Friends of Refugees

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Refugee raised in Fargo may be first former refugee to commit terror act in US

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 19, 2016


A 20-year-old 23-year-old Somali man by the name of Dahir Adan who was resettled in Fargo in the mid-1990s when he was 1-year-old has been identified as the attacker who knifed 10 people Saturday at a mall in St. Cloud, Minn.  An off-duty police officer shot and killed Adan during the attack.  All 10 of the victims were released from the hospital.  St. Cloud authorities said during a news conference that they are investigating the stabbing as a possible terrorist attack, and investigators have not yet found anything to link Aden to the Islamic State, though the group claimed him as a “soldier.”  Adan and his family moved from Fargo to St. Cloud around six years ago according to a woman in Fargo who knew the family. The Fargo Police Department reported that Adan never came onto their radar during his years there, and that there is no sign that any radicalization is occurring in Fargo. A board member of a mosque in south Fargo said his organization has worked closely with local police and the FBI to report anyone suspected of taking a fanatical route. Miami defense attorney Khurrum Wahid who has worked to integrate young American Muslims into American life, said in a 2011 splcenter article, however, that some police have approached young Muslim men and demanded they act as community informants, of suffer retaliation from police. Wahid said that police instead need to build trust with young Muslims by telling them that they are wanted in our communities, and by showing them that they treat “terrorism” from non-Muslims in the same way.  He points out that some Muslim youth are socially disenfranchised and searching for identity; that what can alienate young Muslim people is their interaction with the community around them. There’s a feeling of not fitting in, of being very different, especially vis-à-vis non-Muslims. It’s been worse in the last decade, with growing Islamophobia, as well as inflammatory statements coming from political candidates. Young Muslims can begin a journey out of compassion for injustices, perceived or real, committed against Muslims. Often this is combined with very little knowledge of the Koran and the teachings of Islam. Their hope to do something important and stop the injustice can lead them on a search for information, and when they don’t get it from local sources they go to the Internet. Wahid suggests programs like those used to fight gangs, with funds to help young people take part in positive activities.  Aid could also be used to assist American Muslim parents to help these young men through any identity crisis, and bring them back into the American fold.  An article at the Fargo Forum has the details from Fargo:

FARGO, N.D. — In the wake of a random stabbing attack at a St. Cloud, Minn., mall over the weekend, Fargo’s Somali community is trying to come to grips with the unsettling fact that the suspect grew up in the city.

The family of 20-year-old Dahir Adan identified him as the man who knifed 10 people Saturday night. All 10 have been released from the hospital, St. Cloud authorities said.

Adan, who was born in Kenya, and his family left Somalia as refugees and settled in Fargo in the mid-1990s when he was 1-year-old, said Fowzia Adde, a local Somali leader. Adan attended Fargo Public Schools until his family moved to St. Cloud at least six years ago, she said.

“If it can happen to them, it’s not far away from me, so what can I do to prevent?” she wondered. “What can I do to save my children?”…

The Islamic State has claimed Adan as a “soldier,” but St. Cloud authorities said during a news conference on Monday that investigators have not found anything to link him to the militant group. Though, just the possibility that a young man raised in Fargo was radicalized and committed an act of terrorism had local officials concerned.

“If it happens in St. Cloud, it could happen in Fargo,” Mayor Tim Mahoney said.

Chief David Todd said Fargo police gave the FBI basic information it had about Adan and his family. Todd said Adan never came onto the radar of Fargo police.

“I don’t have any indication that radicalization is occurring here in Fargo,” the chief said.

In a joint statement, Mahoney and Todd said residents should not react to the St. Cloud attack based on fear, rather they should be vigilant in reporting suspicious activity…

Adde called for the Somali community to work to steer youth away from groups like the Islamic State.

“We need to sit down, understand what’s going on with our children, help them understand who they are,” she said…

Dr. Mohamed Sanaullah, one of the…board members [of the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead, a mosque in south Fargo], said people who commit attacks in the name of Islam are not Muslims. He said the society has worked closely with local police and the FBI to report anyone thought to be taking a fanatical route… Read more here

Posted in alienation-isolation, discrimination, FBI, men, Muslim, North Dakota, police, right-wing, security/terrorism, Somali, St. Cloud, teens, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism, young adults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Twin Falls police investigate threats over Fawnbrook assault

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 28, 2016


After failing at their disinformation campaign about a child who was sexually abused in Twin Falls last week (there was no gang rape, not at knife point, and not by Syrian refugees) right-wing activists have now turned to making threats against city officials.  Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices.  An article in the Times-News explains:

TWIN FALLS — Police and the FBI are looking into violent threats left at city offices and made against city officials over the handling of a sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl.

Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar and Vice Mayor Suzanne Hawkins have both forwarded threatening messages they received about the incident to police.

Three boys from Middle Eastern families, ages 7, 10 and 14, were involved in the sexual assault against the girl at the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2, authorities have said.

Two of the boys are Sudanese, one Iraqi. The two older boys are facing juvenile charges.

The story started to get national attention about a week ago after the two older boys were taken into custody. Several anti-Muslim and anti-refugee resettlement bloggers wrote about the case, with some incorrectly saying the boys were Syrian or containing details authorities have denied, including saying the assault was a gang-rape and that the boys held the girl at knife-point. Many of them accused law enforcement, city officials and local media of trying to cover up the incident.

“I’ve had my fair share of emails from folks this week sharing their concerns, and a fair amount of just outright lies and wrong information about this very tragic case that’s being handled,” Barigar said Friday.

Barigar said several of the emails and phone messages, “are what I would characterize as threatening personally to me and family”…

“I don’t believe it’s our local citizens doing it,” she said of the threats. Read more here

Posted in FBI, police, right-wing, Twin Falls, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Florida bill targeting refugees fails

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 3, 2016


Right wing politicians have once again failed to pass a state bill unfairly targeting refugees. Florida House Bill 1095 failed to advance in the legislature. The depraved and un-American bill would have targeted law abiding people (refugees) based on their country of origin (oddly, any from outside this “hemisphere” — apparently as a favor to Florida’s Cubans), and would have forced state law enforcement to profile and monitor these individuals. An article at the Flagler College Gargoyle explains:

A controversial state bill … has failed to advance in the Florida Legislature…

House Bill 1095, also known as Prevention of Acts of War, stated:

“The Governor is authorized to: use all powers and resources, including police powers, emergency powers, and military force, to prevent a restricted person from entering into or resettling in the state and to prevent a restricted person residing in the state from committing violent acts of war, unless the Governor has reasonable cause to believe that the restricted person is not an invader”…

The bill died on March 11 before reaching the governor’s desk…

Laila Abdelaziz, legislative and government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida, said the bill forced “state law enforcement to profile and monitor law abiding individuals in Florida, a practice that is un-American and unconstitutional, simply because they are refugees or immigrants. The bill language also includes an exemption for refugees or immigrants from the Eastern Hemisphere, so, again, forcing law enforcement to target individuals based on their national origin.”

According to Abdelaziz, her organization along with the ACLU of Florida, immigrant rights advocates and many legal professionals throughout the state opposed the bill because “it improperly targets refugees and immigrants and would force the state to profile individuals on their national origin”…

“As a nation, we should absolutely be vigilant and concerned for our safety, but Syrian refugees are fleeing political carnage and are the most direct victims of terror groups, they are not criminals. It is unconstitutional and un-American to profile populations in the U.S. because of their national origin. We remember the internment of Japanese Americans as a dark chapter in our nation’s history, we should learn from out own history, not repeat it…

Travis Trice, the church mobilizer at World Relief in Jacksonville, says…

“The U.S. has resettled well over three million refugees to date. Of those millions of people we have only had security threats posed from three to four individuals who were apprehended. To date, there has never been an attack on U.S. soil by an individual who came in through the refugee process. We have more mass killings by homegrown terrorists than any other people group… Read more here

Posted in discrimination, Florida, legislation, police, right-wing, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

North Dakota Somali restaurant arsonist charged with using destructive device in crime of violence

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 29, 2016

Matthew Gust - right-wing poster boy?

Matthew Gust – right-wing poster boy?

A Minnesota man accused of starting a fire that heavily damaged a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks in North Dakota is now facing charges of using a destructive device during a crime of violence (a Molotov cocktail). That charge carries a mandatory minimum term of 30 years in prison and a maximum of life. Matthew Gust is also charged with arson, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison The fire, which caused about $90,000 [correction: $150,000] worth of damage, was ignited days after a Nazi-like symbol was spray-painted on the restaurant’s exterior above the words “go home.” Other businesses in the building also were affected. In 2012 in Grand Forks county district court Gust plead guilty to charges of terrorizing, simple assault and preventing arrest —  all Class C felonies — after he threatened staff at Romantix, an adult entertainment store in downtown Grand Forks (frequented by some men from the LGBT community). He also plead guilty to assaulting a police officer in 2011. An article at Minnesota Public Radio has the details of the newest charges:

Federal prosecutors have beefed up charges against a Minnesota man accused of starting a fire that heavily damaged a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks.

