Somali-Born Woman Becomes First Refugee and Somali-American Elected to Congress
Former Somali refugee and Minnesota state lawmaker Ilhan Omar has made history becoming the first Somali American to be elected in Congress. Omar also became the first Muslim congresswoman, along with Rashida Tlaib. Omar was favoured to take a seat in Congress after winning her Democratic primary in a heavily left-leaning Minnesota voting district.
Omar defeated Republican Jennifer Zielinski, and she will replace Keith Ellison (who is himself the first Muslim ever elected to Congress) in congress.
Omar, who came to the US as a refugee, has championed left-leaning policies, including Medicare for all, a US$15 minimum wage and abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ilhan Omar | Background
“I’m Muslim and black,” the hijab-wearing Omar said in a recent magazine interview.
“I decided to run because I was one of many people I knew who really wanted to demonstrate what representative democracies are supposed to be,” she said.
Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her parents at the age of eight and spent four years at a refugee camp in Kenya.
Her family settled in Minnesota in 1997, where there is a sizable Somali population.
She won a seat in the state’s legislature in 2016, becoming the first Somali-American lawmaker in the country.
Before that, she had worked as a community organizer, a policy wonk for city leaders in Minneapolis, and as a leader in her local chapter of the NAACP — the African-American civil rights group.
She decided to run for Congress after Ellison, who is also black, decided to give up his seat after 12 years in Congress to run for attorney general of Minnesota.
Omar has forged a progressive political identity. She supports free college education, housing for all, and criminal justice reform.
She opposes Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, supports a universal health care system, and wants to abolish US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has conducted deportation raids.