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The suspension of the family reunification program hit Minnesota hard. The state is home to the nation’s largest populations of both Somalis and Liberians — two groups that heavily used the family reunification program.
With fewer people coming via family reunification, resettlement agencies began to increase the number of refugees with no relatives living in the state, leading to more refugees from Bhutan and Myanmar.
Definition too narrow?
Abdirizak Mahboub, of the New Minnesotan Community Development Center in Willmar, works with East African refugees. He said the new rules, much like U.S. immigration policies in general, are problematic because the narrow definition of “family” does not take into account the wider networks that many non-Europeans consider family.
“I don’t advocate for fraud,” he said, but “when you have your uncle or your brother not recognized as your family member you will do anything.”
The new family reunification program includes penalties for fraud.
Gauger said the government will continue the program for about two years and then assess the results.
“There is no requirement that there be a refugee family reunion program,” Gauger said. “We feel, frankly, like this is a bit of a last resort to try to save [it].”
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488