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St. Cloud rejects resolution calling for moratorium on immigration

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ST. CLOUD – Amid mounting national scrutiny of federal resettlement programs, the St. Cloud City Council on Monday soundly rejected a proposal by one of its members to recommend a moratorium on refugee resettlement here.

Council Member Jeff John­son said that his measure wasn’t in­tend­ed to permanently ban refugee resettlement, but rath­er, temporarily stop it in 2018 un­til the city gets de­tails on its cost to tax­pay­ers. “The over­all qual­i­ty of life” for resi­dents will con­tin­ue to be “ad­verse­ly im­paired by ex­ces­sive de­mands on local re­sources” by those who are re­set­tling in the city, he stated in the resolution that he presented to the council.

After hearing from supporters and opponents, the council voted down Johnson’s measure 6-1.

The City Hall meeting drew more than 300 residents, some carrying American flags while others held signs that read “All Are Welcome” — reflecting the growing and often tense debate in this city of 67,000 residents over the resettlement issue.

Earlier this summer, dozens of residents delivered a petition to the council demanding that it limit or control resettlement. But just two weeks ago, shortly after Johnson’s proposed measure was e-mailed to his colleagues, the council did just the opposite, approving by a 5-1 vote a resolution by Council Member Jeff Goerger that stated St. Cloud is a welcoming community. Johnson cast the lone dissenting vote then. On Monday, the council reaffirmed Goerger’s resolution, with Johnson casting the lone opposing vote.

Natalie Ringsmuth, executive director of #UniteCloud, a nonprofit that promotes tolerance in central Minnesota, said the vote, while symbolic, was a pivotal moment in helping St. Cloud shed a long-held reputation for being a racist, unwelcoming area.

“St. Cloud is basically stepping out and saying ‘This is who we are — we are a welcoming community,’ ” she said. “People can point to this and say St. Cloud is moving in the right direction. They can’t say we’re bigots and racists anymore. We’re not ‘White Cloud.’ ”

East Af­ri­can refu­gees — mostly Somali — first start­ed mov­ing to this Mis­sis­sip­pi River city a­bout seven years ago. Since then, Lu­ther­an So­cial Service of Min­ne­so­ta, the only or­gan­i­za­tion that over­sees ref­u­gee resettlement in St. Cloud, has helped move an av­er­age of 189 refu­gees a year — a total of 1,512 — to the city. The or­gan­i­za­tion ex­pects to re­set­tle an­oth­er 225 refu­gees here in 2018.

That’s helped to make St. Cloud not only bigger, but more diverse.

Of the more than 59,000 residents in the city in 2010, 92 percent were white. By 2015, the city had grown to 66,000 residents, 84 percent of whom were white, according to U.S. Census data American Fact Finder.

But the rapidly changing face of the community has been unsettling for some. Anti-Muslim events here have drawn crowds, mirroring rising anti-Muslim sentiment nationally. When a 20-year-old Somali refugee stabbed and wounded 10 people at a local mall in 2016, some feared that Muslims might be targeted in retaliation.

Instead, community leaders hosted unity rallies and posted signs across neighborhoods welcoming refugees and people of different faiths.

But in August, a group of residents calling themselves “St. Cloud Citizens for Transparency” presented a petition to the City Council with nearly 300 signatures from people in Minnesota and 11 other states, asking the council to control refugee resettlement. The petition was led in part by Kathleen Virnig, a St. Cloud resident, who said in an interview that residents just want the city to have a say in how many refugees are resettled and know how much it will cost.

“I have no hatred for some of these people, it’s the religious differences about their way of life,” Virnig said.

Helena Halverson, who has lived in St. Cloud since 1977, added in an interview that a moratorium would put “a pause” on refugee resettlement as the city gets more data.

“I do not like a label that I’m racist or Islamophobic,” she said before Monday’s meeting. “I do like justice and fairness and I do like transparency.”

While introducing his resolution last month, Goerger said St. Cloud is a “just and welcoming community,” a sentiment he believes is shared by most of his council colleagues and the city.

