ENTITY shares Ilhan Omar's amazing political journey.

November 8th, 2016, was, for many Americans, a horrifying reality check.

Amidst the darkness of Donald Trump’s election, Minneapolis found their light. Meet Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American legislator in American history. 

Elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016, Omar is a staunch advocate for racial, gender and economic equality, immigration rights, as well as education, healthcare and police reform.

Now, that she’s conquered Minnesota’s House of Representatives, Omar strives to make an even bigger impact.

As of June 5th, 2018, Omar registered to run for U.S. Congress.

Immigration and Refugees Rights

The 35 year-old politician first came to the U.S. as a refugee of the Somali Civil War, after reportedly spending four years in a Kenyan refugee camp, Omar and her family settled in Minnesota. At only 12 years-old, Omar quickly learned English and began helping translate for family members at local board meetings.

While Omar and her family worked to put the pieces back together, she strove to honor her childhood aspirations of a better life, for both herself and for others. Not only is Omar’s personal experience inspiring, but it served as motivation in her to fight against conservative policies targeting immigrants and refugees.

Among the 38 bills Omar authored so far, a handful address issues concerning immigration and migrant representation.

Most notably, she drafted bill HF 1576, which places heftier restrictions on immigration enforcement by government agents. Essentially,  the bill prohibits law enforcement from profiling individuals based upon suspected status of citizenship.  While it’s incredibly unfortunate that bills such as HF 1576  didn’t exist in Minnesota prior to 2017, Omar’s bill marks a triumph against “reasonable suspicion” laws that plagued other states in the past, most notoriously Arizona’s SB-1070. 

Diversity and Representation

In addition to her support of immigration rights, Omar is also a fervent advocate of racial, ethnic, economic and social equality.

Her contributions to social justice justice are bountiful. Most significantly, Omar co-authored an amendment  to bill HF 1335 prohibiting discrimination on account of national origin. The bill had previously prohibited discrimination based on race, creed or color. Omar and her colleagues amended the bill to address migrants and refugees living in Minnesota, of which there are many. According to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Minnesota accepted over 3,000 refugees in 2016 alone.

The Somali community is a major focus of Omar’s legislation. As a member of the largest Somali community in North America, Omar advocates for the development of the Somali community. Of her many initiatives, she fervently promotes pilot programs aimed at helping the community gain economic autonomy and self-sufficiency. In addition, Omar co-wrote a bill requesting job training and development programs for Somali youth.

Omar also co-authored bills calling for increased representation of American Indians and communities of color. Numerous bills requested appropriations for community programs and initiatives, including the Regional American Indian and Communities of Color Worker Reintegration and Stabilization Initiative and the Minnesota Community of African People With Disabilities. Additionally, she authored a bill calling the state to provide financial aid to teacher candidates of color. She pushed for the Increase Teachers of Color Act.

As an ally of Indigenous Americans, she backed the establishment of Indigenous People’s Day and supported allocations for the preservation of the Dakota and Ojibwe languages.

Not only does Omar fight for the rights and representation of communities of color, but she passionately combats terrorist organizations, most notably white nationalist and Neo-Nazi groups.

Gender Equality and Empowerment

Among her many important contributions to Minnesota policy, Omar also authored an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution requesting gender equality. That’s right– Minnesota did not address gender equality until 2018!

In addition to promoting gender equality, Omar strives to represent women of color. She’s co-authored numerous bills advocating for educational guidance and career support for underrepresented women. She proposed a bill that establishes a program providing women of color with business training. Other bills written by Omar request financial backing for the East African Women’s Entrepreneurship Fund and propose programs encouraging disadvantaged women to pursue careers in STEM.

As an advocate for underrepresented groups, Omar’s pioneering equality in Minnesota goes beyond.




Edited by Shahrazad Encinias

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