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 »

Indiana argues that singling out all Syrian refugees not based on national origin

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 18, 2016


This is a head scratcher. Although the state of Indiana lost the court case over Gov. Mike Pence’s attempt to withhold benefits from Syrian refugees based on nebulous “security concerns”, it is now trying to appeal the case before the 7th District U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago with the argument that singling out “Syrian” refugees has nothing to do with “country of national origin.” (???) A lower court ruled that the narrow focus on Syria was  unconstitutional; clearly discriminating against refugees from that country.  Soon after the Paris attacks last year, Pence cited a Syrian passport found next to one of the terrorists— now believed to be fake — as part of his supposed rationale to discourage any other desperate Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana by denying benefits to Syrian refugees already in the state.  Think Progress has an interesting article explaining the oral arguments being made by Indiana (note: the two out of three judges questioning the lawyers in this article were both appointed to the court by President Reagan):

In a tense exchange with attorneys defending Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s order to prevent Syrian refugees from resettling in his state, two federal judges sharply criticized the legal rationale behind the effort.

During oral arguments on Wednesday in Exodus Refugee International v. Pence — a court battle focusing on whether the state may prohibit the resettlement of Syrians on the grounds that they could be terrorist threats — Judges Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook objected to Indiana’s attempt to refuse assistance to people based on their nationality and country of origin.

“Honestly, you are so out of it,” Posner said. “You don’t think there are dangers from other countries?”

In a previous ruling, a lower court said the narrow focus on Syria “clearly discriminates” against refugees from that country, a perspective that Posner and Easterbrook appeared to endorse.

“When a state makes an argument that’s saying, ‘we’re differentiating based on whether someone is from Syria, but that has nothing to do with national origin,’ all it produces is a broad smile,” Easterbrook told Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher on Wednesday…

“Are Syrians the only Muslims Indiana fears?” Posner asked…

Soon after the Paris attacks, Pence cited a Syrian passport found next to one of the terrorists— now believed to be fake — as part of his rationale to stem the flow of Syrian refugees from entering the United States… Read more here

Posted in ACLU, court, discrimination, Exodus Refugee Immigration, Exodus Refugee Immigration, funding, Indiana, Muslim, security/terrorism, Syrian, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tennessee Governor No Longer Opposes Resettlement In State

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 15, 2016


Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee said today that he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling Syrian refugees or any other refugees in the state.  Haslam was one of the thirty republican and one democrat governors who announced opposition to resettlement of Syrian refugees last November after the Paris terrorist attacks, which were not known to have been committed by refugees or Syrians.  Tennessee’s state attorney issued an opinion saying the state had no authority to ban Syrian refugees, and the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security announced that the background check process for refugees is extremely rigorous.  Haslam also did not oppose a piece of Tennessee state legislation requiring the state attorney to sue the federal government, though the proposed lawsuit had no legal basis.  The state attorney general then declined to sue the federal government, pointing out that the issue had been dismissed in federal court and that the supposed basis for the lawsuit (“coerced spending issue”; the notion that the federal government was “confiscating state resources” by “coercing” Tennessee to accept refugees) was an untested legal theory and unlikely to succeed. Gov. Slater says that he now knows that the federal government security vets refugees before their entry into the country and that he confident in the process. An article from USA TODAY NETWORK in The Tennessean has the story:

WASHINGTON — With the Obama administration poised to welcome thousands more Syrian refugees into the country, Gov. Bill Haslam said Thursday he’s had a change of heart and no longer opposes resettling them in Tennessee.

Haslam told the USA TODAY NETWORK he no longer objects to Syrian refugees or others making a new home in Tennessee after fleeing a war zone.

