St. Cloud's difficulty at integrating -- and, in some cases, accepting -- its Somali population got some national attention over the weekend.
The This American Life radio show dispatched reporter Zoe Chace for a two-part audio story on central Minnesota, which, at 44 minutes in length, took up most of this past weekend's episode.
Chace tries tracing the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in the St. Cloud metro area, a topic which City Pages explored at length earlier this year. There aren't a lot of optimistic moments in the episode, and there's reason to think things could get worse: A.J. Kern and other wackadoodle anti-Muslims were getting speaking gigs (and votes) long before Dahir Adan stabbed 10 people at the Crossroads Mall there.
Maybe the most interesting revelation from the TAL story is the emergence of Tom Emmer as a voice of moderation and reason. Emmer, a first-term Republican congressman representing the 6th Congressional District, had the difficult gig of replacing GOP U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
Difficult not because Bachmann had a sterling record of accomplishment in Congress -- hardly -- but because Bachmann would believe almost any doomsday rumor or conspiracy about threats to America, Christians, and the world.
Then she'd repeat those same things back to her central Minnesota constituents.
Now it's the people who've lost their grip on the truth, and it's their congressman who's having to rein them back in.
At one point, meeting with a group of rabidly anti-refugee Republicans, Emmer is asked why he doesn't stop new immigration to the area.
"Say it out loud," Emmer challenges the woman asking the question. "Are you suggesting that no more immigrants should be allowd to come to St. Cloud?"
"A moratorium," she replies calmly -- before several people jump in saying "the whole United States!"
Emmer says he's going to respond honestly:
"That's not something that I can do. That's not something that our Constitution says that we do."
Emmer tells This American Life the moment was a wake-up call for him, the first time he saw "really good people" saying we should stop perfectly legal Muslim immigrants from reaching American shores. Or at least put up a border wall around Stearns County.
The whole story is worth a listen. We've embedded the audio file below.
- Anti-Muslim cartoons posted on utility poles around St. Cloud
- St. Cloud bigot defaces Somali market with "go home" grafitti
- MNGOP tells St. Cloud State Repubs to cancel Bradlee Dean's appearance tonight, or else
- In St. Cloud, Bradlee Dean speaks to more protesters than supporters
- St. Cloud School District admits anti-Somali discrimination, nears settlement with Department of Education