Minnesota non-profit backs Somali community lobby

Refugees advocate for more state funding

Non-Profits & Charities

By Allie Sanchez

Community organization Minnesota Foundation recently helped organize Somali non-profits and helped them lobby for increased state funding.

The move comes in the midst of growing xenophobia in the US, and simmering anti-refugee sentiment, which the racist undertones in some quarters of the presidential campaign did not mitigate.

The resulting body is the Coalition of Somali American Leaders, and is campaigning for state legislature to allocate $11 million to the community to address their specific needs as refugees, according to local media reports.

Minnesota’s Somali community numbers more than 40,000 and has been active in the campaign against religious extremism. They are part of a grant program from the Department of Justice, which also supports young people from Baltimore and Los Angeles.

Pew Research Center said in a recent report that nearly half of the refugees who entered the US this year are Muslims. Since 1975, the country has accommodated more than 3 million refugees from around the world.

Despite growing anti-Muslim sentiment, though, these refugee groups have also been able to rally support from various sectors of American society. Among them is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which launched a social media campaign to “transform the way Americans engage with the refugee crisis.” Studies have indicated that American Muslims are less likely to support violence compared with other religions.

State level initiatives to gather further support for these refugees gained traction last year, when the Minneapolis Foundation met with local philanthropists to educate them on the needs of the Somali community and convince them to make “smarter investments” to address issues such as poverty, gang activity, extremist recruitment and religious discrimination. They also shed light on the emergence of Somali entrepreneurship, a growing professional class among the community, as well as other “positive developments.”

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