Seattle Somali Community Speaks Out
by Omar Jamal 3:39pm Mon Jan 6 '03
address: 1050 Selby Ave. St. Paul MN 55401 phone: 651-917-0383 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hate Free Zone is joined by Somali Community Leaders in Seattle and Omar Jamal of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center at a press conference focusing on recent detentions, deportations and growing racist attacks against the Somali American Community. This is the first event of the National Tour against Hate.
Tuesday, January 7, 3:30 P.M. - National Tour Against Hate
Rainier Community Center - 4600 38th Ave S. Seattle WA - The Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington welcomes Omar Jamal, Executive Director of Somali Justice Advocacy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, to speak on the attacks on Somalis around the nation. In Lewiston, Maine, a hate group based in Illinois is taking advantage of the Mayor’s unwelcoming attitude to stage a meeting in that city. Hundreds will protest the racists’ presence in their town. In Minnesota, the Somali community has suffered numerous hate crimes, detention and an illegal deportation. Seattle Somalis have also experienced vicious hate crimes and alienation in our own city, and at least one secret roundup and detention. The Somali Community invites you to hear from Omar, Mohamed Accord of Seattle’s Somali Society Services and Abdulkadir Hassan of Somali Services in Seattle on the climate of fear and the need to organize support nationally. Hate Free Zone Campaign of Washington will speak about the class action suit brought against INS nationwide to stop illegal deportations of Somalis.
Telephone: 2067232203 Email: email@example.com
NATIONAL TOUR AGAINST HATE
Somali Justice Advocacy Center
1050 Selby Ave., St. Paul MN 55401
Tel: 651-917-0383 Fax: 651-917-0379
Press Contact: Omar Jamal (612) 239-7318, Shabeelj@yahoo.com
You sign for a package and the delivery man arrests you. You are driving
a car for your rental company and are charged with stealing it. You are granted
asylum by a judge but are thrown in jail instead. Your community center is
targeted for arson. Your store is vandalized with hate speech. The government
wants to fingerprint and interrogate you. You are attacked in the streets.
Racists hold rallies to call for your expulsion.
What have you done? You are guilty of being a Somali-American during the
“War on Terrorism”.
In the 1990’s, immigrants and refugees fleeing Somalia’s civil war were welcomed
into the United States and have had the chance to rebuild their lives and
work toward a better future for their families. Since the tragedy of 9/11,
however, Somalis in America have seen dozens of their compatriots detained
and deported illegally while facing a growing tide of intimidation by hate
groups. In addition to these threats, Somali-Americans face the same threat
of terrorism all Americans face. The Somali Justice Advocacy Center is embarking
upon the “Tour Against Hate” to ask the American people and their government
to continue the American traditions of tolerance and civil rights.
Interacting with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is a fact
of life for immigrant people. Since 9/11, however, Somalis have had good
reasons to fear the INS. Last October, two Somali wire-transfer companies
in Minneapolis were raided by the Customs Service and FBI, who claimed the
businesses were being used to fund al-Qaida. No charges were ever brought,
and the business owners were eventually cleared, although their assets are
still frozen. This past fall, 30 Somalis were suddenly and illegally deported
to Somalia, where one was soon murdered. At the Minneapolis airport, a Somali
man working for a rental car company was charged with driving a stolen vehicle
after police pulled him over while he ferried a rental car back to the lot.
He found himself in INS detention. Abdul, a Kenyan man, was taken in to INS
detention, where he was allowed to apply for asylum. A judge granted him
asylum, but instead of setting him free, the state INS director sent him
back to detention.
More recently, the INS embarked on a campaign to interview, fingerprint,
and, if necessary, detain male nonimmigrants from specific countries as dictated
by the Justice Department. In a second round, Somali was named as 1 of 13
Justice Department targeted countries. Currently, nonimmigrants from 20
are obligated to fulfill these Justice Department directives. When people
from the first five countries were required to register by December 17, 2002,
hundreds were detained for days because of minor paperwork problems, and
released only after protests from civil rights organizations. In Los Angeles,
men not charged with any crime were handcuffed and some were forced to sleep
on concrete floors because the INS did not have the capacity to process them.
The registration deadline for nationals of the next 13 countries, including
Somalia, is January 10. With the INS soon to become part of the Office of
Homeland Security, the INS has not demonstrated that it can carry out this
registration in a way that does not unjustly detain innocent people.
National security and combating terrorism are high priorities for the Somali
community and any peace-loving nation. However, national security does not
include only tracking, investigating and prosecuting terrorists, but respect
for the rule of law as sanctioned by Congress as representatives of the people.
U.S. law allows deportations to nations that have a recognized government.
Somalia, unfortunately, does not. Yet it took the judiciary to halt deportations
to Somalia. In November, Judge Marsha Pechman of Seattle ordered a temporary
restraining order against the INS, barring the deportation of five Somali
men. In December, federal District Judge Robert James issued a temporary
restraining order halting the deportation of eight Minnesota Somali men who
had been sent to INS detention in Louisiana.
