Drivers license bill stalls as session ends

Much-awaited legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses (HF97) was shot down in the House Transportation Committee as the 2015 legislative session hurtled to a close.  All House Republicans voted against incorporating the language into legislation at a 5-5 vote. “The bill is included in a transportation bill, and the only thing that the house has to do is to agree with the bill that is being proposed by the Senate. The House simply has no excuse not to do this this year. They made a commitment last year. Continue Reading

Martha Sofia Acuna, center, after becoming a US citizen

New citizens make it official at Festival of Nations

Amazing ethnic dance performances, foods, and exhibits – that’s what usually comes to mind when you think of the Festival of Nations, in its 83rd year as the region’s largest multicultural festival. But, the 52 men and women who gathered in the Roy Wilkens auditorium of Saint Paul’s RiverCentre on May 1 will always remember this year’s Festival of Nations as the place they became U.S. Citizens. As the soon-to-be citizens waited, excitement and nervousness in the room was palpable as three women, clipboards in hand, circulated throughout the arena. “We’re with the League of Women voters,” explained Paula Clark. League volunteers attend all naturalization ceremonies in the state (28 this year), registering the new citizens to vote. Continue Reading

Amran Farah, right, offers advice about individual rights and police interactions. MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi

Law group teaches immigrant communities how to navigate police interactions

Late last week, scores of immigrants filled the seats of the dimly lit conference room in the Minneapolis Brian Coyle Center as a group of lawyers addressed the crowd about their legal rights when it comes to police interactions. Local leaders of the North American Somali Bar Association brought their second educational event since its launch in January to the immigrant-populated Cedar-Riverside neighborhood to educate the community about their constitutional rights and responsibilities when dealing with authorities. Among the presenters was Amran Farah, a Minneapolis attorney and an NASBA member, who spoke to a crowd of more than 50 people about possible scenarios of a legal encounter with law enforcement. If an officer pulls over a driver, Farah explained to the crowd, that driver is being seized under the Fourth Amendment.  “It’s a seizure when a police officer has flashing lights on, and in that way, you feel like you’re duty bound to submit to that authority.”

She added: But “you’re not seized when an officer merely approaches you in a public place. If an officer just walks up to you and starts a conversation, you’re not seized.”

At a time when a deep distrust exists between many police departments and many communities of color nationwide, Farah accentuated that an officer cannot legally stop someone because of the person’s skin color. Continue Reading

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas spoke about undocumented immigrants at the University of Minnesota.

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, arrested in Minnesota, returns to speak at U of M immigration symposium

On Tuesday, when Jose Antonio Vargas took the stage at a packed University of Minnesota auditorium, he began his nearly 40-minute speech with the story of his 2012 arrest in Minnesota.“I got arrested on your freeway by driving and unfortunately listening to Beyoncé with my headset,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist told a crowd of more than 250 people at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.He joked that since it was an Asian-American officer who pulled him over — Vargas was born in the Philippines — he thought the officer wasn’t going to punish him for the violation. That didn’t happen. The officer handcuffed Vargas on the freeway after realizing that Vargas carried an invalid driver’s license.The crowd erupted into laugher when Vargas talked about how the officer found out that Vargas was also an undocumented immigrant: the officer searched Vargas’ bag, only to find three copies of a TIME magazine cover with a photo of Vargas and a story about his life as an undocumented immigrant and how people like him were coming out, as he did in a New York Times Magazine article in 2011. Vargas’ speech painted a vivid picture of what it means to lead a life of an undocumented immigrant — a story that also offered an unvarnished look at the state of the nation’s immigration policy. The discussion was part of a daylong “Out of the Shadows Immigration Symposium” event featuring, among other things, panels of policymakers and immigration advocates.       Vargas, who at age 12 was smuggled into the U.S. from the Philippines, offered many examples of the legal predicaments faced by the more than 11 million undocumented people. Continue Reading

