Somali Tea and a discussion on immigration enforcement

February 9, 2017

Somali residents, law enforcement, immigration lawyers and social service providers will gather at Bienestar de la Familia Saturday, Feb. 11 from noon to 2 p.m. to share a Somali spiced tea called Shaah, and to discuss fears of immigration enforcement and share stories of how classmates and neighbors have treated them since Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States. Participating agencies include the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Law Center, and the Youth and Family Services Division within Multnomah County's Department of County Human Services.

The workshop is a project of senior case manager Khadija Fai. She said families have told her stories of their children being mistreated by kids at school.

 “Can we change religions?” a boy asked him mother after school.

“Why would you ask that?” his mother said. Her child explained, another kid at school told him all the Muslim children would be deported under the Donald Trump presidency. And the boy said, he wanted to stay in the U.S.

Another child came home distraught. He said children at school had said, “Go home and hug your mother. Because on January 20, she’s going to be deported back to Somalia.”

One mother came to Fai after she said her landlord refused to renew her lease. He told the woman he would bleach the apartment to, "get rid of their smells." 

Fai said she asks parents if they alert the school or city when these things happen. ‘If we complain, we might draw attention to ourselves,” they tell her. Fai said the concerns of legal permanent resident and citizens who have come here as refugees “The leaders, they’re comfortable creating an event and voicing their concern. Those who aren’t, moms, elders. The families are voiceless.”

Because police are the most visible form of law enforcement, Fai wanted officers from Portland to come and explain: Oregon law prohibits public employees, including police, from enforcing immigration law. The Multnomah County Sheriff and Portland Police have both come out publicly to reiterate their commitment to following the law, and to encourage residents to trust them as public servants.

“It’s very beautiful to see the welcoming aspect of Multnomah County towards refugees.”