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Somalis react to revised travel ban

PORTLAND — Somali immigrants in Oregon reacted Monday to President Donald Trump's revised travel ban with dismay, saying it stigmatizes a growing immigrant community that's working to forge better relationships after the high-profile conviction of a local Somali-American for a bomb plot.

Trump's executive order, announced Monday, bars new visas for citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries, including Somalia.

Around 8,000 Somalis live in Portland, and those numbers are growing, said Musse Olol, president of the Somali American Council of Oregon.

Olol has received calls from people worried about family members trying to join them in Portland, including one mother who has been working to bring her five children to Oregon from Kenya to join her. Now, he said, she is not sure what to do.

"It's very, very negative, very concerning. We don't understand why this community is targeted," Olol said. "And those of us here, those of us who've been here for 35 years, are being alienated, demonized."

Somali leaders in Portland worry that Trump's travel ban will cast a shadow on efforts to unite a refugee community deeply divided by civil war and to keep young Somali-Americans away from radical groups online.

A local Somali-American named Mohamed Mohamud was arrested in 2010 for plotting to bomb a crowded Christmas tree lighting celebration in the city's town square. Mohamud, a former Oregon State University student, was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2014.

"This will make it easy for (young Somalis) to say, 'Well, we don't belong in this country,' " said Olol, a mechanical engineer who came to the U.S. in 1981.

"With the radicals on social media ... now you're pretty much reinforcing what they're saying," he said. "That's one of the tools they use to recruit young men, and we're more susceptible because we're the poorest group of Muslim immigrants."

Many of Portland's Somalis have spent their entire lives in refugee camps, forced there by the country's long-lasting civil war. Portland's Somali community represents the largest Muslim group in the city. Somali has become the third most spoken native language in Portland schools.

The Portland Public Schools last year started a Somali language program. The Portland Police Bureau in 2015 swore in its first Somali-American police officer.

Last year, several dozen Somali taxi cab drivers united to form their own Somali-owned and operated cab company after struggling to make a living driving for others.

Somali immigrant leader Jamal Dar, right, who arrived in the U.S. two decades ago from Kenya, hands out snacks to a boy at a community engagement and civic language class for former Somali residents at AYCO offices in East Portland. Somali immigrants in Oregon are reacting to President Trump's revised travel ban with dismay and fear. Musse Olol, president of Somali American Council of Oregon, said Monday that the ban is discriminatory and will further isolate Somali immigrants from American society by making them feel targeted. [AP Photo/Don Ryan, File]