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Resettlement of Somalis in Minnesota plummets in wake of Trump policies

International Institute of Minnesota
From 2014-2017 nearly 4,000 refugees from Somalia were resettled in Minnesota, which represented the single largest group of new arrivals brought here each year.

Micaela Schuneman and Ben Walen both lead refugee resettlement efforts at separate nonprofit organizations in the Twin Cities. And both have recently noticed a similar trend in their line of work: a substantial decline in the number of Somali refugee admissions.

“Last year, for my office, we had resettled 99 Somali refugees during [the first half of] our fiscal year, which started on October 1st,” said Schuneman, who’s director of refugee services at the International Institute of Minnesota. “This year, we’ve resettled 13.”

Walen, the director of refugee services at the Minnesota Council of Churches, has seen a similar pattern. In the last several years, Somalis accounted for 40 to 50 percent of the organization’s overall refugee resettlement caseload. This year, however, “we’re down to below 20 percent,” he said.  

That’s a big shift from the number of Somali refugees the state has resettled in previous years. From 2014-2017 nearly 4,000 refugees from Somalia were resettled in Minnesota, which represented the single largest group of new arrivals brought here each year. 

That’s not a big surprise. The administration of President Donald Trump has reduced overall refugee arrivals since it came into office in 2017. Yet the primary cause is the administration’s increased scrutiny of refugees from predominantly Muslim countries, said Schuneman and Walen.

Last year, President Trump signed an executive order seeking to temporarily suspend all refugee admissions for 120 days. Despite multiple legal challenges, the moratorium went into effect in June. When the suspension expired in October, the resettlement programs reopened their services to new arrivals — except for those from Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The U.S. government designated those nations as “high-risk,” imposing another 90-day ban to implement tighter security measures. That 90-day suspension ended in January, “but we have not seen Somali arrivals really pick up since,” said Schuneman.

Micaela Schuneman
Photo by Tim Rummelhoff
Micaela Schuneman

Reports from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) confirm those observations. Although March marks halfway through the federal government’s fiscal year, only 57 refugees from Somalia have so far been resettled statewide. During the same period last year, that number exceeded 650.

That makes Karen refugees from Burma the largest group so far admitted in Minnesota. Statewide, a little over 240 refugees have been resettled during the current federal fiscal year. They include 60 people from Burma, 30 from Congo and 38 from Ethiopia. “People coming out of Burma are about 45 percent of our arrival so far this year,” Walen said. “Our next larger group is people from Somalia, 16 percent total.”

In addition to the seven-month ban on most Somali immigration, stricter security measures imposed on Somali immigrants — which the government says would prevent potential terrorists from coming to America — was still another factor in the reduction.

“Much of who will be resettled to the United States — and who we welcome to Minnesota through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program — is dependent on overseas screening and vetting process carried out by the U.S. Department of State in coordination with many other federal agencies,” DHS told MinnPost in an email. “These processes lead to final approval and ultimately travel to the United States. The current administration has been reviewing and updating existing processes, which has led to a dramatic slowing of arrivals to the United States.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Curtis Senker on 03/19/2018 - 12:36 pm.

    Somalia has a functioning government, and Somalis have been traveling freely between Minnesota and Mogadishu for a few years now. It’s pretty hard to call them refugees at this point, in my opinion.

    Resettling populations is counter productive to countries trying to get on their feet. The President is ahead of the curve here, IMO.

  2. Submitted by ian wade on 03/19/2018 - 02:02 pm.

    Do you know what else is “counter productive?”

    Staying somewhere and risk your family getting slaughtered…in my opinion.

  3. Submitted by Kathy Telcor on 10/20/2019 - 12:15 am.

    Curtis, you are spot on here. Ian, running away from their countries rather than confront and try to rebuild their own homeland, makes the most sense here. unfortunate other countries face turmoil, but ultimately is it is not our problem. furthermore, we cannot save the entire world. allowing this Mass immigration and flooding our country with everybody from any country having issues – is not the solution. it benefits nobody. our forefatthers didn’t fight and die by the millions in a civil war, for us to give it all away to anybody who happens to show up. are schools are becoming overcrowded, causing my children to have a subpar education because all the teachers change it catch up the Somali kids teach them English. this is now half of my son’s class, and school. no more Christmas or Easter parties either, or even the words – yet the Muslim holidays celebrated and the kids leave class as they pleased to go pray special prayer rooms (despite the practice of prayer in school being banned 7 years ago, which apparently I was only for Christian kids). social security being drained to those who haven’t worked in the US their whole lives like myself, who will probably never see any of it despite having paid into it 20 years now. our welfare system is overburdened and requires taxes to keep rising. the immigrants from the past we’re required to have skills, speak English, etc. not anymore. in fact everything’s conveniently translated for them, or translators are hired for them. unfortunately we don’t need more people, celerity schools with no skills whatsoever, who will receive social services throughout their life, working skills for jobs we need (and no we don’t need more taxi drivers). nor those who lack basic skills like English, who we are now required to train and teach. I am from Minneapolis so deal with this on daily basis. despite a few good ones, the majority I’ve seen use the system, then complain they’re treated unfairly (despite being from a third world country where they were allegedly persecuted). the problem is these liberals feel them up with BS as soon as they arrived with the victim mentality. what really frustrated me was seeing the Somali population blocking streets and rioting because the public food shelf getting less fortunate free, donated food – did not offer a halal menu! how unappreciative can you get!?anyway these pictures would be better off in their own country with their own culture and customs and religion, I think you need to rebuild their own Homeland.

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