Matthew Gust, of East Grand Forks, Minn., appeared in court Monday on a charge of use of a destructive device during a crime of violence. That charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum term of 30 years. It is the second charge in the case… Read more here

An article at The Grant Forks Herald has more details from the case:

…Matthew William Gust, 25, East Grand Forks, was charged Friday with arson, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, in Grand Forks County District Court. A judge signed a warrant for Gust’s arrest, and police were looking for Gust Friday evening.

The FBI confirmed Thursday it had opened an investigation into the arson attack at Juba Coffee House and Restaurant to determine whether any federal laws had been broken. Federal charges could still be leveled if investigators and federal prosecutors find reason to pursue them… Read more here

Posted in court, hate crimes, North Dakota, police, right-wing, security/terrorism, Somali | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mexico’s Southern Border Program endangers refugees

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 12, 2016

The US put heavy pressure on Mexico to deport Central American refugees in Mexico before they could reach the US. The result was Mexico’s Southern Border Program. Reports are now coming in that the program, said to have increased “security, inclusion and prosperity” for migrants, has actually added to the dangers the refugees were already exposed to. An Albuquerque, New Mexico resident says that on a journey he took along the refugee’s route in Mexico he found that in addition to the dangers of riding atop train cars, 80 percent of refugees were assaulted, and 60 percent of the women raped. He visited a small cemetery where 15 unidentified refugees were buried; all were found along the train tracks. He says the Mexican government has taken severe steps to keep people off of the trains; that there are documented cases of immigration officials pulling refugees off trains with hooks, using Tasers or shooting at them. Other advocates report that state or local police have killed refugees. Railroad companies have also increased the speed of their trains, making them more difficult to board and some have erected cement barriers next to tracks to prevent people from running along trains and climbing on. A number of refugees have been injured or killed when they struck the poles. Companies have also hired private security guards who, according to advocates and refugees, beat, threaten and rob refugees. Recently, human rights activists reported three instances where guards killed refugees. An article in The Albuquerque Journal has the details:

In a recent op-ed column, Carlos Pérez Verdia, the Mexican undersecretary for North America, wrote that countries in our hemisphere must better care for migrants fleeing Central America, calling for increased cooperation among countries and for “coherence,” defined as being “ground on the premise of treating immigrants in (Mexico) as we want (Mexican) immigrants to be treated abroad.” He claims that Mexico’s Southern Border

Program has increased “security, inclusion and prosperity” for migrants.
While I applaud Pérez Verdia’s call for better treatment of migrants, I know from firsthand experience that the program hasn’t protected them but instead has worsened an already brutal journey for migrants and refugees through Mexico.

First, it’s necessary to point out that the vast majority of people fleeing Central America are refugees, not migrants. They’re fleeing the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador), which have some of the world’s highest murder rates. Because they’re fleeing violence and because they face danger, even death, should they return to their home countries, they meet the United Nations High Commission on Refugees definition of refugees… Read more here

Posted in abuse, Guatemalan, Honduran, police, safety, Salvadoran, sexual abuse | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hate rhetoric damaging law enforcement’s relationship with Muslim Americans

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 28, 2015


Democratic Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton is pointing out that hard-line stances against Muslims and Muslim refugees are damaging to law enforcement’s ability to build ties within Muslim communities. She points out that terrorists should not be elevated as though they are representing a religion, because though they claim to, they do not. She also points to the foolishness of supporting terrorists’ aim to create divisions between the U.S. and Muslims. An article in the Missoulian has the details:

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Hard-line stances against admitting refugees to the United States are a mistake because they hurt law enforcement’s ability to build ties within Muslim communities, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Monday.

The U.S. should not want to send a message that gives any support to terrorists looking create divisions between the U.S. and Muslims, Clinton said…

“Let’s not be casting this broad, negative rejection of everybody who might be Muslim. That is not smart to protect ourselves,” Clinton said. “And I want people to understand — that is a law enforcement issue.”