“When communities have hostile reputations toward minorities, that is a really hard reputation to overcome. And unfortunately St. Cloud has that reputation,” said Christopher Lehman, a St. Cloud State University professor of ethnic studies who was one of five speakers who addressed the council at that meeting. “St. Cloud is only going to get more diverse. And we have to decide whether we’re going to embrace that or not.”

On Monday, before Johnson presented his resolution, resident Christopher Chamberlin presented a petition with 500 signatures that he said were in support of the moratorium.

When Johnson introduced the resolution, he cited U.S. State Department travel warnings to places such as Somalia and Ethiopia.

“I’m really troubled here,” Johnson said.

Johnson isn’t alone in asking questions about resettlement costs to local cities. The Trump administration has moved to halt and shrink refugee resettlement at the federal level.

Data that the state compiled for the Star Tribune earlier this year showed that in 2015, Minnesota spent more than $180 million in state and federal dollars on cash, food and medical assistance for refugees — an increase, but still less than 2 percent of total expenses for those programs.

Stearns County staff members, meanwhile, are compiling updated data on resettlement costs to present to the County Board in mid-November. And at the state level, the Minnesota Legislative Auditor’s office is assessing what kind of data on refugee resettlement costs are available to St. Cloud and other communities across the state.

Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota will host a public webinar on resettlement Nov. 14 with panelists discussing the issue and taking questions. Other organizations also are working on outreach and education.

As Johnson presented his resolution Monday, #UniteCloud was holding a panel discussion to give residents a chance to ask questions of Muslims. While Ringsmuth said recent anti-Muslim rhetoric doesn’t mean the group must go back to square one, she said it shows that it needs to expand its education efforts beyond St. Cloud to outlying central Minnesota towns.

“Everybody,” she said, “wants to have a welcoming community.”

Minnesota

Rep. Ellison, Rep. Emmer, and Colleagues Introduce Resolution Condemning Terror Attack in Mogadishu

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WASHINGTON — On the one-month anniversary of the October 14th terror attack on Mogadishu, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), along with Reps. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Karen Bass (D-CA), Adam Smith (D-WA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), and Denny Heck (D-WA) introduced House Resolution 620, which condemns the attack, expresses sympathy for its victims and their families, and reaffirms U.S. support for Somalia.

The October 14th terror attack killed more than 350 people, including three American citizens, and injured another 200—making it the single deadliest in Somalia’s history.

“It’s been a month since the terrible and cowardly attack on Mogadishu, and my heart still breaks for the people of Somalia and their families and friends here in the United States,” Ellison said. “The people of Somalia have shown incredible resilience— coming together not only as part of an inspiring effort to recover from this attack, but also to rebuild their nation in the spirit of peace and prosperity. I am proud to stand with my colleagues to express solidarity with the people of Somalia by strongly condemning the senseless violence, extending our condolences to all those affected by the attack, and reaffirming continued U.S. support for Somalia.”

“Just over a month ago, Mogadishu experienced a horrific and tragic terrorist attack,” said Emmer. “This attack hit close to home with three of our fellow Americans – including one Minnesotan – among the more than 350 men, women and children who lost their lives far too soon. I stand with my colleagues and the Somali community to condemn last month’s attack. I am proud to work with my colleagues to offer condolences and lend support as Somalia works to rebuild itself and its communities in the wake of this recent tragedy. Today, and every day, we stand against terror and join together to rid this world of evil.”
The full text of the resolution reads as follows:

“Strongly condemning the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017, and expressing condolences and sympathies to the victims of the attack and their families.

Whereas on October 14, 2017, a truck bomb filled with military grade and homemade explosives detonated at a busy intersection in the center of Mogadishu, Somalia, and took the lives of more than 350 people and injured more than 200 additional people;

Whereas at least three Americans, Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, were killed in the attack;

Whereas the Somali Government believes that Al-Shabaab was responsible for the attack, although no official claims of responsibility have yet been made;

Whereas Al-Shabaab has previously avoided claiming responsibility for Al Shabaab operations when it believes the operation may significantly damage its public image among Somalis;

Whereas the Department of State condemned ‘‘in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks that killed and injured hundreds in Mogadishu on October 14’’;

Whereas the Department of State stated that ‘‘the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity’’;

Whereas according to the Department of State’s Country Report on Terrorism for 2016, Al-Shabaab is the most potent threat to regional stability in East Africa;

Whereas the United States continues to support counterterrorism efforts in coordination with the Government of Somalia, international partners, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) mainly through capacity building programs, advise and assist missions, and intelligence support;

Whereas Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, declared three days of national mourning in response to the attack;

Whereas the vibrant, bustling district of Mogadishu where the attack occurred is characteristic of the city’s revitalization, and the solidarity and efforts by the city’s residents to rebuild already are a testament to their resilience; and

Whereas Somalia has been a strong partner to the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 14, 2017;

(2) expresses its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies for the victims of the attack and their families;

(3) honors the memories of Ahmed AbdiKarin Eyow, Mohamoud Elmi, and Abukar Dahie, who were murdered in the horrific terrorist attack;

(4) recognizes the significant efforts to combat terrorism by the Government of Somalia, the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, and United States forces in Somalia;

(5) reaffirms United States support for the Government of Somalia’s efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity and combat terrorism in Somalia; and

(6) renews the solidarity of the people and Government of the United States with the people and Government of Somalia.”

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Fartun Ahmed is first Somali-American woman elected to a school board in the country

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LAKESHORE WEEKLY — HOPKINS — Fartun Ahmed was elected to Hopkins school board Tuesday Nov. 7, making her the first Somali woman in the country to be elected to a school board and the second to be elected to public office.

She campaigned as part of a bloc with Chris LaTondresse and Jen Westmoreland-Bouchard under the message that every family in the school district should be able to access the resources they need to understand the system.

Campaigning against Steve Semler and Kevin Bennett, the bloc won the three open seats. Turnout was nearby double that of two years ago — 21,501 people voted for school board candidates in this year’s election; 12,159 votes were cast in 2015.

“It shows our district is ready to move forward,” Ahmed said. “It shows our district is open to connecting and engaging with someone despite the differences they may have.”

The three campaigned as a tight ensemble. They door-knocked every weekend in October, met with students and attended school board meetings. Neighborhoods even organized gatherings to meet the candidates.

People frequently recognized who they were upon opening the door, Barb Westmoreland said. Westmoreland is the mother of board member-elect Westmoreland-Bouchard. She described how Fartun felt after a day of door-knocking:

“For many of these people, they just had a lot of questions. They were really curious; they wanted to talk with a Muslim woman who wears a hijab,” Westmoreland said.

Ahmed, 26, was born in Somalia and moved to the United States when she was 3. With her family, she moved around Minnesota for a while before settling in Hopkins. As the oldest of eight children, Ahmed was the first in her immediate family to attend school.

She finished high school in 2009 with a GPA of 4.0 and moved on to study at Metropolitan State University. During her undergraduate years, Ahmed was appointed to committees formed by U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger. Later, she obtained a full-ride dual masters from the University of Chicago.

“She’s a standard bearer for her family,” Westmoreland said. “First one to go to college, she has a master’s degree … for her to come back to this community and say ‘I really want to be a part of it and I want to make it better,’ I just admire her so much for these values.”

Ahmed is grateful for Hopkins Schools and the resources the district provided for her family when she entered schools, she said.

“It shows you what America is that my parents — who had no idea, who had never went to school, who don’t even know how to read or write in Somali — can raise this daughter who can be elected to a political position in an office,” she said, “and that’s what America is.”

However, despite the district’s efforts, the resources at hand right now don’t match the need for the 45 percent who are students of color, Ahmed said.

Working as an executive director at her family’s Family Resource and Childcare Center gave her insight. Family after family came in, addled in trying to navigate the school system. Many families with whom she spoke changed their minds to stay in Hopkins, but others left to open-enroll in neighboring districts.

Leaders in the community should understand the issues varying community members are facing, Ahmed said.

On the day before the election, Ahmed’s 8-year-old sister wrote her a letter for good luck, saying she looks up to her oldest sister.

“I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this is because I want her to grow up in a community where she knows her leaders and people will listen to her and people will respect her,” Ahmed said.

The campaign results proved that people underestimate their own community, she said. Hopkins was ready for leaders in public office who reflected a cross-section of the community.

