Fargo residents rally against House Bill 1427
By C.S. Hagen
FARGO – Fargoans, in the hundreds, from every race, religion, and creed, met Thursday afternoon to resist a North Dakota bill that plans to stop refugee resettlement in the state.
Those claiming Viking ancestry, Somalis, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants met at the Civic Center before marching down Broadway in defiance of House Bill 1427. At least 300 people attended the rally, first listening to speakers challenging Fargoans to “wake up.”
Fowzia Adde, executive director of the Immigrant Development Center, said when she first started public speaking, she was shy.
“I’m not shy anymore,” Adde said to hundreds gathered inside the Civic Center. “I’m proud to be a Muslim. I’m proud to be a refugee. It’s time we change the political landscape in Fargo. When people are divided the wolf will come by one at a time.
“This is my town. I belong here. Let’s come together. This is Project Wake Up Call.”
If House Bill 1427 is passed, local governments could impose temporary moratoriums on refugee resettlement and Governor Doug Burgum would have the authority to impose moratorium across the state through executive order. It is a bill that gives communities the ability to evaluate and determine how many refugees it can take in, and stipulates strict requirements for refugee resettlement organizations.
House Bill 1427 is fuel for the national fire Trump’s Administration recently lit with banning immigration from seven countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Hukun Abdullahi, co-founder of United African Youths, and founder and executive director at Afro American Development Association, said before speaking at the rally he was planning to return to the country of his birth, Somalia, to bring relatives back to the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“Where we came from there was no freedom,” Abdullahi said. “Now there is no freedom here. The legislation that introduced this bill didn’t do any research. They didn’t think of the negative impact of this bill.”
In his speech, Abdullahi said banning immigrants is immoral and bad economics. Immigrants, Latinos, and Asians make up 2.7 percent of North Dakota’s population in 2013, according to the American Immigration Council. Latinos and Asians wield $984 million in consumer purchasing power in the state, employ more than 2,100 people, and had sales and receipts of $171.8 million.
Fargo City Commissioner John Strand also spoke at the rally, stressing the importance for all races to ask questions of each other, to get to know one another, and to show kindness, as “kindness doesn’t take much time.”
Fargo’s response to refugees and new Americans should resemble a family’s welcome, and they should not be shunned, Strand said. Understanding would naturally follow if everyone makes the effort to get to know each other.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney gave a statement to Barry Nelson of the North Dakota Fargo Human Relations Commission to read. “The City of Fargo is a welcoming and friendly community that embraces its diversity and encourages acceptance and respect. While war and conflict may have displaced these individuals from their homes, I am proud that our community has offered warmth, safety, and a welcome relief from strife. A peaceful home where all are welcome.
“Together with the Fargo Human Relations Commission, I am concerned about the consequences of North Dakota House Bill 1427 and what this legislation may mean for our residents who have come from very difficult circumstances and challenging conditions as a refugee. It is important that we stand together to promote acceptance and respect, and strongly discourage discrimination.
“To this end, I encourage the legislature to study all aspects of the refugee resettlement process in North Dakota in the future”
People held up signs defying President Trump, and naming some of the politicians who introduced of the bill including Fargo City Councilman Dave Piepkorn, representatives Christopher Olson, Ben Koppelman, Kim Koppelman, and Senator Judy Lee. Others held up signs saying “Jesus was a refugee,” and “We’re all Muslims now.”
“Xenophobia and racism have no place in our community,” another sign read.
“We’re all family,” Strand said. “It’s just not right that across the country we’re all having to stand up for what we basically, fundamentally deserve, and are guaranteed under our Constitution and our laws. But you know what? This is our time to do that.”
Abdullahi led the crowd in a chant: “When refugees prosper, Fargo prospers.”
Strand pointed out that nearly everyone gathered at some point was a refugee.
Bruce Holmberg traveled from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota to join the rally. He has friends at home who are refugees and wanted to take a stand with them. He carried a sign saying “Ban me: my ancestors were Viking terrorists.”
“There is a saying that came out of World War II,” Holmberg said. “They came for the communists and no one spoke out. They came for the Jews and no one spoke out. Then they came for me and no one was left.”
“Someday, we should just all have a picnic,” Strand said. “And we know life is not a picnic, especially these days when we are challenged to rise up and evolve and affect change. Invite all our relatives, every single one of us, and then our relatives invite their relatives and their relatives invite their relatives and so on and so forth. Pretty soon everybody is included.
“That’s what we need in this world is everybody included, everybody honored, everybody respected, everybody having hope, everybody having a future, everybody having a neighbor, everybody being safe.”