She said later at a rally at a Reno middle school that “these terrorists are killers, they’re thugs, they’re criminals. They need to be treated like that. Not elevated as though they were representing a religion, because even though they claim to, they are not.”… Read more here

Posted in Muslim, police, security/terrorism | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Main terrorist threat in US not from Muslims, but from right-wing extremists

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 25, 2015

terror_attacksNews headlines keep informing us about violent Muslim extremists launching attacks in the US. A very few have arrived here as refugees, with the remaining 99.99…% of Muslim refugees posing to threat to this country. Law enforcement, however, rank right-wing extremists — including radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups — as the greatest threat.  Ironically, at the same time, the political right is trying to incite fear and hatred of Muslims in general. An article in the New York Times describes the main internal terrorist threat the U.S. is facing:

THIS month, the headlines were about a Muslim man in Boston who was accused of threatening police officers with a knife. Last month, two Muslims attacked an anti-Islamic conference in Garland, Tex. The month before, a Muslim man was charged with plotting to drive a truck bomb onto a military installation in Kansas. If you keep up with the news, you know that a small but steady stream of American Muslims, radicalized by overseas extremists, are engaging in violence here in the United States.

But headlines can mislead. The main terrorist threat in the United States is not from violent Muslim extremists, but from right-wing extremists. Just ask the police.

In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State’s efforts to radicalize American Muslims, which began just after the survey ended, may have increased threat perceptions somewhat, but not by much, as we found in follow-up interviews over the past year with counterterrorism specialists at 19 law enforcement agencies. These officers, selected from urban and rural areas around the country, said that radicalization from the Middle East was a concern, but not as dangerous as radicalization among right-wing extremists… Read more here

Posted in Muslim, police, right-wing, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Buffalo’s West Side refugees continue to endure violent assaults & break-ins

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 4, 2015

paralyzed_stickmanA continuing series of violent assaults and break-ins are afflicting the refugee population in Buffalo, NY. These issues were already front and center four years ago when resettlement agencies attacked the messengers by criticizing filmmakers who helped bring forward this very issue with a film. In 2012 the violence against the refugees continued. Now critics are saying that Buffalo police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenges, including: language barriers, a lack of translators and refugees’ distrust of police related to abuse in their homelands. The issue of using refugees to counter population declines in troubled areas of the nation is also a central issue here. Dozens of frustrated Burmese have now gone public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting. An article in The Buffalo News tells more:

Other than the privacy curtain, it could pass for a hotel room. Clean and bright, there is a bedside table, a lamp, a bureau and a flat-screen TV. K’Paw Wah leaned back on his pillow…TV remote in hand, switched channels to a basketball game…

For most, it is a simple hand movement. For Wah – reed-thin, with stark cheekbones and flowing black hair – it is a triumph of will and spirit.

Only after laborious therapy has the Burmese immigrant of Karen ethnicity regained movement in his right arm. The comfortable room is not in a hotel, but in Terrace View nursing home near Erie County Medical Center. Wah has been hospitalized since a mugging last June left him paralyzed, a disheartening symbol of the assaults and break-ins afflicting the immigrant population on Buffalo’s West Side.

The county executive last week celebrated the recent influx of immigrants, which has staunched the county’s three-decade population bleed. The other side of the immigrant story is K’Paw Wah. He was born and raised in a Thai refugee camp, after his parents fled from oppressive Burmese rulers. He and his two daughters four years ago followed his older brother to Buffalo.

Wah’s dream of freedom ended violently. Heading home from a West Side convenience store late one night, he was jumped by at least two men with, he recalled, “their faces covered.” The attackers, Wah told me in halting but clear English, threw him hard to the ground, breaking his neck.

The thieves took his cellphone but, more than that, left him imprisoned in his body. Friends say he only recently regained movement in one arm and can stand at a walker while supported. Despite recent gains, he likely will always be physically dependent. No arrests have been made…

Wah’s fate is the grimmest reminder of the fragility of the immigrant population. Buffalo’s West Side is the end point for Burmese, Somalis, Burundi and other newcomers. Circumstances render them vulnerable and tough to protect. Language barriers, a lack of translators and a distrust of police related to abuse in their homeland contribute to their problems. Critics say police and city officials have been slow to respond to the challenge. Dozens of frustrated Burmese went public with their complaints this month at a Common Council meeting… Read more here