Westmoreland said the relationships the trio formed with voters throughout the past several months will propel them into office.

“I feel a great sense of hope,” Westmoreland said, “and I think a lot of other people do, too. Everybody’s looking for goodness in our own community, that we really want to work together to make sure everyone’s life here is good and going well.”

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Scared liar Alex Jones: U.S. has ‘colonized Minnesota with Somalis’ [VIDEO]

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CITY PAGES — On Monday, legendary Hollywood shitheel James Woods tweeted a video depicting Somalis at the Mall of America.

Are these things connected?

EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED! WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

This we learned from a nine-minute clip from Alex Jones, a disturbingly popular conspiracist who has never let the fact that everything he says is a lie detract from the fact that it would be scary if it was true.

After showing the same clip James Woods had posted, Jones begins: “Mall of America yesterday…”

Wrong. The video’s timing is unclear, but it was almost certainly taken during Eid al-Adha, a Muslim holiday which many Somali Minnesotans celebrate with a trip to the Mall of America. This year, Eid al-Adha fell on August 31 and September 1, which is only “yesterday” if you, like Alex Jones, have been awake for the last 10 weeks.

Here’s an NPR story (from 2006) about why Muslims go to the mall to celebrate Eid.

Hold us, we’re scared.

Ahem. Continue, Alex.

“Mall of America yesterday was about 95 percent Somali…”

Wrong. This one small part of the Mall of America (the Nickelodeon Universe) appears to be heavily Somali or East African… during a very brief clip… recorded, again, on a day when Muslims traditionally gather at the mall. The Mall of America is enormous, though: 500-something stores spread out over 4.9 million square feet of space.

This video shows a couple hundred people. The Mall of America averages more than 100,000 visitors a day. Most are white.

Anyway, sorry to cut you off again Alex, continue.

“Mall of America yesterday was about 95 percent Somali. Now, that’s the main area where they’ve been resettling for 40-plus years…”

Wrong. The vast majority of Somali-Americans emigrated to the United States (and Minnesota, specifically) as refugees from a civil war … during the 1990s. That’s not 40 years ago.

OK, sorry Alex. Proceed.

“Now, that’s the main area where they’ve been resettling for 40-plus years. The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, most radical Muslim nation…”

Wrong. Those are subjective assertions to begin with, but, while Somalia is essentially tied for dead last in freedoms, it’s down there with countries — Saudia Arabia, Yemen — the U.S. considers its allies.

As for “most radical,” Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan — again, all U.S. allies — suffer more terrorist attacks than Somalia. And most terrorists or would-be terrorists who target America are from… America.

OK Alex, go on.

“The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, radical Muslim nation, where women are sold at slave auctions to this day…”

Not wrong, per se, but misleading as hell. Jones is almost certainly referring to sex slavery as practiced by Al-Shabaab militants, a group which consists of maybe 9,000 people — in a country of 14 million.

The way Jones phrases it makes it sound like slave auctions in Somalia are sanctioned, and happening everywhere, all the time. It’d be like describing the United States as a “nation where people get shot at country music concerts,” or a “nation where people live in St. Cloud, Minnesota.”

Is there… more?

“The U.S. Government has been bringing Muslims in, from the most suppressive, radical Muslim nation, where women are sold at slave auctions to this day. It has the highest murder rate in the world…”

Wrong.

“It has the highest murder rate in the world, and women are seen as, basically, animals. Now, our government, as part of the diversity VISA program, has colonized Minnesota with Somalis.”

Oh, fuck this. This is going to take all day. Imagine how exhausting it would be if the people who watch Alex Jones — or feed this hokum into his teleprompter — cared whether what he said was even remotely true.

You can watch this clip if you want, but please, go in knowing virtually every single thing in Jones says is either provably incorrrect, or has been twisted beyond recognition into something pointy, which he then waves right in front of his terrified viewers’ bug-eyes. At one point Jones starts talking about “drag queen festivals.” At another, he calls Abdiraham — Jones calls him “Adderdam” (wrong), then “Abababa” (wrong) — “our new Somali God.” Then he says the word “zero” 16 times in a row. It’s… well, it’s pretty much like every other Alex Jones clip.

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