…the governor said he met recently with State Department officials and Catholic Charities and is convinced “they’re doing a good job” vetting refugees coming to Tennessee…

His shift in perspective comes just four months after he agreed to let the state sue the federal government over refugee settlement, and just one day after the Obama administration announced it plans to sharply increase the number of refugees accepted by the United States to 110,000 in fiscal 2017…

Resettlement has proved controversial in many states, including Tennessee, where the legislature voted earlier this year to instruct Attorney General Herbert Slatery to sue the federal government for noncompliance with the Refugee Act of 1980…

Haslam allowed the resolution calling for the lawsuit to take effect without his signature. Slatery, however, declined to file the suit, saying the state was unlikely to succeed… Read more here

Posted in Catholic, Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities of Tennessee, ceiling limit, refugee annual, security/terrorism, Syrian, Tennessee | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Charities in Springfield Mass. gains approval to resettle refugees to Northampton

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 11, 2016


Catholic Charities based in Springfield, Massachusetts has gained approval from the US Department of State to begin resettling refugees in Northampton.  Beginning in January, 51 Syrian refugees will arrive in the city. An article at Western Massachusetts News has the story:

NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – The city and people of Northampton are preparing to become home for 51 Syrian refugees.  The city got State Department approval last month.

Now, refugee families are expected to arrive by the new year. 

The first families will begin arriving to their new home, Northampton, in January…

“I hope that the community is able to help them from their war-torn nation and I hope they flourish here in the United States of America, the greatest country in the world,” said Peter Knap of Northampton.

Tanner Efinger of Northampton added, “These are people who need homes.  Terrible things have happened to them and any neighbor should be able to open their door.”

These are the kinds of voices that Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, director of Catholic Charities, thinks of when she talks about the arrival of 51 Syrian refugees to Northampton.

“I think the people of Northampton are so welcoming because there is such a sense of the global.  You have a lot of people from different areas of the world, you’ve got diversity already,” said Buckley-Brawner…

Catholic Charities, based in Springfield, applied to the State Department to become a refugee resettlement agency… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities Springfield MA, Massachusetts, Syrian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Arsonist gets 15-year sentence for Somali restaurant fire in Grand Forks

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 7, 2016

Matthew Gust

Matthew Gust

A federal judge imposed a 15-year sentence on a Minnesota man accused of starting a fire that heavily damaged a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks in North Dakota.  Matthew Gust, 26, of East Grand Forks, Minn., broke the front window of the Juba Cafe, owned and run by former refugees, and threw a Molotov cocktail into the building Dec. 8, 2015. He previously pleaded guilty to arson and a hate-crime charge. Gust ignited the fire, which caused over $150,000 in damage, days after a Nazi-like symbol was spray-painted on the restaurant’s exterior above the words “go home.” Other businesses in the building were also affected. In 2012 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 the Fargo Forum has the details:

FARGO — A man who set fire to a Somali restaurant in Grand Forks will spend 15 years in prison.

Matthew Gust, 26, of East Grand Forks, Minn., broke the front window of the Juba Cafe and through a Molotov cocktail into the building Dec. 8, 2015.

A federal judge imposed a 15-year sentence during a hearing Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2016, for Gust, who previously pleaded guilty to arson and a hate-crime charge.

According to federal prosecutors, Gust purchased gasoline, filled a 40-ounce beer bottle and through the Molotov cocktail into the restaurant. The Molotov cocktail exploded on impact, causing an explosion and fire inside Juba Cafe, which sustained more than $150,000 in damages… Read more here

Posted in crime, hate crimes, North Dakota, right-wing, security/terrorism, Somali, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Where would Christianity be if Jesus had refused to participate “out of safety concerns”?

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 4, 2016


That is the question posed by pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  After a group of people in Gillette set fire to a Quran to publicize their goal to “ban Islam from Wyoming”, most of the more liberally minded churches in town did not respond to a concerned Gillette resident who organized a counter protest. Only three responded. They refused to take part “out of safety concerns.”  Though the counter protestors eventually outnumbered the holy book desecraters, a silence came from the governor, the state’s congressional delegation, members of the state Legislature and other elected officials.  An article at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle has the story:

…the website “Stop Islam in Gillette,” [boasts] 391 members. Their goal, though inelegantly expressed, is to “stop the islam invasion sponsored by mat meade and barrack obama. remove the mosque and islam school from gillette”…

Gillette members of something called “Americans For A Secure Wyoming” took it another step backward last weekend. They set fire to a Quran to publicize their goal to “ban Islam from Wyoming”…

…[others however] participated in a counter protest. Those who lit the fires of hate to burn the Islamic holy book were outnumbered more than 40 to 10 that day in Gillette. People of integrity from throughout Wyoming traveled to Gillette and held signs saying, “No room for hate” and “Don’t hate what you don’t understand.”

