director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Texas A&M University, said during a Friday conference call with reporters. “Nearly half of the people we talked to have been assaulted by officers. And so that is quite extreme.”

The men are not being held because they’re charged with a crime, but because they are facing deportation, a civil court proceeding, said Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of San Antonio-based RAICES. Immigration detention centers are “not intended to be in any way a punitive environment,” Ryan said.

“It is expressly for the purpose of enforcing immigration laws, but what we’ve heard about here, what these individuals have suffered and seen is, it’s far beyond a punitive environment and into the territory of an outright criminal and persecutory one,” he said.

Convictions led to detention

Muhumed said about 30 Somalis were transferred in early March to the Coastal Bend Detention Center in South Texas. Initially the men were kept under tight security, apparently a result of reports from officials in Sierra Blanca, but after a few weeks without incident they’re under fewer restrictions, he said. They’re still only allowed one hour of exercise a day, Muhumed said.

He said his family fled Somalia’s civil war in the 1990s, eventually coming to the U.S. He was allowed to enter the country on a refugee visa, but never received a green card and was later convicted on drug charges and couldn’t become a citizen. Muhumed said he’s turned his life around and teaches at his mosque and helped found a program for teens in his Minnesota community to stay out of trouble.

He’s now married with a daughter who’s about to turn 2 years old and his wife is pregnant, Muhumed said. Last year, as he went to take his daughter to day care in the morning, he found ICE officers waiting outside his apartment. They took him into custody, and began shifting him around detention centers, apparently in preparation for deporting him to Somalia.

Mohamed said he came to the U.S. as a child as well. Many of his family members are now U.S. citizens, but Mohamed never naturalized and lost his green card after a drug possession conviction in 2009. He said he signed paperwork that he believed allowed him to stay in the U.S. as long as he regularly checked in with ICE, but almost a decade later is facing deportation.

He’s afraid of going back to Somalia, Mohamed said. Islamic militants target those who have lived in the U.S. and Europe and he’s heard stories about men with tattoos having an arm cut off. If he’s deported, Mohamed said, he’ll be leaving behind a wife and two children.

“I was working doing framing work, and they took my life away and brought me here, and now they’re taking me to a country where I don’t have a word, I don’t know a single person,” he said. “Everybody makes mistakes, but I feel like that little mistake’s been following me since I was 25 and caught that little drug charge.”

‘Beaten down’

Muhumed said that after his treatment in West Texas, spending months apart from his family and being shuffled from detention center to detention center, he’s ready to give up and accept deportation to Somalia.

“I’m doing this to let everyone know what’s going on with this treatment that’s going on here, everything that we went through. I don’t want anyone else to go through the same process, the same torture,” he said.

“Personally, I don’t want to stay anymore. I did, but not anymore after what I’ve been seeing lately. The country we grew up with, we loved, it’s not the same anymore. Especially with this new administration and this hate that’s going around. It’s not somewhere that we can feel comfortable or that we can feel safe as Somali or African, as a Muslim, as black.”

His U.S. citizen wife, Layla Jama, who was on the same conference call, said afterward that the separation from his family has been incredibly difficult for Muhumed.

“He’s talking out of frustration right now, but obviously the conditions in Somalia are a hundredfold worse than what is here,” Jama said. “A lot of what Guled’s saying right now, specifically it’s coming out of frustration. It’s been a long battle … but I don’t think he means it.”

ICE has found it difficult to deport immigrants to Somalia, where the militant group Al-Shabab is trying to overthrow the government, said Marouf, the A&M professor. She said that’s likely part of the reason the Somali men have been shuffled from detention center to detention center for months.

“I don’t think they really have a plan for how to remove all of them, so they’re indefinitely in detention,” Marouf said. “If deportation isn’t foreseeable, they’re supposed to release someone. And they keep scheduling flights and saying removal is foreseeable, but they keep canceling the flights.”

Several family members of the men in detention told reporters Friday that the men felt pressured to sign agreements to leave the U.S. Meanwhile, the wives and fiances of several said their husbands have been denied medical care and complaints about their treatment had been ignored.

Shantel Ismail, whose husband, Mohamed Ismail, was held in the West Texas facility, said she spoke to him on the phone one time and heard in the background the screams of a man who needed medical attention. Her husband hasn’t seen his infant daughter for months and has considered accepting deportation and trying to reunite with his family in another country, said Ismail, a nurse in Ohio.

“He’s just defeated at this point. His rights are being taken from him. He’s being mistreated. He’s been beaten and handcuffed,” she said. “They’ve beaten these men down so much they don’t have anything left.”

Jason Buch is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. Read more of his stories here. | | @jlbuch

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Minnesota Somali Community Condemning Charges Against Mohamed Noor



WCCO — The Somali-American Police Officers Association calls the charges “baseless and politically motivated, if not racially motivated as well,” Esme Murphy reports (2:28). WCCO 4 News at 5 – March 22, 2018

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Racists Charged In Terror Plot Against Somali Refugees Get A Nearly All White Jury



WICHITA, Kansas ― An overwhelmingly white jury will decide the fate of three white militiamen facing federal charges for allegedly plotting a terrorist attack that targeted a community of Somali Muslim refugees.

Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright (left to right) are accused of plotting to kill Somali Muslim refugees living in Kansas.
SEDGWICK COUNTY SHERIFF Patrick Stein, Curtis Allen and Gavin Wright (left to right) are accused of plotting to kill Somali Muslim refugees living in Kansas.

Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen were arrested and charged in connection with a FBI domestic terrorism sting that wrapped up a few weeks ahead of the 2016 presidential election. They’ll be on trial in a quiet federal courthouse in downtown Wichita over the next six weeks.

The federal government says they intended to slaughter Muslim refugees living in an apartment complex in Garden City, Kansas, whom they considered “cockroaches” and a threat to the United States. The trio allegedly planned their attack for the day after the election because they didn’t want to hurt President Donald Trump’s chances of victory.

There were only a handful of African-Americans in the jury pool called to the federal courthouse. Just one black individual, the daughter of refugees from Eritrea, made the final panel of 40 potential jurors. But she was ultimately struck from the jury ― almost certainly by the defense attorneys, who had questioned the woman about whether she could be fair to a group of defendants who thought refugees needed to be exterminated and referred to President Barack Obama as the “nigger in the White House.”

Gebilet, whom HuffPost agreed to identify by her first name only, said in an interview afterward that she considered it a blessing that she had been summoned in the first place.

“The immigrant community here is so small, to even have been selected is an honor,” she said.

She suggested that the defense attorneys probably decided just from her name and her appearance that they didn’t want her as a juror. And she wasn’t surprised by the ultimate makeup of the jury.

“Generally, minorities are not picked,” Gebilet said. “It’s a real shame that that happened,” she said, but she still has faith in the jury process in this case.

The lack of black representation on the jury is especially stark because it adds to the probable dearth of black voices in the courtroom. The judge has ruled that none of the potential victims of the plot will be allowed to testify during the trial, since they only knew about the planned attack because the government told them about it. The apartment complex the trio allegedly targeted is more than 200 miles away, so it’s unlikely many members of that community will be present in the courtroom either.

The final jury, including four alternates, is made up of eight men and eight women. It includes one woman who described herself as half-native American. That group was narrowed down from an initial 600 people who received jury questionnaires. The attorneys on both sides ultimately qualified just over 100 potential jurors after probing them extensively about their views on a wide range of issues over the course of two days.

African-American jurors faced questions about their ability to give three racists a fair trial, especially given the fact that the defendants had repeatedly used the n-word.

“It’s a part of life, it always has been,” one woman, a customer services manager, said of the slur. “It’s something that you have to move past.”

“I’m almost 60 years old, I’ve been hearing that all my life,” said another woman.

Yet another woman said she wouldn’t be able to get past the language and she was dismissed from the panel.

A number of potential jurors were excused for other reasons, including a former deputy sheriff dismissed because his ex-girlfriend used to date one of the defendants, Patrick Stein. Also, a man who said that the allegations made his “blood boil” and that the defendants were “guilty until proven innocent.” A woman who, upon hearing the term “weapon of mass destruction,” thought of her uncle who was killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. A woman who used to live in the apartment complex targeted and got to know the families there.

One man described himself on his jury questionnaire as a “Western chauvinist” and complained about refugees moving into neighborhoods. He said he’d seen a lot of the world and was convinced that America was the best and he didn’t want to live anywhere else.

“I am 100 percent for America all the time,” he told the attorneys. “I’m very unapologetic about it.” He later said he wasn’t offended by those who called another human being a cockroach or a whole group of people an infestation. It was just a way of describing a group of people who have “overrun” an area, he said.

He also objected to labeling Trump’s travel ban as a “Muslim ban.”

“It’s not a Muslim ban, that’s just what they put out there,” he said, but he insisted religion wasn’t really the focus of Trump’s effort. He didn’t make the final jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi, a Kansas-based prosecutor with a high-and-tight haircut and an affinity for American flag socks, is leading the prosecution of the case alongside two attorneys from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division based out of the nation’s capital. Mattivi made sure the potential jurors knew he wasn’t an out-of-towner. “My office is in Topeka, and I live in Topeka with my family,” he told one group.

Mattivi also told the jurors that it was his job to make sure the trial was fair. He asked whether there was anyone who believed the government had no role in protecting civil rights. He asked if anyone had been bullied before. He asked them about their views on immigration and whether they thought the government should take religion into account when deciding who was admitted to the U.S. He asked what American values meant to them.

Many of the potential jurors with the most interesting views didn’t make the cut. The final jury does include a woman who had great concerns about immigration policy, a strong Second Amendment supporter with a Muslim friend, a man with a son-in-law who just immigrated to the United States, another Second Amendment supporter who advocated for gun rights on Facebook but said he’s not a fanatic, and a man who wrote his congressman recently hoping to do something about AR-15s.

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