Restaurants holding fundraiser for Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota

Several restaurants have teamed up for a fundraiser, “Restaurants Rising,” planned for Wednesday, March 15 to benefit the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota.

The organization provides immigration legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees in the state and advocates for policies respecting the universal human rights of immigrants.

In a Facebook post, organizers of the fundraiser wrote: “With so many people in our community threatened by the divisive and discriminatory stance the new Trump administration has taken on immigration, many of us are looking for ways to stand up in support of Minnesota’s immigrant community.”

Participating retailers and restaurants will pledge a percentage of sales to the Immigrant Law Center on March 15.

On the front line of the fight for human rights

The Advocates for Human Rights, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, has been a leader for more than 30 years in standing up for refugees and immigrants.

Now more than ever, its work is crucial as Trump’s administration is rolling out executive orders that violate the U.S. Constitution and threaten human rights principles.

Here are highlights of a recent interview with Michele Garnett McKenzie, deputy director of the organization.

Michele Garnett McKenzie

Q: What are the top priorities for The Advocates for Human Rights right now?

The Advocates for Human Rights works to promote and protect human rights in our home community and in partnerships around the world. Our programming – which centers on the protection of refugees and immigrants, ending violence against women, and fostering accountability for human rights violations – is more relevant than ever before.

Q: How are you responding to the recent executive orders from the White House?

The Advocates for Human Rights is deeply concerned about the threat to fundamental human rights posed by the White House executive orders.

Our first priority is to work with our more than 700 asylum clients and their volunteer attorneys to help them understand how these orders might affect pending cases. Asylum seekers now face an even more unpredictable path as they seek protection from the human rights violations they fled. We are preparing our clients and volunteers alike to expect delays in asylum cases and family reunification. We are particularly concerned about the ban on entry from certain countries. This ban violates basic principles against religious discrimination and we fear that some of our clients may never be reunited with their families.

While we are still learning the details of how the executive orders will be implemented, they appear to expand the already massive immigration detention apparatus, keep arriving asylum seekers in jail – with little access to legal help – while they face complicated legal hearings, and prosecute asylum seekers who arrive at our borders without legal status and ask for help. The 120 day shutdown of the refugee resettlement process will leave some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees languishing in dangerous situations.

Q: How can people get involved to further the work of The Advocates?

The Advocates for Human Rights was founded in 1983 by volunteers who wanted to help build the human rights movement. We know that each of us has a part to play in protecting human rights. We need volunteers to help with everything from representing asylum seekers to answering the phones. People can find more volunteer opportunities on our website (, as well as dates for upcoming volunteer information sessions and other events. Of course, for many people the best way to help is to donate, and we put every dollar to work.

Q: How do you stay motivated right now given the direction of the Trump administration?

We work with human rights defenders from around the world who risk their lives in the struggle for human dignity. I’ve represented clients who have been tortured because of their political beliefs. We are engaged in an important struggle right now, but it’s nothing we can’t handle.

And, I have found that it’s much easier to be an active part of the solution than to sit on the sidelines.


Messages of love for immigrants, refugees

An estimated 2,000 people joined the Minnesota Caravan of Love march organized by Mizna and the Twin Cities Anti-Hate Directive  that ended with music and speeches at the University of Minnesota’s West Bank. People also left love notes on the Washington Avenue bridge.

“Please come and walk with us for love; love for your immigrant neighbor, love for your Muslim classmate, love for your Syrian restaurant owner, love for your Somali state representative, love for your Mexican friend, above all, love for humanity,” organizers wrote ahead of the event. “Bring love notes and letters of hope, and let’s fill Minneapolis with love signs and love marks at a time that hate is forced upon us. Let’s show our love for humanity and stand by our immigrant communities who are in fear for their existence and and losing their hopes to be reunited with their loved ones.”


Get up to speed on threats to BWCA

The Save the Boundary Waters campaign is rallying supporters to fight back against Congressman Rick Nolan’s recent move asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to reverse a decision halting mining exploration in the Superior National Forest on the edge of the BWCA.

The organization is hosting two community presentations in the Twin Cities this week to discuss the future of the BWCA and strategies to protect it from sulfide-ore copper mining.

The federal government decided in December not to renew mineral leases held by Twin Metals that it needed to move ahead with an underground copper-nickel mine near Ely.

Nolan’s actions drew immediate criticism from Save the Boundary Waters and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum. She called the recent decision to halt Twin Metals’ plans a “victory for every Minnesotan who cares about preserving clean water, clean air, and pristine wild lands.”

She said Nolan’s request puts the BWCA at risk. “Particularly disturbing is that Representative Nolan thinks the Trump administration will make its decision using ‘science and facts,’ which puts an outrageous amount of faith in an administration that denies climate science and has openly peddled ‘alternative facts,'” she said.

Nolan responded to the criticism with a statement noting that he’s an original co-sponsor of the legislation that established the BWCA as a wilderness area and is “forever committed to protecting the BWCA, the environmental review process and all the waters of Minnesota and the nation.”

He called the halt on mining exploration misguided. “Denying any business activity before you know what it is — and what kind of pollution abatement technology they will use or how effective it will be — lacks common sense and subverts the good, thorough and elaborate environmental review process we have in place,” he said.

Save the Boundary Waters will hold presentations Feb. 6 in Minnetonka and Feb. 8 in Shoreview.

IF YOU GO: Save the Boundary Waters Presentations

Monday, Feb. 6, 6-8:30 p.m.
Ridgedale Library (map)
Robert H. Rolf Meeting Room
12601 Ridgedale Dr.
RSVP for Ridgedale Library event

Wednesday, Feb. 8, 6-8:30 p.m.
Shoreview Community Center (map)
Turtle Lake Room
4580 Victoria Ave. N.
RSVP for Shoreview Community Center event

Federal judge temporarily halts travel ban

A federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration Friday, halting the travel ban that had been in place for a week.

Washington was the first state to challenge Trump’s order that temporarily barred entry to refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. Syrian refugees were also indefinitely banned.

The state of Minnesota joined Washington’s lawsuit Thursday.

“Five federal judges around the country have issued orders that restrict the travel ban executive order,” said Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. “I support strong measures to protect the security of the United States. I also support the bedrock of that security—namely, the Constitution of the United States.”

The temporary restraining order will remain in place until U.S. District Court Senior Judge James L. Robart considers the merits of Washington and Minnesota’s lawsuit.

“The Constitution prevailed today,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told reporters after Robart issued the order. “No one is above the law — not even the President.”

The lawsuit argues that Trump’s executive order violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection and the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. It also asserts that it denies individuals’ constitutional right to due process and violates the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.

Scenes from ‘Speak Out Against Muslim Ban’ protest in downtown Minneapolis

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An estimated 5,000 people gathered between the U.S. Courthouse and City Hall in downtown Minneapolis Tuesday evening to take part in the Anti-War Committee’s “Speak Out Against Muslim Ban” protest.

The rally and march comes on the heels of President Donald Trump’s recent executive order temporarily banning refugees and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the county. Syrian refugees are also indefinitely banned from the U.S.

Outrage builds after Trump issues order banning refugees, travelers from Muslim-majority countries

President Donald Trump’s executive order barring all refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, Syrian refugees indefinitely and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries for three months has led to chaos, protests at airports across the country and prompted swift condemnation.

A federal judge in NYC has granted an emergency stay to allow people who have landed in the country with valid visas to remain in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union, along with several organizations, had filed a lawsuit challenging Trump’s order on behalf of two Iraqi men who were headed to the U.S. on immigrant visas when the president issued the executive order. The president said the measures were designed to deter terrorism and disputed the characterization of the order as a ban on Muslims.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said the country would take in refugees rejected by Trump.

State Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American lawmaker in the country, is organizing a session Sunday, Jan. 29, 3-5 p.m., at 504 Cedar Ave. S. to discuss strategies to resist the travel ban targeting Muslims. “We will also begin to assemble resources to build safety toolkits to protect our Muslim families and neighbors. All are welcome to attend,” events organizers wrote.

protest against the Muslim ban is also planned for Tuesday, 4:30-6 p.m., at the U.S. Courthouse, 300 S. 4th St.

Omar is also urging anyone who knows someone impacted by the travel ban who been turned away from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport or the state’s border with Canada, to contact her. “We have attorneys on standby willing to do whatever they can to help,” she posted.

Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), said the organization will challenge the order and others likely to come targeting Muslims in a statement issued after Trump signed the order Jan. 28.

The order bans travelers from the Muslim-majority countries Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Yemen.

“This is the first step in a Trump-era agenda that criminalizes faith, nationality, and people of color. It flies in the face of the American values we hold dear,” Hussein wrote. “We must remember, that the United States Constitution expressly protects individuals from persecution perpetrated by their own government. This includes bigotry based on faith, on nation of origin, and skin color.”

The organization is working with other civil rights group to fight the ban. CAIR is also planning an event, “1,000 who CAIR, a Call to Action: Challenging Islamophobia/Defending Civil Rights,” on Saturday, March 25 at the O’Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul.

The event will kick-off a campaign to “activate 10,000 Minnesotans in the fight against bigotry and hatred,” according to organizers. Speakers lined up include noted Muslim scholar Dalia Mogahed, Khizr Khan, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights lawyer and Minneapolis mayoral candidate, among many others.

Congressman Keith Ellison, the country’s first Muslim congressman, also blasted Trump’s order and pledged to fight it. In a Facebook post he wrote:

Minnesotans know that our country is at its best when our policies reflect our values of generosity and inclusion. We’ve opened our doors to immigrants and refugees from around the world, including Somalia and Sudan, and our community is better for it. They’re are our teachers, our doctors, and our small business owners. They’re our friends and neighbors. …

We can resist this radical agenda. But we have to stand together. As progressives. As immigrants. As neighbors. As Americans.

Today my spirit is with the Somali, Sudanese, and other immigrant communities in my district. I share their grief. Thousands of Americans have relatives and friends in the countries Trump has blacklisted, and I share in their anguish as well.

To everyone afraid of what this executive order will mean for you and your country, I say: “You are not alone. We are with you. And we will fight for you.”

Thousands to turnout for Women’s March Minnesota

Tens of thousands have signed up to take part in the Women’s March Minnesota on Saturday, Jan. 21 — one of 300 marches planned around the world by people committed to standing in solidarity with those who have felt marginalized by the rhetoric of the recent election.

More than 25,000 people have expressed plans to participate in the Minnesota event, which starts at 11 a.m. at St. Paul College and ends with a rally at the state Capitol at noon.

Speakers lined up for the rally include newly elected state Rep. Ilhan Omar, explorer Ann Bancroft, Clockwork Active Media CEO Nancy Lyons, state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Sara Stoesz of Planned Parenthood and Trista Matascatillo of Journey Home USA. Musicians Ann Reed and K. Raydio are the headlining entertainers.

In the nation’s Capitol, organizers are expecting around 150,000 for the Women’s March on D.C. The marches will take place one day after Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president.

Organizers of the Minnesota march started planning the event soon after the presidential election. Alicia Donahue, chair of the street team efforts for the march, said she went to bed the night of the election feeling defeated, but it soon subsided.

“I woke up the next day with this fire inside me that continues to burn,” she said.

Bethany Bradley, who handles public relations for the event, said she woke up “heartbroken” after Trump’s victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She had a hard time explaining to her three young children the outcome of the election, adding they call him Grump.

She said she was motivated to get involved in organizing the march as way to teach her children the importance of standing up for kindness and inclusiveness.

For Bradley, Donahue and the other key leaders of the event — Kate Redden and Jo Ann Tesar — planning for the march has become a full-time job. In addition to the core leadership team, 125 other volunteers have worked to make the Women’s March Minnesota a reality. The event has also attracted several sponsors and endorsements from organizations like the ACLU, Minnesota National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood.

Bradley and Donahue said they hope people feel united, inspired and motivated by the march.

In a statement about the event, organizers wrote: “In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity and just who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers is too great to ignore. The Women’s March Minnesota will let the new administration know that women’s right are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

If You Go: Women’s March Minnesota

When: Saturday, Jan. 21 (march starts at 11 a.m. and rally at noon)
Where: March starts in Lot E of St. Paul College, 235 Marshall Ave., and ends with the rally at the state Capitol.
Get involved:  You can make a donation for the event on the website and also learn about how to volunteer as an event marshal.