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Maya Rao

Reporter | Race and Immigration
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

Sherbune County jail detainees plan hunger strike for release because of COVID-19

A federal judge recently rejected a petition for their emergency release during the pandemic.
Interpreter Lansa Dawano worked at the M Health Fairview call center to interpret the Oromo and Amharic languages for callers, Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A large percentage of Minnesota COVID-19 patients don't speak English

More than a fifth of COVID-19 patients interviewed by Health Department needed interpreters, heightening the need for interpreters.
Jessica Aguilar and her daughter Aviana Castro, 3.

Andover DACA recipient fearfully awaits Supreme Court decision in a time of coronavirus

Jessica Aguilar awaits a ruling that could cause hundreds of thousands of immigrants like her to lose legal protections.

Group rescued from Cloquet River after canoe capsizes

They were part of a larger group with three kayaks.
Rich Herman

Rich Herman, a gentle giant who worked in aviation, dies of COVID-19 at 66

He died soon after returning to his Rosemount home on April 8.
“They were saying go to the clinic even if you’re undocumented, especially if you’re presenting all the symptoms.” Clementina, who recovered f

Undocumented and struggling amid pandemic: 'This is a horrible situation'

Nonprofits are raising money to help Minnesota's more than 90,000 undocumented immigrants who don't qualify for government assistance during the pandemic.

Minnesota immigration advocates, companies size up details of Trump's immigration plans

Minnesota Farm Bureau President Kevin Papp said the White House has clarified that President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration would not affect seasonal farmworkers…
Khadija Ali's interpreting company is seeing a major decline in business as face to face interactions are limited. She is banding together with other

Twin Cities' African immigrant community rallies to overcome quarantine hardships

Some worry they won't qualify for small-business loans meant to keep them afloat and help them recover.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz: "Viruses don’t discriminate, and neither do we.”

Amid anti-Asian bias because of COVID-19, Minnesota launches discrimination helpline

'Viruses don't discriminate, and neither do we,' Gov. Tim Walz said.

Minnesota seeks to help immigrant residents cope with COVID-19

Some fear seeking help will jeopardize their immigration status because of new "public charge" rule.
Alvin Moua and his wife, Vanishia Yang, stood outside their home, where someone left a racist, threatening note on their door linking them to the coro

Asian-Americans in Minnesota face insults, hostility during virus outbreak

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights says it has started to hear about bias incidents targeting Asian-Americans.
Hasan Sharif held up a photo of his 14-year-old daughter, Mustariya, whose flight from Eritrea was canceled.

Twin Cities refugees feel 'panic' for families to reunite after flights canceled

Refugee flights have been suspended, leaving their families in Minnesota distraught.
Anne Phibbs, founder of Strategic Diversity Initiatives, presented a peer mentor workshop called “Working from a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Len

Diversity workshops gaining popularity in Minnesota: 'The demand is growing'

As minority groups grow in number, government, business and schools seek better inclusion training.
Kindergarten teacher Lina Zeng helped Sherry Tian, 5, with her assignment during class Saturday at the Minnesota International Chinese School.

Stigma adds to coronavirus anxiety for Asian-Americans in Minnesota

Some Asian-Americans fear loss of business, change travel plans
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn.

Members of Congress move to delay deportations of Hmong, Lao residents

Several members of Congress are moving to delay the Trump administration’s efforts to deport more than 4,700 people back to Laos. On Friday, they…
Minnesota Republican Party Jennifer Carnahan is demanding an apology from Hmong Today editor Wameng Moua after a social media post harshly condemned m

Hmong editor's Facebook post spurs backlash from Minnesota GOP

The editor of Hmong Today criticized supporters of President Donald Trump, with references to Nazi Germany.

Gov. Tim Walz creates job for immigrant and refugee affairs

The new position will work to ease economic barriers for immigrants and refugees.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum has vowed to introduce legislation next week to head off the deportation of former Hmong and Lao refugees.

McCollum plans bill to stop Hmong, Lao deportations

In a letter to the Minnesota Democrat, the State Department confirms that the Trump administration is negotiating with Laos to accept them.
An unidentified Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation officer reviews forms.

Fear, anxiety in Minnesota over plans to deport some Hmong residents

Advocates say many of those targeted have no ties to Laos after decades in America.
Stylist Erika Carter worked on AK Wright’s hair Wednesday morning at the Beauty Lounge in south Minneapolis.

Minnesota bill would ban bias based on hair textures, styles

The proposal addresses the burden on African-American women who go through expensive straightening treatments to conform to Eurocentric standards.
Fardowsa Bashir — seen with her children Anzal Dahir, 3, in her arms, and Sadri, 2, at left — said she has learned to read, cook healthy foods and

Folk tales, vaccines and veggies: U tries audio tips to reach immigrant moms

Somali-American mothers get health, wellness advice in audio messages
FILE - In this file photo dated Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, Rohingya Muslims, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, wait in queues to receive a

Minnesotans raise concerns about order restricting immigration from Myanmar, Eritrea

Minnesotans with ties to Myanmar and Eritrea raised concerns on Friday that President Donald Trump’s new executive order restricting immigration from those countries could interfere…
A U.S Citizenship and Immigration ceremony at St. Paul's Harding High School in 2018. The Trump administration's new "public charge" rules make it mor

Advocates prepare for new wave of confusion over 'public charge' rule for immigrants

High court OKs Trump law on those who use public assistance programs.
Brooklyn Center Mayor Mike Elliott, the first Liberian and person of color to be mayor of the city, was joined by jubilant members of the local Liberi

Patchwork of rules means some African immigrants celebrate while others seek long-term solution

Thousands face uncertainty as their temporary protections are set to expire.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder took to the stage as the keynote speaker at the 30th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Breakfast, Mon

Thousands of Minnesotans gather at star-studded events to mark MLK Holiday

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on the crowd of 2,400 people at the Armory in Minneapolis to ask themselves what they were doing…
University of Minnesota doctoral student Darya Biparva paid respects at a candlelight memorial for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Fligh

For Minnesotans of Iranian heritage, the news brings grief, worry

At U service for victims on plane, Iranians mourn, worry about escalation
Residents packed a Beltrami County Board meeting at which the board voted 3-2 on Tuesday to ban refugee resettlement in the county.

Some residents say refugees would just make Beltrami County's struggles worse

The county's stark poverty issues colored the debate over accepting refugees.
Those in attendance who favored a motion against refugee resettlement stood in the back and made their opinions known.

Beltrami County votes against allowing refugee resettlement

The audience applauded as the resolution passed during an unruly meeting filled with jeers, shouts and accusations among the more than 150 people — most of them opposed to allowing refugees — packing the county chambers.
Mahamed Cali is among the many Somali-American refugees to be assigned a Jan. 1 birth date upon their arrival in the U.S.

For many Somali-Americans, Happy New Year means happy birthday

Many refugees were assigned Jan. 1 as their birth date — their birth records were destroyed in wars or they never kept track.
Cynthia Anderson

Review: 'Home Now: How 6,000 Refugees Transformed an American Town,' by Cynthia Anderson

NONFICTION: Cynthia Anderson's book traces the successes and tensions that a new population of immigrants sparked.
Last week, 126 new immigrants and refugees from 38 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens at the International Institute of Minnesota.

After 100 years, Minnesota refugee aid center faces new challenges

After a century of aiding refugees from around the world, new laws are hurting agencies' funding.
Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park, shown in March, has a sizable Liberian congregation.

Minnesota Liberians would get permanent status under defense bill

The Senate is expected to vote on the measure Monday, and President Trump is expected to sign it.
Refugee resettlement has been a point of controversy in St. Cloud, where a growing Somali population has prompted some residents to protest changes. A

Local approval for refugees sparks heated debates in Minn.

The executive order by President Trump is sparking tense discussion, confusion and some frustration among many local officials who find themselves thrust into a national issue — and needing to make a decision by the end of January.
The future for the Twin Cities' burgeoning Congolese community is deeply uncertain after the Trump White House this fall reduced refugee admissions to

Congolese, now Minnesota's largest refugee group arriving from Africa, face uncertainty

So far, 775 refugees have arrived in Minnesota this year, up slightly from 2018, which saw the lowest refugee resettlement numbers in the state in more than a decade.
At a forum Friday, state Rep. Mohamud Noor promised legislation to equip older residential buildings with sprinkler systems to prevent similar fatal f

After 5 die in Minneapolis high-rise blaze, calls for more fire prevention

Neighbors gather, promise to help those traumatized to grieve, cope and heal.
CAIR-MN executive director Jaylani Hussein spoke during a news conference to present community-collected funds to support vandalized East African immi

Minneapolis' Seward area raises $30,000 to help vandalized East African businesses

Neighborhood groups presented the money to the businesses Friday.
A rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Nov. 12, 2019. In Minnesot

DACA recipients in Minnesota follow court arguments, wait for resolution

They hope for a permanent solution allowing them to stay in the U.S.
Emily Krob

Emily Krob, compassionate Brooklyn Park police officer, dies at 38

Krob died of rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that develops in the skeletal muscles.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar

Klobuchar, other senators oppose reduction in refugees

Trump administration cut yearly refugee admissions from 110,000 to 18,000.

Minnesota health care providers try to calm immigrants' fears following Trump proposal

Providers hope to dispel fears causing immigrants to avoid health care.
Layperson Hser Moo offered wine during communion outside the Whipple Federal Building on Tuesday.

Episcopal Church wants bishop's name taken off Minnesota immigration court building

The church and activists say the having human rights icon's name there "is an affront to our church."
From right, sisters Kauther Tmr, 7, and Fatima Tmr, 3, played a game with Demeen Gelway, 10.

Kurds in Moorhead follow conflict in Syria, feel betrayed after U.S. troop removal

The community of about 1,500 refugees and their children is following the chaos in Syria with a grim sense of familiarity.
Fox Iron Eaglefeather 3, with mother Melody Iron Eaglefeather, protested the nickname and mascot of the Washington NFL team at the Commons in Minneapo

Protesters march, rally against Washington team's name

Chanting "Change the name!" and "We are not your mascot!" and carrying signs, the group congregated in the Commons park in front of U.S. Bank Stadium after marching from Peavey Park.
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…