Inside the community room at the Skyline Towers in St. Paul, about 200 Muslims shared fears about President Donald Trump’s recent immigration changes.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell and Mayor Chris Coleman sought to ease their concern, saying the city of St. Paul will continue to support and protect immigrants in Minnesota.
“Today, I want to assure you that in the uncertainty of today’s political climate, we will stand with you,” Coleman told the group Wednesday night. “We are a nation of immigrants. The strength of our country is from immigrants.”
Days after Trump announced an executive order on immigration that would temporarily ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries, the state of Minnesota joined a lawsuit with Washington state. Three judges from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard from lawyers on both sides Tuesday and said they would rule soon on a temporary restraining order that has placed the travel ban on hold.
During the 90-minute listening session, residents took the mike to describe their concerns about reuniting with family members and immigration officers arresting residents.
Imam Hassan Mohamud, of Da’wah mosque in St. Paul, asked Axtell to “promise that the city,” including its police officers, “will never ask about legal status.”
“We do not, we do not ask for papers confirming citizenship,” Axtell said. “We don’t ask that, and we never will.”
St. Paul police officers will partner with residents to “bring a safer environment, absent of fear in our entire community,” Axtell added.
A city law forbids city employees from asking similar questions, Coleman said.
Sheikh Neelain Muhammad told the mayor and chief that in order to have a relationship with the community they must be involved. Muhammad added that the meeting wasn’t a “Trump bashing session,” but instead an opportunity to learn and understand the fear they face as Muslims in this country.
Among the packed second-floor community room were St. Paul police officers, several imams from local mosques and translators.
Children held signs that read: “I’m a refugee, a Muslim, and a proud, loyal American.”
During his opening remarks, Coleman made a nod to his grandmother, who immigrated from “war-torn Ireland” and faced similar discrimination.
“These are fearful times and these are uncertain times, but we will stand strong with all you ... and oppose any policy that will treat immigrants that have come here today seeking refuge the same way my grandmother was treated,” Coleman said.
Before the program ended in a prayer, the 200 people ended with a chant they recited three times.
“United we stand ...”