Even so, the silence coming from the governor, our congressional delegation, members of the Legislature and other elected officials, with a single exception, is as deafening as it is troubling. Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King was alone in her courage to speak against the haters.

The politicians weren’t the ones whose tongues were tied.

A concerned Gillette resident sought help from the “more liberally minded” churches in the northeast Wyoming town. Only three responded. They refused to participate “out of safety concerns.” Where would Christianity be if Jesus had refused to participate “out of safety concerns”?…

People seeking attention for their bigotry by desecrating the holy book of another faith should be met with loud, uniform public rejection.

Sadly, many Wyoming political, business, academic and faith leaders meet the bigotry with a wink and a nod… Read more here


Posted in Christian, churches, Muslim, Wyoming, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Fact Check: Can Local Governments Vote To Not Accept Refugees?

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 4, 2016


No. We are not a country with pass laws. Freedom of movement is considered a fundamental right. Local government has no say in whether a community accepts or rejects refugees.  Why? Because we do not live in medieval times where cities had gates and mayors had power over who was admitted.  An article at The Roanoke Times gives the facts:

Some say we live in a post-factual age, where even facts are optional when forming an opinion.

We tend to be more old-fashioned, and so stubbornly believe that facts still matter.

With that backdrop, let’s spend today debunking some popular myths we’ve come across.

…Local governments should vote not to accept refugees.

We’ve heard a lot of variations of these. We heard it during last winter’s dust-up over whether Roanoke should accept Syrian refugees… We heard it more recently during the debate over whether Radford should accept refugees…

…we received a letter to the editor from a reader in Vinton who asked: “Since when does Roanoke, Virginia, invite…refugees into its confines?”…

Mayors have nothing to do with refugees. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

They can give all the speeches they want, pro or con, but they have no actual power over the matter. We do not live in medieval times where cities had gates and mayors did have power over who was admitted. The power to accept refugees into the country belongs to the federal government…

…Once refugees are accepted into the United States, they are free to go wherever they wish. We are not a country with pass laws. Freedom of movement is considered a fundamental right. Local government has no say in whether a community accepts or rejects refugees.

…The refugee debate came up in Radford because some churches were talking about sponsoring refugees.

… If you want to complain about refugees, complain to the churches and tell them why that’s an inappropriate part of their ministry… Read more here


Posted in Roanoke | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Helping refugees connect using tech gadgets

Posted by Christopher Coen on September 1, 2016



Refugees increasingly need internet and smart phone apps to connect, pay bills, and even to make an appointment to get a drivers license in some states. An article at CNET has the details:

…Many will get help with internet access through a three-decade-old telephone subsidy program known as Lifeline. Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission expanded the program to cover wireless and broadband services.

“Universal service has historically been about making sure people have basic access for survival — connecting to friends and family, access to 911 emergency services,” Bronfman said. “With the rise of high-speed internet, we see that idea being extended to broadband.”

Buying computers and smartphones, which can cost anywhere between $200 and $800, may be a hardship for many immigrants.

That’s why Alex Benenson, a retired Intel executive living in Salem, Oregon, organizes phone and computer donations for arriving refugees in his community.

Benenson got involved after learning that the state’s Catholic Charities chapter this year would welcome at least a dozen refugees in Salem, a city of 160,000 people. Catholic Charities, one of the largest organizations the US government contracts to relocate refugees, asked the community to donate household items for arriving families. But Benenson wondered if they could also use tech gadgets.

