Minnesota’s large and ever increasing Somali population is the ultimate protected minority in our left-wing utopia. The Somalis are black. The Somalis are Muslim. The Somalis vote Democratic. Enough said.
This past fall Governor Mark Dayton instructed “white, B-plus, Minnesota-born citizens” to suppress their qualms about immigrant resettlement in Minnesota. If they can’t, they should “find another state,” he advised.
Good to know.
The Somalis may be retrograde in their treatment of women and their related attitudes toward them. They may not share the liberal faith in homosexuality and abortion. They may have problematic enthusiasms in other respects. But we generally agree not to look too closely, or to avert our eyes.
We don’t even have a handle on how large the community is. The official estimate (there is no official number) is something like 40,000, but the United States Attorney’s Office here used an estimate of 100,000 in its formal written agreement with Somali community leaders to undertake the so-called Building Community Resilience program.
Thus it was left to Kelly Riddell to provide an account of the Somali community’s high-volume consumption of Minnesota welfare services — in the Washington Times, in 2015. Riddell’s article remains the go-to piece on the subject. I don’t believe the Star Tribune has touched it.
Riddell quoted Professor Ahmed Samatar of Macalester College in St. Paul: “Minnesota is exceptional in so many ways but it’s the closest thing in the United States to a true social democratic state.”
In Minneapolis the Somali community has become a coveted voting bloc. When I sat down with (Republican) Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek for an interview late last year, Stanek bristled when I asked him about security issues raised by the Somali community. Why was I doing that? I referred to the House report recognizing Minnesota’s contribution of 26 percent of the American fighters joining ISIS. “I just came from an FBI briefing this morning,” Stanek said. “They told me we’re 20 percent.”
I was referring to the September 2015 report of the House Homeland Security Committee task force on combating terrorist and foreign fighter travel. According to the report, Minnesota leads the country in contributing foreign fighters to ISIS. Reviewing the public cases of 58 Americans who had joined or attempted to join ISIS, the task force found that 26 percent of them came from Minnesota. When it comes to exports to ISIS and ISIS wannabes, we’re number one.
This is not a recent development. The Somali community has required the intense scrutiny of law enforcement for the past 10 years. The Department of Justice acknowledges that since 2006, “overseas terror organizations” have targeted Somali Minnesotans to join al Shabaab (an al Qaeda-allied group in Somalia) and ISIS. Over nearly ten years ending in 2015, the FBI’s Operation Rhino targeted al Shabaab recruiting in Minnesota and resulted in the indictment of some 20 individuals.
Since 2013, according to the Department of Justice, ISIS has targeted “Twin Cities residents” (i.e., Somalis). The Minneapolis division of the FBI and local law enforcement authorities devote substantial resources to deterring and interrupting the recruitment of Minnesota Somalis.
In a presentation to Minnesota’s National Security Society that I attended in November, FBI Minneapolis chief division counsel Kyle Loven conveyed the impression that his office is devoting substantial resources to terrorism-related issues. “We have four national security squads working this thing,” he said.
One could see just about every element of the issue raised by the continuing Somali influx to Minnesota in the terrorism trial that concluded on June 3 with convictions against the three defendants contesting charges against them. (Six other defendants pleaded guilty before trial.) I took a look back at the trial in the Weekly Standard article “‘Minnesota men’ on trial” and in the Star Tribune column “What I saw at the trial.”
Only one of the three defendants — Guled Omar — testified at trial (I think against the advice of the capable attorney representing him). In my articles I didn’t have the space available to highlight Omar’s testimony, but his personal background is of interest in this context.
Omar was born in a Kenyan refugee camp. He was roughly three years old when his family moved to the United States. His family emigrated to Kenya as a result of the Somali civil war. His father was shot three times in the conflict and lost his left leg as a result of the injuries. His father is disabled, but his disability gave him preferential immigration treatment by the United States.
Don’t ask me; I can’t explain.
Omar’s father has disappeared from the United States. He has left Omar’s mother with a rather large family. Omar has nine sisters and four brothers. They live in housing subsidized by a Section 8 voucher, although that must be the least of it. See Kelly Riddell’s Washington Times article.
I also tried to give a sense of other aspects of the issue here on Power Line in “A tale of five Muhammads.” There I took another look back at the trial from a slightly different angle.
On Friday Donald Trump took up the case of the Somali influx (to both Minnesota and Maine) on the campaign trail. The Star Tribune’s Mila Koumpilova rises to the defense of the Somali community in the supposed news article “Trump’s comments about Minnesota Somalis met with outrage, satisfaction.” She notes that Trump cited Riddell’s article. She doesn’t provide a link or the name of the reporter who wrote it, but we can’t be trusted with too much information.
Trump referred to the security threat raised by the Minnesota’s Somali community. Here Koumpilova wasn’t entirely sure what Trump was talking about: “Trump appeared to be alluding to the recent convictions of nine young Somali-Americans in what the FBI described as a plot to leave the country and join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Syria.” Could be!
A close reader may observe that Koumpilova confirms the substance of Riddell’s article. If you read the story like Russians used to read Pravda, looking for the nugget of truth that might be buried in an otherwise propagandistic article, you will find this:
Amid a growing number of arrivals from other states, Minnesota has seen an increase in Somali food and cash assistance participation since 2010.
A recent report comparing various groups in the state paints a “stark” picture of the challenges Somali Minnesotans face, said Susan Brower, the state’s demographer. Almost 60 percent live under the poverty line, compared with 11 percent of all Minnesota. Unemployment of adults in the labor force stands at 20 percent, the highest of any group in the state. But Brower said recent years have also brought rapid gains in employment, high school graduation and college attendance for that community.
“While there are immediate costs to refugee resettlement now, we need to take a longer view,” she said.
The “longer view” remains implicit. You can probably fill in the blanks all by yourself. We aren’t going to make a cost-benefit assessment today, 25 years into the Somali exodus to Minnesota, and we’re not going to look too closely at the prospect of assimilation to American principles or norms.