Trump's comments on MN Somalis draw sharp response

Trump speaks in Minneapolis.
Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a crowd of thousands at the Sun Country hangar on Sunday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Somali-Americans and their supporters reacted harshly Monday to Republican Donald Trump's remarks during his brief weekend visit to Minnesota.

In his rally at an airport hangar on Sunday, the GOP presidential candidate told supporters that Minnesota had "suffered enough" for taking in thousands of Somali refugees.

He said Minnesota had seen first-hand the problems caused by what he described as faulty refugee vetting, "with large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, without your support or approval, and with some of them then joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views all over our country and all over the world."

In Minneapolis on Monday, outside a dark-green building that houses both Afro Deli and the African Development Center, a woman in her 30s said Trump's comments were not only ignorant but dangerous.

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"Yesterday, one of my friends actually had somebody chase him with a car, calling him 'Terrorist, get out of the country,'" she said. "That's danger. That's what Trump created in this community."

She refused to give her name, fearing backlash for speaking out against Trump.

"Somali people are hard-working," she said. "Every Somali community that I've seen, they're either working for themselves, or looking for work, for something to do ... What are the percentage of the people that have left to go fight for terrorist groups?"

Another woman, a 25-year-old refugee from Somalia, also didn't want to give her name. "If he wants to be a president, a president needs to be a person who's there for everybody," she said. "I'm not hating him or anything like that ... I felt so hurt when he said refugee people who are not citizens ... 'are going to go back to where they belong.'"

Trump's comments also offended U.S. Sen. Al Franken. On his way down to Faribault, the Minnesota Democrat said Trump was exploiting people's ignorance.

"He's been going around the country, doing this kind of thing, appealing to people's fears, and doing it in a calculated way," Franken said. "He basically said the Somali community was spreading terrorism around Minnesota, and that we've seen it here. And we haven't."

Franken said he attended a high school graduation ceremony this year in Willmar, where the class of 2016 was about 65 percent white, 15 or 20 percent Hispanic and 10 to 15 percent Somali.

"These kids love each other," Franken said. "That's what America is all about. ... That's what Minnesota is about. We don't need someone who is trying to tear us apart. And that's why he's going to lose."

On her public Facebook page, Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American and DFL candidate for state representative, said: "Yet again, Donald Trump rallied for intolerance ... in the land of 10,000 lakes, warm hearts, and Minnesota nice, the only thing we suffer from is an acute sense of progressivism!"

Mohamed Kali, executive director of Somali American Community Radio, said he and other community leaders "reject this message of division, and the name-calling. We should not let Donald Trump change the fundamental values of Minnesotans."

He and other Somali-American community leaders, including CAIR Minnesota, condemned Trump's words and encouraged everyone to make their votes on Tuesday count.