For the past few months, he has worked with the charity to buy inexpensive Android phones and Google Chromebooks. His first purchases were devices he could get on clearance at retailers including Best Buy, where he snagged Motorola Moto E series smartphones. He also struck a group discount with the local T-Mobile store to give arriving refugees lower-priced wireless service for a few months… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Charities, Oregon | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Anti-refugee propaganda in Montana relies upon untruths

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 31, 2016


Some Montana Republicans have been saying for months that the state’s governor wanted to let in unvetted Syrian refugees. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry repeated that false statement on Fox News. The governor’s critics then trumpeted that “the story” had gone national.  An article at the Montana Standard describes the deception being used by politicians in Montana:

Does Greg Gianforte want to build a wall around Montana? Sure sounds like it when he campaigns on banning war refugees from countries suffering terrorist attacks and stopping any refugee resettlement until the vetting system is “fixed”…

About a week ago, the Gianforte campaign mailed fliers ominously warning that Gov. Steve “Bullock supports bringing Syrian refugees into Montana.” Those words appeared beside the black and red image of an armed man with a scarf concealing his face, except for the eyes. Below the scary picture was a photo of Bullock. On the flip side, the flier had a flattering, full-color photo of Gianforte standing over the words “Montana security first.”

Some Montana Republicans have been saying for months that Bullock wants unvetted Syrian refugees to come to our state. After former Texas Gov. Rick Perry campaigned for Gianforte in Montana, Perry repeated that false statement about Bullock on Fox News. Bullock critics then trumpet the “news” that the story has gone national.

Repeating a lie doesn’t make it true..

“It’s just really disinformation and it’s disheartening that people seeking a position of power would promote that misinformation and play off of such a persecuted population,” Mary Poole, founder of the Missoula resettlement organization told Gazette state reporter Jayme Fraser… Read more here

Posted in Montana, right-wing | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Syrian refugee family scattered across world

Posted by Christopher Coen on August 20, 2016


A Syrian refugee family in upstate in New York who settled a year ago have found their family scattered across the world. Adult brothers and two older children are in Germany. A sick daughter is in Denmark.  Catholic Family Center apparently initially resettled the family into an apartment infested with roaches. Now that they have a new, infestation-free apartment, however, they find themselves far away from services.  An article at the Democrat & Chronicle has the family’s story:

They came here in July 2015, the very first Syrian refugees to settle in Monroe County…

they learned, they had been accepted into the United States. Their escape from Syria, then, would mean a continued lengthy separation from the rest of the family.

“Of course, I thank America for this humanitarian decision,” Bahzat said. “But I hesitated, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to see my children again. It was a very difficult decision. … But for the safety of my children who were with me — so they could be safe and study and be away from the war — we decided to come here.”

It was several months before they learned where in the United States they would be going. When they discovered it would be Rochester…

The family first moved into a rental house on Smith Street in northwest Rochester, but relocated to an apartment complex in Greece after a month.

Their Greece apartment has no cockroaches, a significant improvement. On the other hand, getting around with public transportation can be an hours-long affair. To go to the market or their English classes requires multiple buses.

“We were hoping to go to school for English as quickly as possible,” Bahzat said. “(But) we learn about 10 words, then because it’s so tiring with the buses, we just forget”…

Despite their infirmity and lack of English, Bahzat and Atie are expected to seek work or take more classes in exchange for the housing assistance, food stamps and small cash supplement they receive. Those benefits have been interrupted more than once, fraying their nerves. Dilan and their older son, Zana, have both found jobs.

The two younger boys, Zana and Delshad, enrolled in high school in Greece and made the honor roll. The state tests, though, were a disaster. The interpreter that the school provided spoke a dialect of Arabic they did not understand, so they failed in science and math.

They can retake the tests later this summer, but neither boy is prepared because; they have not been attending summer school because the district does not provide universal busing for it and they had no other way to get there…

Generally, the family says they have been welcomed warmly by people they meet. But Dilan, who keeps her head covered, said she has received curses and dirty looks.

“People here shouldn’t judge me regarding my scarf or my clothes; it’s just a part of my religion, and it shouldn’t bother anyone,” she said. “I have heard some people saying bad words (and) staring at me like a stranger. I’m like, ‘What did I do?'”…

Bahzat and Atie’s eldest daughter in Denmark has multiple sclerosis and recurring brain inflammation that sometimes paralyzes her left side, another worry that keeps them awake at night.

“My daughter is sick and I can’t even see her,” Bahzat said. “For a parent, that’s really difficult”… Read more here

Posted in Catholic Family Center (Rochester), rats and roaches, Rochester, Syrian, transportation, xenophobia/nationalism/isolationism | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »