In speech, Trump targets Somalis in Minnesota, Maine

Donald Trump speaks in Maine.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Merrill Auditorium on Thursday in Portland, Maine.
Evan Vucci | AP

Updated: 2:05 p.m. | Posted: 6:51 a.m.

Donald Trump targeted Somali communities in Maine and Minnesota Thursday during a campaign speech in Portland, saying refugees from dangerous places should not be allowed in the U.S.

During the speech at Merrill Auditorium in Maine, the Republican nominee for president said that the U.S. does not do a good job of vetting refugees, which he says raises safety issues in Minnesota.

"Creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state's — I mean the state is having tremendous problems — its safety net, and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamic terror groups," Trump said.

In Minnesota, 10 young men of Somali or Oromo descent have been charged with conspiring to travel to the Middle East to join ISIS. Six pled guilty, an additional three were convicted, and a 10th is believed dead. In addition, more than 20 young men traveled to Somalia to join the ranks of the terror group al-Shabab starting in 2007.

But those figures are infinitesimal compared with the tens of thousands of Somali-Americans who call Minnesota home.

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, condemned Trump's comments, saying he "demonizes" a segment of the Muslim community.

"While there is a challenging issue with disparities which is evident here in Minnesota, I think the overwhelming picture shows that there is tremendous positive coming from this community," he said. "I think Donald Trump is just continuing his rhetoric of demonizing and statements of really what is today's modern form of Islamophobia."

Hussein added that even though disparities exist, Somalis in Minnesota are establishing businesses and creating jobs.

Figures for 2011-2013 put Somalis' unemployment at 21 percent, about three times the rate for the general population during the same period of time.

Trump has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. Those statements have been criticized by some in his own party.

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