The United States has been and is the loved destination for immigrants, not just for refugees from Africa fleeing the civil wars that are devastated their home countries, hunger and oppression by brutal dictators, like Somalia but citizens from rich and peaceful nations like its former colony, Italy. Everyone in search of freedom, a principle based of Statue of Liberty in New York, which also stands for democracy and international friendship, all are coming on the inscription "give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." The full-scale civil war broke out in 1990 and ultimately led to the overthrow of Somalia’s military government, the disintegration of the central administration and the ongoing violence that handicapped the country’s peace, infrastructure and economy, have forced millions of Somalis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The wave of immigration has its roots in the Immigration Act of 1965.
The law placed a new emphasis on reuniting families and granting asylum to refugees, while also favoring immigrants with desired job skills and ending the longstanding preference for Western Europeans. Somalis came to the here through sponsorship in the family reunification policy, the source of nearly all requests for refugees from the war-ravaged nation to legally immigrate to America before the government froze this program in 2008.
The immigrants from this impoverished country represent only a drop in an ocean compared to the influx of Hispanic and Asian immigrants. Their first group had arrived here in early 1990s, but this immigration program has been frozen by Bush’s administration. Getting comprehensive immigration reform Given the overwhelmingly negative aspects associated with the Somali civil war, the Black Hawk Down movie, the war on terror and post-September 11 realities, developing a positive Somali identity and becoming successful in mainstream society present real challenges to the community. Anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment remain high, impacting every aspect of the lives of the community. It is a critical time for our community to be organized. Immigration issues such as the INS/police separation and reunification of families affect our community greatly. The barriers we face as immigrants impede our ability to succeed on other issues, such as education that our important to our community. It is imperative that we work for change within immigration issues. Immigration reform is a newer area of work for us and has brought us into a relationship with Minnesota Comprehensive Immigration Reform. In working with this group, we helped write and sponsor legislation around family reunification. We have also worked on message development that applies to our communities. This legislation is on hold because of the emphasis on health care reform. The number of families impacted nationally and locally by this policy would be in the millions as would the monetary and social value. This year we plan to: Work in alliance on federal immigration issues at the Minnesota comprehensive for immigration reform table, to help fix the injustice of the immigration system. Cut an issue on immigration that we can organize the Somali community around prior to this fall’s elections. Continue to build leaders in our organization and in the community that can effectively work as leaders for social change.
2525 E Franklin Avenue, Suite:301, Minneapolis, MN 55406