Posted in Buffalo, Burma/Myanmar, police, safety | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Amarillo TX resettlement agencies oblivious to local conditions

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 28, 2014

obliviousNancy Koons, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle (CFS), has an op-ed piece in the local newspaper in Amarillo claiming that her organization’s attempt to cut resettlement in response to an overwhelmed local community and government agencies was undermined by increased refugee resettlement by Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office (RST). The picture she presents is of resettlement agencies seemingly disconnected from each other and from the impact of resettlement on the local host community. If the details are correct, then looking beyond her blaming the other resettlement agency in town to defend her own agency, one has to admire her for her honesty. Its only by facing the truth that problems may be corrected, and honesty promotes community trust. Although Koons took over as head of CFS in 2011 neither her predecessor nor anyone else at her agency apparently passed on to her the facts about the local community being overwhelmed with resettlement numbers (were they oblivious too?), and despite having lived in the community herself for six years Koons claims not have known anything until local government units came to her to complain. She claims to have then invited resettlement leaders to town to meet with local resettlement partners (something alternatively that Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Clarendon took credit for). Koons says she then reduced CFS’ projected refugee arrivals for 2012, but that RST, also claiming to be completely unaware of overwhelmed local government units, then increased their projected 2012 arrivals. The story paints a picture of resettlement agencies out of touch with their local community. The op-ed piece is found online at Amarillo Globe-News:

Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, formerly Catholic Family Service Inc. [CFS], has provided social services in the Texas Panhandle since 1932, including a refugee resettlement program that began in the mid-1970s, following the fall of Saigon…

The refugee program was in response to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops [USCCB] which, with other national organizations, assisted the U.S. State Department with resettlement nationwide. With the goal of helping refugees achieve self-sufficiency, one consideration for establishment of a resettlement site was availability of employment. The meat-packing industry became a primary source…

…Until 2007-2008, USCCB was the only volunteer agency (volag) that facilitated resettlement in Amarillo, doing so through CFS.

In 2007-08, two more national volags began facilitating resettlement in Amarillo — Lutheran Immigration Services and Church World Services…These two additional volags facilitate refugee resettlement through Refugee Services of Texas, Amarillo office [RST].

Resettlement peaked in 2010 when CFS resettled 448 individuals and RST-Amarillo resettled 251 individuals. In total, 699 refugees were resettled in Amarillo in 2010. Refugees also came to Amarillo from other areas of the country, having already resettled through agencies in other cities. This is referred to as secondary migration…

In August 2011, I began in my role as executive director at CFS. Residing out of the Amarillo area for six years, I was unaware of the dramatic increase in refugee resettlement, languages and cultures, and consequently the impact on the community — particularly the schools. It wasn’t long before I heard from numerous concerned residents and staff from the Amarillo Independent School District. It was clear that the increasing rate of resettlement needed to slow down significantly to allow the community to catch up with challenges brought about by dramatic demographic changes. I invited officials from USCCB in Washington D.C., and the state refugee coordinator from Austin to meet with representatives from AISD to hear their challenges. At this meeting, AISD representatives graciously articulated extraordinary challenges in the schools. They begged USCCB and the state refugee coordinator to slow down the rate of resettlement to give AISD and the community the opportunity to “catch up,” and enable them to better serve all of the student population.

At CFS, I immediately reduced our projected arrivals for fiscal year 2012 by 50 percent, the projection of 400 was reduced to 200. RST-Amarillo had projected 200 arrivals for fiscal year 2012.

I learned soon after that our agency’s reduction was picked up by RST-Amarillo — they increased their projected 2012 arrivals to 400. Unfortunately, the community did not experience the reduction we had intended. In the following months, the local director of RST-Amarillo said he was unaware of problems at the schools. To his defense, complaints came to CFS because the community was, and still is, largely unaware of a second resettlement agency in Amarillo.

Frustrated that our effort to reduce was wasted, I researched arrival data from the State Department and compared it to Census data. Clearly, Amarillo had one of the highest resettlement rates per-capita in the state, if not the U.S.

In July 2012, I shared this information with Mayor Paul Harpole. Dialogue continues on the local and national levels to address critical refugee issues in our community. Compared to fiscal year 2010, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle anticipates 160 arrivals, a 64 percent reduction from 2010. RST-Amarillo anticipates 282 arrivals, a 12 percent increase from 2010… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle, police, Refugee Services of Texas, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, Texas | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »