Staff Directory 137958973

Maya Rao

Reporter | Washington Bureau
Phone: 612-673-4210

Maya Rao covers race and immigration for the Star Tribune.

Rao wrote for The Press of Atlantic City and The Philadelphia Inquirer before moving to Minnesota in January 2012. She previously covered the federal government for the Star Tribune.
Recent content from Maya Rao
Assistant foreman Myint Soe, a Karen refugee, takes a quick break during his work day at the Bailey Nurseries warehouse in Newport on Jan. 16. Preside

'I will contribute something to America': State's refugees fear their path is closing to others

As Trump restricts entry, those already settled think something is being lost.
Community health worker Adar Kahin talked to Ahmed Mohamed about the harmful effects of smoking.

Twin Cities Somali American community is focus of new anti-smoking campaign

The program estimates that smoking prevalence for Somali American adults in Minnesota is 24%, much higher than that for adults overall.
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew overhead as residents waited to be evacuated from Treasure Cay, the Bahamas, on Thursday.

Bahamian students come together at St. John's, St. Ben's

Amid their studies in Minnesota, their thoughts are with loved ones at home in the Bahamas.
Oxycodone pills in 5-mg doses. Discussion of substance abuse, particularly opioids, is gaining more attention in the Twin Cities' East African communi

Advocates from Somali community push for more discussion of addiction

Cultural stigma adds challenge to addressing growing health crisis.
Red Cross volunteer Dennis Cadman packs a pallet of snacks for delivery to Trinity On The Hill United Methodist Church, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019 in Augu

How Minnesotans can help those affected by Hurricane Dorian

Minnesota groups also are mobilizing to get aid in the hands of those hurting because of the massive storm.
Judson Avenue was clogged with people at the State Fair in 2018.

As Minnesota grows more diverse, what about the State Fair?

There's no measure of how much diversity is represented among the event's vendors.
Sharon J. Chapman

Sharon Chapman, a leader in business and community service, dies at 69

Friends and family members described her as passionate about public service in her business positions, volunteer work and the sorority she was a member of for 50 years.
The Planned Parenthood Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota headquarters in St. Paul.

Planned Parenthood exit to have outsized effect in Minnesota

The organization's withdrawal from federal family planning program will have a disproportionate effect in Minnesota, where 90% of Title X patients are served by Planned Parenthood; that figure is 40% nationwide.
Protestors assembled by a majority Jewish group called "Never Again Is Now" walk through traffic as they make their way to Independence Mall Thursday

Jewish activists prepare to protest immigration policies Tuesday

Holocaust comparison remains controversial.

A dozen Twin Cities museums receive diversity funding

The push for inclusion is part of a national effort.
Nancy Hassett participated in a weekly Wednesday afternoon protest outside the Sherburne County courthouse to oppose the county jail's holding of hund

Pitch to expand Sherburne County ICE jail draws protests

Immigration detention brings jobs, cash to the county. The county board has already moved ahead with a submission for another contract with ICE.
President Donald Trump arrived at a campaign rally at Williams Arena in Greenville, N.C., on Wednesday night.

Trump puts racism, American identity under the microscope

Conversations around racism and who counts as an American are springing up.
Munira Mohmed, center, and Habiba Mohamed, right, listened at the Safari restaurant in Minneapolis as speakers shared memories of activist and journal

Minnesotans inspired by Somali-Canadian journalist killed in terrorist attack

Somali-Canadian activist went back to broadcast "the other side of Somalia."
Ruben Vazquez of New Brighton, kissed his daughter Jasmine Vazquez-Matze, 12, in a moment of silence Friday during the Lights for Liberty vigil outsid

Minn. immigrant groups spring into action before any ICE raids

"People are in constant fear" with the raids planned across the country, and immigration advocates work to inform them about their rights.
St. Paul firefighter Mohamed Daoud made his way out of a false alarm in an apartment complex along with Captain Tomo Klepp of Station 23 during his se

St. Paul hires its first Somali-American firefighters

For Mohamed Daoud and Abdi Warsame, the job is more than joining the St. Paul Fire Department — it is also being at community gathering places to talk about their jobs.
Dr. Ayaz Virji and his daughter, Maya, made a stop at a popcorn stand after his lecture on Islam at the Granite Falls, Minn., City Hall.

Review: 'Love Thy Neighbor,' by Ayaz Virji

NONFICTION: When a Muslim doctor moved to small-town Minnesota he received a warm welcome. And then Trump was elected, and things changed.
Bob Tracy of the Minnesota Council on Foundations address reporters at the Capitol Thursday about the Supreme Court's decision regarding the addition

Minnesota census advocates hopeful after high court ruling

Opponents have argued that including a citizenship question would reduce participation in the 2020 census, leading to a less accurate count.
“I believe people are very scared,” Ayde Vasquez, a Mercado Central store owner, said on Monday in Minneapolis. Vasquez, of Colombia, said she bel

'There is no safe space,' Latinos say, as threats of ICE raids linger

Business is down in a thriving immigrant hub in Minneapolis and residents are on high alert as President Trump steps up his threat of deportations.
Ubah Jama, widow of Hussein Samatar, took a selfie while standing on the walkway opened in her late husband's name. The late Hussein Samatar, the firs

How did the Twin Cities become a hub for Somali immigrants?

The state has 52,333 people who report Somali ancestry — the largest concentration in America. How they ended up in the Upper Midwest is a combination of available jobs and a generally welcoming populace.
A law signed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz makes a consular ID an acceptable form of identification for vehicle title and registration transactions, foll

New law allows undocumented immigrants to register vehicles in Minnesota

A consular ID is now an acceptable form of identification for vehicle title and registration transactions.
Farhiyo Ali drew a henna design on a customer as Fatima Hassan snuggled her daughter Hanna Hassan while waiting for her turn in preparation for Eid at

Minnesota Muslims prepare for Eid al-Fitr holiday

Eid al-Fitr is one of the busiest times of year at Karmel Mall in Minneapolis.
During the first or second week of Ramadan, Allina Health sees Muslim patients with dehydration come into the emergency department.

Minnesota medical providers work with patients to balance health with fasting during Ramadan

The prohibitions on eating, drinking and taking oral medications during the day can run into conflict with managing health conditions.
At a 2018 protest outside the Federal Courthouse in St. Paul, supporters rallied against what they called the wrongful removal of children from safe a

Minn. child protection advocates hope to find common ground, address disparities

A proposal to address disproportionate removal of black children from their homes stalled in the Legislature.
Candace Owens, a conservative commentator, pictured last month in Indiana, spoke at the Hilton Minneapolis on Monday.

Speaker asks if Democrats deserve the black vote in Minneapolis speech

In Mpls. speech, Candace Owens urged an exit from the Democratic Party.
As a transgender woman, Rachell claims she faced violence and persecution in her home country of Honduras. She fled to the U.S. to seek asylum and was

Transgender Honduran awaits her asylum case in Twin Cities suburbs

Such refugees face unique threats — but also can make a strong case to stay.
In this Nov. 30, 2018 file photo, supporters of Nelson Pinos, an immigrant from Ecuador who has been living in a church for a year to avoid deportatio

Case of immigrant living in Connecticut church goes before appeals court in Minnesota

Nelson Pinos, who was originally detained in Minneapolis, thinks his case should be reopened.
In this Nov. 30, 2018 file photo, supporters of Nelson Pinos, an immigrant from Ecuador who has been living in a church for a year to avoid deportatio

'Devastating' outcome could await Minn. legal case for illegal immigrant

Story of Nelson Pinos has drawn national attention.
Federico Cano listened to his teacher as his son Yeray, 4, kept busy on his father’s smartphone during an ESL class at the University of Minnesota,

In Minnesota counties losing population, immigrants slow the decline

New arrivals are helping slow, halt or even reverse falling census counts in 15 Minnesota counties.
“[African immigrants] don’t share our oppressive history,” said Me’Lea Connelly, founder of a credit union for blacks.

From census questions to activism, refining the definition of 'black'

Waves of African immigrants and refugees over the past few decades have made the question of black identity far more complicated.
A bag of heroin fentanyl pills, as seen on July 2, 2018.

Twin Cities man charged with selling fentanyl that killed 11

Aaron Rhy Broussard, 28, of Hopkins, is accused of buying deadly drugs from suppliers based in China, then selling them in the U.S.
“The passion that we’re seeing flare up … has been an outlier in terms of the level of activity that we usually see from the Asian-American and

New law breaking down student ethnic data triggers battle among parents

Schools want better information, but some Asian families fear bias.
The mood at Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park was jubilant Sunday morning, where the sizable Liberian congregation celebrate President Trump�

Brooklyn Park Liberian congregation celebrates Trump's 'miracle' decison

In recent weeks, the Rev. Francis Tabla saw uncertainty in the eyes of the congregation before him at Ebenezer Community Church. On Sunday, their faces…
Dr. Francis Tabla said that he had just returned from Liberia and that continued troubles there would not allow it to accommodate Minnesotans forced t

Liberian immigrants get year extension to stay in U.S.

Minnesota is home to nearly 16,000 people who were born in Liberia or claim Liberian ancestry. The program was to have expired Sunday, which would have triggered the start of sending Liberians out of the U.S.
CAPI’s Asian-specific food shelf in Brooklyn Park, has been meeting the cultural and nutritional needs of approximately 450 low-income Asian familie

Minnesota food shelves add ingredients to adapt to diverse clientele

From injera to corn husks to venison, Minnesota food shelves are responding to diverse palates and preferences.
Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke during a press conference on the impacts of the DED cancellation Thursday in New Hope.

Senior care facilities brace to lose Liberian immigrant workers

Impact of DED elimination will have "enormous negative impact" on care facilities, says HR officer.
Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke to attendees of a Minneapolis immigration round table discussion in January.

Rep. Ilhan Omar and others call for protections for immigrants

The program that has allowed many Liberians to stay in Minnesota expires March 31.
“The Hen and the Badger,” “Teach Me To Love” and “The Elephant Huggy” are published by the St. Paul Library.

Minn. teachers are taking initiative and writing a different kind of kid's book

Teachers and librarians say they want students to see themselves in books.
A year ago, hundreds of Twin Cities Liberians gathered on the steps of the State Capitol for a rally to support extending a federal deportation reprie

Liberians from Minnesota lobby in Washington for a chance to stay in U.S.

The program that has given them temporary legal status in the U.S. ends March 31.
Linda Clark, a Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipient, was emotional as she spoke about the termination of the DED program for Liberian Americans

Liberians in Minnesota push for reprieve as deadline to leave U.S. approaches

The program that has given hundreds of people legal status ends March 31.
Rep. Ilhan Omar spoke to attendees of an immigration round table discussion Tuesday in Minneapolis.

U.S. Rep. Omar uses immigration discussion to focus on 'deep pain and suffering'

Roundtable discussion shares stories.
Maria Iraheta Martinez cared for her daughter Sarai after a recent emergency visit to HCMC.

Minnesota provides medical safety net for asylum-seekers in need of care

A Medicaid program covers some costs for noncitizens
Tierra Encantada in Minneapolis

Federal government audits staff's authorization to work at Spanish immersion day care

Feds examining staff's immigration status at Tierra Encantada sites.
Ronald Carter accepted a flier from Jason Goward and Toni Branley about missing persons. Carter said he would hang the flier at his Duluth apartment c

Minnesota raises the alarm for missing indigenous women

The Legislature is considering a task force after the Urban Indian Health Institute ranked Minnesota ninth in the nation for cases of missing and killed indigenous women.
Gov. Tim Walz shook the hand of every one of the new citizens. Forty people from 25 countries became U.S. citizens Monday, taking the Oath of Allegian

Walz congratulates new U.S. citizens in Capitol ceremony

Immigration is "strength of this nation," he tells 40 people taking the oath.

Judge releases man facing deportation to Somalia

His criticism of al-Shabab could endanger him in his homeland, attorney says.
Azhar Al-Rubaie, a freelance journalist who fled Iraq, spoke with his mother, Amal Hantoosh, through Facebook Messenger. He and others who left countr

Growing backlog of asylum cases leaves men from Iraq waiting

Migrants from Central America are in the spotlight, but part of a less visible group of people are those who apply after legally arriving in the U.S.
Dr. Mae C. Jemison, the first woman of color in the world to travel to space, addressed the audience during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday “Wom

In St. Paul, astronaut Mae Jemison recalls MLK's 'revolutionary' words

Local MLK events included breakfast with CNN's Don Lemon and an Ordway celebration of women of color in science.
Assistant foreman Myint Soe, a Karen refugee, ties trees together in the Bailey Nurseries warehouse.

Minnesota sees dramatic drop in refugee arrivals

Minnesota took in just 663 refugees last year, the lowest number in more than a decade for a state with a history of accepting several thousand people annually.
James Burroughs

In an effort to end health care disparities in Minn., Children's Hospital hires diversity specialist

James Burroughs wants to address Minnesota's health care disparities.
The Minnesota Valley Wildlife Refuge is one of the sites affected by the federal shutdown. Its trails are still open, but the visitor center is closed

Minn. begins to see impact of federal agency shutdown

Home buyers in flood areas and those relying on FHA help can't close on their loans. Residents can't consult the IRS on end-of-the-year tax questions. Small businesses can't get federal loans, and the Ag department won't be open to help farmers.
U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, seen after a news conference in June.

Nolan frustrated as he exits Congress, calling it 'dysfunctional'

U.S. representative said demands to raise money, lack of influence took a toll later in his career.
U.S. Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar's influence already expanding in Congress

Incoming House member takes on leadership role in party's biggest block.
In this Oct. 26, 2018, file photo the rising sun silhouettes the U.S. Capitol dome at daybreak in Washington. Minnesota’s top budget official said h

Minnesota braces for effects of federal government shutdown

Minnesota has nearly 17,000 federal workers. It's not clear how many of them would be furloughed or have to work without pay, but about 25 of all federal workers nationwide would be impacted.
FILE - Leech Lake Tribal Chair Faron Jackson, Sr. presenting the tribal flag at the Juvenile Justice Center last month. Jackson testified before lawma

Congress weighs returning 12,000 acres to Leech Lake tribe

The federal government wrongfully seized the popular recreation land in the 1940s.

Congress passes juvenile-justice bill

It culminates a lengthy bipartisan effort to provide more federal oversight of how young people are treated in their first interactions with the system.
Sen. Tina Smith on Election Night in St. Paul.

Sen. Tina Smith visits detainees at Mexico border

Minn. senator worries about children in detention.
Gov.-elect Tim Walz, shown last week, declined an invitation to join a bipartisan group of new governors in a meeting with President Donald Trump on T

Gov.-elect Tim Walz skips meeting with President Trump

Minnesota House Republican leaders hope the new governor will forge productive relationship with president.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and ranking member of the House agriculture panel, highlighted the bill’s protections for struggling dairy farme

U.S. House passes $867 billion farm bill, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign

The U.S. House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed the final version of the farm bill that dictates most of the country's agricultural and food programs for the next five years.
Democrat Dean Phillips, right, defeated Rep. Erik Paulsen.

Outside political money poured into Minnesota's congressional races

Most of the $72 million spent on key races came from outside Minnesota. Advocacy and political organizations spent more than $43 million trying to flip key competitive congressional seats in the Twin Cities suburbs, southern Minnesota and the Iron Range.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale said in an interview that, about five months ago, he urged Sen. Amy Klobuchar, shown on election night, to run fo

Fresh from win, Klobuchar swept up in presidential speculation

It hasn't been a month since Election Day, but Democrats are starting to search for an opponent to President Donald Trump in two years.
U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Emmer takes lead role in rebuilding effort by U.S. House Republicans

Sixth District congressman has ascended rapidly in national politics since 2015.
Democrats Dean Phillips and Angie Craig defeated GOP incumbent U.S. Reps. Erik Paulsen and Jason Lewis, respectively.

Minnesota is sending big freshman class to Congress

Minnesota's five new representatives are replacing members with 42 years of accumulated seniority and several influential committee assignments. "The more seniority you have, the bigger difference you're able to make," said retiring Rep. Rick Nolan.

Jim Hagedorn picks up Minnesota's First District for Republicans

Republican Jim Hagedorn narrowly defeated Democrat Dan Feehan in southern Minnesota's First Congressional District, declaring victory Wednesday morning after a close race that saw the…
Jim Hagedorn, GOP, is a candidate for Minnesota's First Congressional District seat

GOP's Jim Hagedorn wins Minnesota's First District seat on fourth try

Republican Jim Hagedorn was elected to Congress in southern Minnesota’s First District, defeating the DFL’s Dan Feehan in a fiercely contested race that was closely…
Rep. Collin Peterson

DFLer Peterson re-elected to U.S. House in Seventh District seat he's held since 1991

Longtime U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson on Tuesday won re-election over Republican Dave Hughes to represent a largely rural and right-of-center district that blankets much of…
Angie Craig spoke to supporters after winning the 2nd congressional district on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, at an election party for her at the Lone Oa

DFLer Craig unseats GOP's Lewis in Minnesota's Second District

Craig defeated the freshman congressman in the Second Congressional District after losing to him two years ago.
Republican Karin Housley, left, and Democrat Tina Smith

'Try to find common ground': Smith, Housley spar in their final debate

Rivals for U.S. Senate tackle tax cuts, health care, immigration.
Rep. Erik Paulsen and DFL challenger Dean Phillips squared off at a debate in August.

GOP tax cuts are campaign fodder in race between Erik Paulsen, Dean Phillips

Campaign 2018: GOP candidate is touting his work on the bill despite a mixed verdict in national polls.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, left, the Democrat who represents Minnesota's Seventh Congressional District, and Dave Hughes, his Republican opponent.

Rep. Collin Peterson tries to hold on as GOP's Dave Hughes hopes to harness Trump support

Race for Minnesota's Seventh District not as hot as other Minnesota congressional contest, but strong Trump support leaves opening for GOP.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke with attendees of the Blacks in Tech Conference breakfast before speaking during the program in St. Paul, Minn., in Octo

Amy Klobuchar, favored in her own race, spreads money to other Dems

WASHINGTON – Even as she runs for a third term this year in Minnesota, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been spreading donations to Democratic…
Mounted Border Patrol agents ride along a newly fortified border wall structure Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, in Calexico, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

GOP ads raise immigration concerns in MN Congress races

In southern Minnesota's First District, Dan Feehan is the target of new ads.
Democrat Angie Craig, left, and Republican Jason Lewis, debated for the last time as they battle for Minnesota's Second Congressional District at the

Jason Lewis, Angie Craig spar one last time, fight for suburban support in U.S. House race

Jason Lewis touts tax cuts and Angie Craig warns of entitlement cuts to pay for deficit reduction during their debate in Rosemount.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was sworn into office on Oct. 8, as his family and President Donald Trump looked on.

Minnesota Poll: Divisions linger over Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh

Poll finds support among 57% of men and 42% of women.
Outside groups have spent $9.1 million in the Third District race between Democrat Dean Phillips, left, and Rep. Erik Paulsen, one of several Minnesot

Outside groups flood Minn. with $29M in four key House races

Minnesota sees more than $29M in political group cash for four House races that will help determine which party controls Congress next year.
Actor Samuel Jackson appears in a campaign ad for Minnesota's Angie Craig.

In campaign ad, Samuel L. Jackson scoops 'kitty treasure' for Angie Craig

It's one in a series of ads with Jackson doing household chores for Democratic candidates and sponsored by the national group Swing Left.
More from Star Tribune