Hmong House: Home for community, great food for all

Hmong House transports the diner far from Minnesota by engaging all the senses. The wall-to-wall hand-painted murals of Asian landscapes are a feast for the eyes. The music, sung live during our meal, made us feel as if we were next door to a night club somewhere in Asia. We bumped elbows with hundreds of Hmong community members celebrating in the restaurant’s banquet hall, and enjoyed learning about their traditions from the restaurant’s owners, Kay Yang and See Yang. Most notably, the exotic flavors of the food transported us as well.The restaurant has a 350-person banquet hall, which appeared to be filled to the max when my family and I recently visited the restaurant. Continue Reading

Black churches help navigate MNsure

“I am anti-insurance! Insurance was built on gambling and all that crap…I do not [use a] computer. I’ve been screwed up by them,” said one of the people attending a March 9 information meeting. Vivien (who didn’t want her last name used) is not the only member of the Minnesota African-American community who feels wary about signing up for MNsure online.According to community leader the Reverend Doctor Alfred Babington-Johnson, “Our position is that African-Americans are disconnected from the health insurance opportunity for more reasons than technical. It’s about more than having access to the documents and the broker. Continue Reading

OUR STORIES | Teaching GED: Students from everywhere, 19 to 60+ years old

Chelsey Tulgren’s students range from 19 to 60-something years old, and their backgrounds are as varied as their ages. For some immigrant students, “English may be their third or fourth language,” she said. For other U.S.-born students, “Our school system really failed many of them.”What is it like to teach a GED class? Chelsey Tulgren talked to the Daily Planet about students, teaching, and the changes in the GED test.FULL DISCLOSURE: The author’s husband is a student in Tulgren’s class.Q: What are some of the challenges your students have faced? Can you describe a typical GED student?A: We have students of all ages. Continue Reading

Ruby Azurdia-Lee: Blended immigrant families face challenges

What are “blended” immigrant families and what special challenges do they face today? That’s the question that TC Daily Planet writer Erin Collins Salinas posed to Ruby Azurdia-Lee, the president of Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio (CLUES). Lee was born and raised in Guatemala City.When I heard you speak at an immigration reform forum at Macalester this fall, you talked a lot about the challenges of blended families. Can you give a definition for that term?Blended immigrant status families…one or more members of the family do not have legal status but others do. By default those born in the U.S. do have it. Continue Reading

Tacos, trucks and taquerias on Lake Street in Minneapolis

When I did my first articles about the top tacos in the Twin Cities, the words, “Lake Street” almost invariably tumbled out of the interviewees’ mouths. We began our Lake Street taco tasting at the taco trucks parked at the Lake Street K-Mart. Even though it’s now winter, the taco trucks say they are open on all but the coldest days.El Primo Taco (Truck)Lake St & Blaisdell Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55407(612) 701-3955Approximate hours daily: 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.On a cool evening, the atmosphere left us feeling conflicted, or as one participant put it, “My mouth is on fire but I’m freezing!” That aside, the carnivores in the group enjoyed the trucks’ offerings. El Primo Taco offered an array of meat choices including beef tongue, head and cheeks. Continue Reading

Minneapolis Latinos speak out on mayoral contest

Police and public safety top the list of Minneapolis issues for three Latino leaders in the city. Business, housing, translation, and other issues were among their other concerns.Earlier this election season, I attended the One Minneapolis mayoral forum, expecting to hear Latino residents raise questions about their concerns. Since I didn’t hear many Latino voices at this forum, I decided to contact local Latino community leaders to get their opinions on Minneapolis’ issues. Ramon León is the founder, president and CEO of the Latino Economic Development Center. Alberto Monserrate is the CEO and co-founder of Latino Communications Network (and co-chair of the Mark Andrew mayoral campaign committee.) Silvia Perez is an organizer of Mujeres en Acción y Poder, and a member of the Corcoran Neighborhood Association. Continue Reading

Refuge from violence: Minnesota lawyers help immigrant crime victims find safe harbor

“Leticia” had given birth to her first child at 14, and by the time she ended up at Casa de Esperanza’s shelter she had two kids, ages two and six. In addition to the abuse and death threats she endured from her ex-partner, she found out he had sexually assaulted her six-year-old daughter.Lydia Morley, a volunteer attorney with Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota (ILCM) Crime Victim Relief Project, described “Leticia” (not her real name) as fitting one typical pattern of the U-Visa client: someone who was sent to the U.S. by her parents to work and then send them money.“The common thread from the women I’ve learned about in this program is that they are not in control of their own destiny,” she explained. “They have ended up being brought across the border and are under the control of a man.”When Morley first met her client “she had all the characteristics of a victim. Once she obtained psychological help and a U-Visa for herself and her children, she became, “moved to mature quickly…she presented herself as a lot more confident than when we first met her. I felt like she was on the way to taking care of herself.”According to the ILCM’s description of the Crime Victim Relief Project:“Under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA), an immigrant may be eligible for a U-Visa if he or she has been the victim of a serious crime, has suffered substantial harm, and is willing to cooperate with law enforcement officials regarding the investigation and/or prosecution of that crime.”ILCM Pro Bono Director Anne Applebaum explained that “the U-Visa came about through co-advocacy on the side of advocates for immigrant victims of domestic violence and law enforcement. Continue Reading

One Minneapolis Forum: What about the Latino community?

I went to the June 6 One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum expecting a lot of discussion of issues specific to the Latino community, and with the assignment of covering that focus.The One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum is not connected in any way with the Minneapolis Foundation or the City of Minneapolis.What I experienced instead was largely the discussion of issues affecting African-American, Latino, and Native American communities taken as a whole. While it was announced that Spanish translation would be available, the crowd of 500-plus people did not appear to have many Latino members. Two Latina panelists asked questions. Jennifer Godinez asked,”We have a silent killer of dreams in this community which is the over-representation of young black, Latino, and Native American youth suspended from Minneapolis schools. It is a silent killer of dreams and it turns into the school-to-prison pipeline. Continue Reading

Asking the organizers: How did One Minneapolis forum work?

“I’m tired of helping candidates win. They contact us right before the election and ask me to organize my people and then they forget about us, ” said Henry Jiménez, one of the organizers of the One Minneapolis Mayoral Forum on June 6. Jiménez went on to explain, “So that’s why we organized this as soon as we heard the mayor was not running for reelection. We knew that we needed to organize to get the best possible mayor. I want them to really get to know what our needs are. Continue Reading