Unfortunately, official harassment is not the only threat our community faces.
Hate crimes against Somali-Americans are on the rise and organized hate groups
have begun to target our community. Soon after 9/11, a Somali senior citizen
in Minneapolis died from injuries he received in a racially motivated beating.
In St. Cloud, Minnesota, Somali stores have been vandalized with anti-Somali
graffiti and arsonists are suspected of setting fire to a small building
behind the Somali cultural center. Anti-Somali threats and discrimination
are on the rise nationally, making it more difficult for Somalis to get jobs
and support their families.
We are visiting Lewiston, Maine to support the embattled Somali community
there. About 1,100 Somalis have come to Lewiston, fleeing the situation in
Somalia and the difficulties they have found in larger American cities. While
most citizens of Lewiston have been friendly and supportive, others have
decided to make the Somali people scapegoat for the city’s economic problems.
Without first approaching the Somali community with his concerns, this past
fall the mayor sent an “open letter” to the Somali community asking that they
“practice responsibility” and discourage any more Somalis from coming to
The mayor has since expressed regret that his letter was “misinterpreted,”
but the controversy caused several white supremacist groups, such as the
Illinois-based World Church of the Creator and the National Alliance, to
rally anti-Somali sentiment. The National Alliance has created a web site
to “save Lewiston,” and Matt Hale, the “Pontifex Maximus” of the World Church
of the Creator, will speak in Lewiston on January 11 on "The Invasion of
Maine by Somalis and How We Can End It.” Although both are small,
anti-Semitic white supremacist organizations, we hope that their hateful
speech does not lead to hateful actions.
More mainstream purveyors of prejudice have picked our community as a target
for their bile. Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine’s November 18th
cover featured “The Great Somali Welfare Hunt.” Does Mr. Buchanan imagine that
our tragic civil war was merely a pretext for coming to America to collect
The fact is that the economic problems of Lewiston are not caused by Somali
immigrants. In the spirit of “free trade,” corporations have moved many local
jobs to countries with cheaper labor costs. The federal government is providing
subsidies to help the city cope with the special needs of the Somali community.
Somalis are hardworking people who contribute to the economy of Lewiston
and look forward to contributing even more once we are able to better adjust
to our new lives in America.
Somalis began to come to the U.S. in large numbers in 1991, when Somalia
was enveloped by a brutal civil war. Like other immigrants throughout American
history, we looked for freedom and a better life. Like other immigrants,
we settled near our relatives in order that we could support each other and
find a way to survive in this new land. Although struggling with a new language,
new customs and the emotional scars of war, most of us have found jobs and
have begun to resume normal lives. We work hard to support our families here
and send money back to family in Somalia or refugee camps in Kenya.
Since 9/11, we have joined another American tradition: the struggle for civil
rights. Inspired by the examples of the struggles of women, working people
and ethnic minorities, we too are demanding that we receive equal protection
under the law. Like African-Americans and Jewish-Americans continue to do,
we are standing up to the hate groups who would drive us out and are greatly
encouraged by the support of so many of our neighbors. We are hopeful that
people have learned from the mistakes of the past, and America will continue
to fulfill its promise of freedom and democracy for all.
The Somali Justice Advocacy Center works in Minneapolis and St. Paul, home
to 30,000 Somalis (the largest concentration outside Somalia). People of
the Twin Cities see Somalis working throughout the city, many in jobs few
Americans want. The federal government grants asylum to refugees, but it
is the local community which must provide the resources to integrate refugees
into the community. Somali-Americans want to work, start businesses, and
contribute to their new communities. We hope that the federal government
can continue to help communities like Lewiston make use of the energy and
intelligence of their new residents to build stronger local economies.
Fingerprinting, interviewing and indexing entire races or nationalities are
not hallmarks of an open and democratic society. The Somali Justice Advocacy
Center calls upon the INS to delay and reconsider the registration of Somalis,
to release innocent detainees from jail, and to obey the law and cease
to Somalia. Preventing terrorism required cooperation and communication,
not detentions and intimidation. We call upon all government agencies to
remember that the Constitution protects non-citizens as well as citizens.
If the federal government thinks Somalis have information useful for the
prevention of terrorism, it must follow the lead of many Americans and build
bridges to our community.
Mayor Raymond needs to live up to his duties as Mayor of Lewiston. We call
upon him to apologize to the Somali community for his letter, to stage a
public event to officially welcome Somali-Americans to Lewiston and to commit
to fair treatment of the Somali population by the city government. We call
upon city leaders to work with the Somali community to build a prosperous
economy for everyone in Lewiston. Finally, we thank the American people for
welcoming us and supporting us, and ask that they continue to do so in our
hour of need.