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Meet Sadam Haska, founder of the popular Oromo Vine

On Nov. 10, 2013 Sadam Haska, 23, started his popular Facebook-based Oromo Vine with a simple post: “Hey guys plz pass these to your friends.” The page now commands more than 6000 likes.The Brisbane, Australia based comedian and satirist says he was propelled into action out of frustration that the Oromo — despite being “funny and numerous”— lacked proper venues to channel their inner funnyness.Haska is the lead actor and producer of the vlog collective. Most of his stints focus on smart caricutures of the tension between Oromo and western culture. But Haska says his work is not all for laughs: he has taken stances on social issues such as #OromoProtests and also challenges old customs such as certain Oromo marriage practices. Last month, during his visit to Melbourne, he sat down with OPride contributor Sinke Wesho. Continue Reading

Frank Dogbe recieving Wellstone Twin Cities Business of the Year Award

NDC’s Annual Entrepreneur Awards: celebrating long hours, sweat, tears, and accomplishments

In welcoming a very large crowd to its 2015 Entrepreneur Awards ceremony, held Saturday, April 18, at the Nicollet Island Pavilion in Minneapolis, Neighborhood Development Center (NDC) founder and CEO, Mihailo “Mike” Temali, described the evening as an opportunity to celebrate Twin Cities area entrepreneurs and the long hours, sweat, tears, sacrifices, and accomplishments that they seldom get credit for. Over the course of the evening, 14 businesses and the 19 entrepreneurs who started and run them were recognized. 

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MCTC grads.

The end of remedial college classes?

 Educators and lawmakers are divided over a proposal that would cut funding for developmental courses at state-run colleges  ST. PAUL, Minn. – College students in remedial classes at state colleges and universities may find themselves taking college-level courses under a proposal that would cut funding for remedial programs.The proposal would not require Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) to eliminate remedial courses, but courses that do not earn college credit would be ineligible for grants and financial aid starting in 2017. This has some administrators and legislators split.While lawmakers say the proposal would improve how many students finish their degree faster and improve enrollment retention, some educators and college administrators feel it could deter students from graduating by placing them in courses beyond their skill level.On average, students pay almost $1,000 for remedial courses and 28 percent of MnSCU students are currently taking remedial courses, according to the Office of Higher Education. Of these students, only 20 percent graduate in less than three years.“We don’t want to put [students] in a situation where they get so discouraged and drop out when a two-year degree takes three years to earn,” said Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, who is spearheading the proposal. Continue Reading

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Fight for 15: Protest in Minneapolis for increased minimum wages

Protestors in Minneapolis rallied on Wednesday, April 15, on the University of Minnesota campus to demand a $15 minimum wage. Numbering in the hundreds, the group blocked traffic on their march to the Dinkytown McDonald’s where union members, advocacy groups, and supporters demonstrated support for increased wages and fair treatment in the workplace. The protest was part of a national movement that has been called the Fight For 15. Continue Reading

Supporters of SF271, which would give undocumented immigrants the ability to get drivers' licenses, gather outside the MN Senate chamber after it passed in 2013.

Everyone deserves an ID card regardless of status

Everyone, regardless of status, has the right to obtain an unmarked identification card. And if an individual meets the requirements (passing the driver’s test) an individual should be able to obtain a driver’s license as well.  Currently, there are a few organizations that are fighting for the rights of undocumented individuals to obtain an identification card or driver’s license. Each year, this request has been rejected from the state and legislators. Currently, the bill has passed the Senate, but at this time, it’s in the hands of the House of Representatives.  Now, there is a division between organizations because of the problematic issue of whether identification cards and driver’s licenses for undocumented individuals should be marked or if these cards should look similar to a normal card that a United States citizen obtains. Some organizations believe if the cards are marked, it will cause more discrimination problems against undocumented individuals.  Others believe that having the identification cards are fine, as long as individuals are able to obtain one. Continue Reading