U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump turned on the country’s Somali community on Sunday during a speech in Minnesota.
The Republican candidate promised to crack down on “faulty refugee-vetting” if he is elected, saying that large numbers of Somali refugees had settled illegally in Minnesota due to lax procedures.
“Everybody’s reading about the disaster taking placing in Minnesota,” Trump said at a rally in the strongly Democratic state, the Guardian reported.
Newsweek took a closer look at some of Trump’s claims about Somali-Americans.
What Trump said: “Here in Minnesota, you’ve seen first hand the problems caused with faulty refugee-vetting, with very large numbers of Somali refugees coming into your state without your knowledge, your support or approval.”
Trump is right that large numbers of Somali refugees have settled in Minnesota. 76,000 Somalis live in the U.S., according to 2010 census data, with the highest concentration in Minnesota. The so-called Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a well-established Somali community, thought to be in the tens of thousands.
It’s not clear how many illegal or “unvetted” Somali refugees have settled in Minnesota. In terms of official refugee resettlement, however, the biggest influx of Somali refugees to the U.S. occurred during the Republican administration of George W. Bush, between the financial years 2004-2006, according to CNS News. In that three-year period, more than 33,000 Somali refugees were admitted to the country.
This is likely to correspond with a period of heightened instability in Somalia—a transitional federal government was formed in late 2004 but the capital, Mogadishu, fell to Islamist militants in June 2006.
Trump said: “Some of them [are] joining ISIS and spreading their extremist views over all our country and all over the world.”
Trump was apparently referring to the case of three young Somali American men who were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder overseas in Minnesota in June. The three were part of a wider group of 10 who hatched a plan to leave the U.S. for Syria, where they intended to join the Islamic State militant group (ISIS). (One of them is believed to be in Syria now). The plot was uncovered by the FBI after the organization recruited a Somali-American informant who was previously part of the group.
More than 20 young men have also left Minnesota to join the Somali extremist group Al-Shabab, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, according to the BBC. Some of the recruits have gone on to commit attacks for Al-Shabab: Abdisalan Hussein Ali, a 22-year-old who grew up in Minneapolis, carried out a suicide bombing on African Union troops in the Somali capital Mogadishu in 2011.
But in light of Trump’s comments, Minnesotans have been quick to emphasize the positive contribution made by Somali immigrants. Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges, a Democrat, posted a message to Trump on Facebook following the latter’s speech. “Minneapolis is a better, stronger place for having our Somali and East African immigrants and refugees in it,” said Hodges. “It is a privilege and an honor to be the mayor of the city with the largest Somali population in this country.”
In the election for the Minnesota House of Representatives, both the Democratic and the Republican candidates standing for one district (the District 60B) are Somali, meaning that the victor will become the country’s first Somali-American legislator.
Trump suggested his administration would have prevented “the recent terrorist knife attack in St. Cloud.”
The Republican candidate was referring to an attack carried out by Dahir Ahmed Adan, a 20-year-old Somali American man from St. Cloud, a city in Minnesota. The suspect stabbed 10 people before being shot dead by an off-duty police officer, and ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via its semi-official Amaq news agency.
Local Somali leaders condemned the attack as the actions of an individual rather than the community, but the stabbing reportedly resulted in a spike in anti-immigrant and Islamophobic messages online, the Guardian reported.