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

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

‘We Are Hmong Minnesota’ exhibit opens at the Minnesota History Center

The weekend ceremony celebrating the opening of the “We Are Hmong Minnesota” exhibit at the Minnesota History Center drew thousands of people commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Hmong American resettlement in the United States. The exhibit, which consists of more than 250 items, provides a host of written, recorded and raw materials that accentuate the triumphs and trials as well as the history, culture and achievements of Hmong Americans, who four decades ago began to make their mark in Minnesota.“I’m really excited that Minnesota has recognized Hmong Americans and they’re allowing us to put this exhibit here,” said Chue Vue, St. Paul School Board member. “We have been in this country four about 40 years now, and we have made our imprints here. To have an exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society means a lot to us.”An ethnic group with ancient roots in China, as one piece in the exhibit explains, the Hmong escaped the Secret War and the Vietnam conflict in the ’60s and ‘70s and as refugees established a new life in the U.S. and other parts of the world. Another piece answers why the Twin Cities metro area has become home to the largest Hmong American population in the country:The most important factors were organizations such as Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, the International Institution of Minnesota and Church World Services. These agencies, joined by individual churches and families, provided a welcoming presence for the Hmong in Minnesota. Continue Reading

Minnesota imam looks at ‘caliphate’ through Islamic lens

Any time a militant organization rises with violent acts in the name of Islam, some Muslim leaders grow vocal in denouncing radicalization as they distance their faith from terrorism. Often times, some of these religious leaders seem to condemn certain actions or groups because the society expects them to do so — or because they’re concerned that critics might put them in the spotlight for their silence.

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Ready Set Smile increases healthy smiles among low-income students in Minneapolis

Three facts in a U.S. surgeon general report should be enough to accentuate the profound impact that dental problems have on poor children in the United States:

  • Low-income children lose about 51 million school hours each year to dental-related illness.
  • About 37 percent of low-income children have one or more untreated decayed teeth, compared with 17.3 percent of their more affluent counterparts.
  • Because of dental problems, low-income children have 12 times more restricted-activity days than higher-income children do.

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