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Nov 20

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, November 20, 2008 5:42 PM 

Photo: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) on the hustings for Al Franken in October with Somali sharia court enthusiast Abdullahi Ugas Farah.

This week's column notes the strange prominence of Somalis in the news concerning piracy, immigration fraud and Minnesota politics. Hmmm.

One bit of research that didn't fit into the column concerns the entry of Somalis into Minnesota politics where, as a constituency, their political will is expresing itself in terms more Somalian than American--in the following case to Amy Klobuchar, who in 2006 was running for the US Senate seat she ultimately won. From the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder of November 15, 2006:

On  October 21 this year, Klobuchar attended the Somali Action Alliance candidate forum where she was asked several yes-or-no questions:

• If elected, will you work with the community to find a permanent solution to the smooth operation of the Somali money service businesses, so that the Somali community can send money to their family members back home?

• If elected, will you support federal legislation to ensure adequate funding for ESL [English as a Second Language] programs, well-trained teachers, and the addition of native language proficiency goals?

• If elected, will you support comprehensive immigration reform that includes taking steps to reduce the backlog of families stuck in the family reunification system?

• If elected, are you willing to meet with the community within 90 days of taking office to follow up on the commitments you made today and the issues presented to you today?

The 46-year-old Hennepin county attorney (now our new U.S. senator) answered all questions “Haa,” meaning “yes” in the Somali language, which appealed to the audience of more than two hundred.

Klobuchar did not limit her campaign to this meeting only. The following Saturday, October 28, along with her daughter and campaign managing team, she visited Carmel Mall, the oldest Somali mall in Minnesota, where she met with Somali businessmen and businesswomen.

Speaking to the Spokesman-Recorder about her visit to the mall and the current obstacle to Somali money wire services, she said that her visit was “to know more about Somali businesses in Minnesota,” and “there has to be a way that the community can send money back home for support of their family members.”

Apparently, facilitaring money transfers to Somalia has become the work of a US Senator. But isn't that taking "constituent services" to a new level?

“I am very pleased to see Amy in the mall and meeting with the community,” says Busad Kheyre, a Somali social worker at African Community Services in the Twin Cities and a businesswoman at the mall. “This is an indication of having a positive working relationship with the community.”

Kheyre, a mother of four children who is anxious about the closing of Somali money wire transfers in Minnesota, says, “This is the only way we can support our family members back home, and Amy can address this issue to Washington politicians.”

Although there is no accurate census of the Somali community in Minnesota, many estimate that more than 100,000 Somalis live in Minnesota, and many more family members are expected to come in the years ahead. They are the largest East African community in Minnesota to become naturalized in recent years, and politics is definitely one of their interests.

 American politics, or Somali politics?

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