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Among the members of Congress visiting the border, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (5:43). WCCO Sunday Morning - March 28, 2021
- Among the members of Congress visiting the border, Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who as a child fleeing violence in Somalia experienced living in a refugee camp. I spoke to her a short time ago. Take a look. And joining us right now, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Thank you so much, Congresswoman, for coming on.
ILHAN OMAR: Great to be here with you as well.
- All right. You were just back from the border. You yourself were a refugee as a child. What did you see there? What are the conditions like?
ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. We went to one of the influx facilities and had an opportunity to tour the facility, get to have a conversation with the kids. And I was reminded that this isn't really about politics. This isn't about games. It's about the children.
And every single conversation we get to have about this situation needs to be centered around these kids who have been on a really horrendous journey and have fled some really horrific situations, who have showed up at our borders looking for asylum. Many of these children have family members here. They are looking to be reconnected with their family members. And we have an obligation to do everything that we can to expedite the process so that they are not staying in these facilities too long.
- What were the conditions like? Did you feel the conditions were adequate to support children this young?
ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. So one of the facilities we went to actually was established in July of 2019, when similar situation was happening and it went [INAUDIBLE]. So they didn't have any children until we opened in February 22. And so it's a facility run by a non-profit, Emergency Managers. It's pretty well run. The kids had an opportunity to reestablish some formal education. They were playing soccer when we got there. They're receiving meals.
They're getting two phone calls a week to their family members back home. And even though the the situation that they were in in this facility is very much different than the horrendous facilities that we see of the images that have shown up, it's still not some place for them to be in permanently. And so it is really important that we have a serious conversation on how to expedite the process so that the kids can be with their families.
- Is the Biden Administration handling this correctly? We have a statement from President Biden calling this a seasonal issue. He says it's not a crisis. It certainly looks like a crisis to everybody who's been down there. Should he be having a stronger message to these countries to urge these kids and urge these families to wait, to not do this right now?
ILHAN OMAR: So what we do know is that there is a crisis happening in our neighboring countries. And these kids are fleeing unspeakable conditions. Some of them have lost family members, some of them have experienced violence themselves. And it is really important for us to remember that it's not a messaging problem that's bringing them to the country. It's the conditions that they are fleeing that's bringing them to our country.
And so we do both have an obligation to welcome them and to allow them to exercise the legal avenues that are available to them to seek asylum, which is internationally protected and protected under our laws. But it's also important that we take the extra steps to figure out how we can engage with our neighboring countries and mitigate some of the situations that are leading to the migration crisis.
- I want to ask you, switch gears here, the trial, of course, of Derek Chauvin starts tomorrow. This is your district, and it was your district that was also hit by the riots. What are your thoughts as we head into this very precarious trial that everybody is watching?
ILHAN OMAR: Yeah. The community is still traumatized from the murder of George Floyd. They're still traumatized by the uprising in the summer. It's also a community that has known what it means to not receive justice, so they're on edge. And so we're all praying for the court proceedings to go in a format that allows for justice to be delivered.
We know that the attorneys of Chauvin are very well funded. But I know that the public has trust in Attorney General Keith Ellison and his team. And so we'll all be watching.
- OK. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, thank you so much for your time. We certainly appreciate it this morning.
ILHAN OMAR: Thank you for having me.