Minnesota: Yes to Immigration, No to Jihad

The cold tundra of Minnesota was a foreboding land to early settlers. French fur traders came to the bountiful lakes of the Northern Territory in search of hides and pelts. German and Norwegian farmers came for some of the richest farmland in the world. Flour mills in Minneapolis hired Irish and Polish workers and iron ore mines on the great Mesabi Range brought in Swedish and Eastern European immigrants. Today, many immigrants come from Mexico and Central America. They work in restaurants, at summer farms, and on roofing and construction sites. Programmers from India and Asia work in the many high-tech jobs the Twin Cities provide. Except for the proud Native American tribes, some of whom have become very wealthy from casino gambling revenues, all citizens of Minnesota are or were descendants of immigrants.

And, as you may have heard, Minnesota has the largest Somali population outside of Africa. Like many immigrants, no doubt, most came for new opportunity and jobs. Many also have come for some of the most generous welfare benefits in the nation. Aided by many charities, notably Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, and American Refugee Committee, Somali immigrants have transformed the face of Minnesota, not only in major cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul but in many outstate mid-size cities such as St. Cloud and Wilmar.

The exact number of the Somali community in Minnesota is a matter of dispute. Minnesota officials put the number somewhere between 30 to 40 thousand. Those in the Somali community put the number much higher. With many Somali refugees from other states moving to Minnesota, one of the highest birth rates of any immigrant group in America, and numerous efforts made to resettle family members still in Somalia or in neighboring refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, the real number of Somalis in Minnesota is probably closer, or soon will be, to 100,000.

With the influx of tens of thousands of Somalis have come numerous mosques and, of course, Islam. I grew up on the Eastside of Minneapolis. Full of historic Catholic Churches and many Polish and Eastern European surnames and delis, I don't recall a single mosque in the neighborhood. Now, in my neighborhood alone, I count at least a half dozen. Anecdotal evidence no doubt, but with 95 to 99 percent of Somalis identifying as Muslim, a building boom of mosques and Islamic Centers has occurred all over the City of Lakes and the North Star State. Good liberals praise the "increased diversity" of Minnesota and are quick to decry any real concerns as "Islamophobia". In 2015, Mark Dayton, bleeding heart governor of Minnesota, told a group of longtime residents in St. Cloud after recent problems between white and Somali students at schools in the area, that if they didn't like the new reality of tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants they should "find another state." Great. Minnesota is a welcoming state, except for those who have been here all their lives.

The Fifth Congressional district of Minnesota, anchored by the entire city of Minneapolis, has been represented by Keith Ellison for over a decade. Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress is seeking to run the DNC. Despite past ties to the Nation of Islam, Ellison is easily reelected every two years and has risen in national Democratic circles. In addition to Ellison, Minneapolis has elected Somalis to the city council and state legislature. This is not the Scandinavian and German enclave Minneapolis and much of Minnesota used to be.

With the largest concentration of Somalis in America, the local news is often full of stories about terrorist recruitment. Dozens of young Somali men have left Minnesota to fight with Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-sponsored group in Somalia. Six men were recently tried here in federal court for attempting to join ISIS. A knife-wielding man in St. Cloud attacked numerous people at a mall, stopping to cordially ask before stabbing if any were Muslim. Denying that Islamic extremists exist in the Somali community is like denying Minnesota winters are cold. Yet, the nonstop flow of Somali refugees continues. It is time for a pause

Minnesotans need a break. Our charity is exhausted, our Minnesota Nice worn out. Apart from terrorism, the state's social services have been greatly stressed. Public housing has long waiting lists, Section 8 apartments are full, welfare rolls have grown significantly and the number of refugees with dangerous and costly diseases like TB is substantial. Acknowledging real problems with refugees and real problems with Islamic terrorism is not racism or fear mongering, it is common sense.

For decades, liberal Europe encouraged Muslim immigration and turned a blind eye to radical clerics and segregated "no go zones". I am afraid the same reality has happened in Minnesota. Entire neighborhoods in Minneapolis, such as Cedar Riverside, dominated by low-income public housing high rises, are almost entirely Somali. Integration and assimilation have not occurred the way we were told by charities and Somali activists. A permanent, aggrieved underclass of Muslims ripe for radicalization is now the reality in the heartland of America. The parallels to France and other nations in Europe is both real and concerning. Numerous mass casualty attacks have now led many nations, including France, Belgium, and Germany, to reconsider their open border and immigration policies. Attacks in San Bernardino, Orlando, St. Cloud, and Columbus should lead us to do the same.

There is a real threat from radical Sunni Islam that cannot be ignored. I do not see Orthodox Jews flying airplanes into buildings. I do not see many Indian Hindu immigrants asking people their religion before stabbing them. And I do not recall many Mexicans pledging allegiance to a foreign religious group before killing dozens at a nightclub. We ignore reality when we refuse to acknowledge radical Islam for what it is... a grave and existential threat to America's national security. We need common sense when it comes to immigration, not just compassion.

Condemning radical Islam is not to condemn the entire religion. Years ago, many Catholics viewed attacks on pedophile priests as an attack on their religion. As a lifelong Catholic, a graduate of America's oldest Jesuit college (Georgetown University) and having a sister who is a Dominican nun, I will admit that I often dismissed claims of clergy sexual abuse as attacks on the Church and legitimate grievances against grandstanding bishops as "anti-Catholic rhetoric." I was wrong. There was a real problem in the Catholic clergy and a harmful defensiveness amongst Catholic bishops and protective laity. Denying the problem made it worse. Attacking those who told the truth ended up hurting the faithful, not helping them. Muslims who refuse to acknowledge radical Islam and the terrorism it breeds are only hurting the vast majority of Muslims who want peace.

We are a nation of immigrants. The frozen north of Minnesota was transformed into a productive, innovative, and enterprising territory because of immigrants. There is a reason companies like 3M, Medtronic, General Mills, and Cargill have prospered here. Minnesota is responsible for countless inventions, everything from toasters to thermostats to supercomputers and Black Box recording devices to cortisone, pacemakers and Scotch tape were invented here. We welcome and help people from all backgrounds and faiths. Minnesota has been especially generous in this regard. That is a good thing.

However, being a nation of immigrants does not mean we are a nation of idiots. We need a pause on immigration from countries that produce terrorists. We need a better system to vet and deport people who want to harm us and hate our way of life. We need an immigration system that considers the community that is already here instead of forcing tens of thousands of refugees on good but limited people. We need an immigration system that protects great states like Minnesota and realizes the true nature of radical Islam, not an immigration system that harbors terrorists and pushes liberal fantasies over common sense.

Cain Pence (no known relation to Vice President Mike Pence) is a Minneapolis based writer. Mr. Pence is a graduate of Georgetown University and has traveled extensively throughout all 50 states. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including The Hill, the Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, the Salt Lake Tribune, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Minneapolis Post and others. He can be reached at caino@cainpence.com.

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