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Home in Minnesota, Omar pledges to continue as Trump's 'nightmare'

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Ilhan Omar, wearing beige, smiles and holds her hands over her chest.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar reacts to the crowd of nearly 100 supporters awaiting her at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 9:14 p.m. | Posted 6:11 p.m.

Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar returned to a joyous welcome in her home district Thursday, following a string of racist remarks President Trump and his supporters aimed at Omar and three members of Congress — all women of color.

At the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, more than 150 people met Omar, showing support for the Democratic congresswoman after the president told her to "go back” to the country from which she came.

“We have your back!” one supporter shouted.

Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia, has been a frequent target of Trump and conservatives.

“The reality is everybody talks about how [Trump] is threatened because we criticize him,” Omar told a crowd shortly after getting off her plane. “But the reality is he is threatened because we are inspiring people to dream about a country that recognizes our dignity and our humanity.”

Omar speaks into a megaphone while surrounded by a crowd.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is surrounded by supporters and the media after arriving at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Thursday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Omar moderated a town hall in south Minneapolis on health care Thursday night with U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democrat who represents Seattle.

Joined by state politicians, a doctor and a nurses’ union representative, the two congresswomen discussed their vision for a “Medicare for All” plan at the Sabathani Community Center auditorium in Minneapolis’ Powderhorn neighborhood.

During the town hall, Omar and Jayapal said they are pushing for a single-payer system for health care. They said by more extensively negotiating drug prices, the government could reduce the cost of health care.

Six people sit at a table on stage.
From left, state Sen. Melisa Franzen, Rose Roach, U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal and Dr. Dave Dvorak listen as Erin Murphy speaks at the town hall on Thursday.
Caroline Yang for MPR News

Despite the policy-oriented discussion, the controversy over the last several days filtered in.

Members of the crowd brought signs expressing support for Omar. Media cameras lined the back of the auditorium.

Former DFL state Rep. Erin Murphy said Trump used “hateful rhetoric that is dangerous.”

Omar’s past week as the president’s target

Trump tweeted Sunday that four progressive women in Congress should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came,” The tweet is widely thought to refer to Omar and other Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Later, Trump singled out Omar in an impromptu exchange with media at a White House event.

On Wednesday night, Trump made false claims about the Minnesota congresswoman at a rally in North Carolina, inaccurately suggesting she sympathized with al-Qaida. The president’s speech inspired the Greenville, N.C., crowd to begin chanting “send her back,” referring to Omar.

The next morning, Republicans, including Minnesota GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, said the chant was out of line, while they refrained from criticizing the president directly. Emmer said there was “no place for that kind of talk,” but also said Trump was not a racist.

For some, the “go back” remarks have dredged up painful memories of their own experiences being told to leave the United States.

“Telling people to love it or leave it, or verbally and/or physically attack them based on appearances is not what we are about,” said Dawn Bjoraker, a Native American woman who responded to an MPR News inquiry. “It is in our differences we bear our commonality. Speak up.”

Omar has seemed unfettered by the attacks. At the airport Thursday, she told supporters she was still Trump’s “nightmare.”

“His nightmare is seeing the beautiful mosaic fabric of our country welcome someone like me as their member of Congress,” Omar said. “We are going to continue being a nightmare to this president because his policies are a nightmare to us.”

MPR News reporters Martin Moylan and Nina Moini contributed to this story.