Why Donald Trump’s campaign focus on immigration could backfire in Minnesota

Click to play video 'How Trump’s anti-immigration strategy could backfire' How Trump’s anti-immigration strategy could backfire
WATCH: U.S. President Donald Trump is hoping his tough record on immigration will help him win Minnesota. But as Heather Yourex-West explains, that strategy could backfire – Oct 30, 2020

At a campaign stop in Rochester, Minn., Friday, Donald Trump repeated a promise to protect the state from refugees.

“We’re keeping radical Islamic terrorists out of our country,” he told the crowd.

It isn’t the first time he’s made refugees the focus of his campaign messaging in the state. TV ads produced to air across Minnesota focus on the issue as well.

Read more: Trump, Biden battle for Florida voters as coronavirus stays in U.S. election spotlight

“What does Biden now propose while the pandemic still smoulders around the globe? Increasing refugees by 700 per cent from some of the unstable, vulnerable, dangerous parts of the world,” a narrator’s voice says during this Donald Trump campaign ad, as the words ‘Somalia’, ‘Yemen’ and ‘Syria’ fill the screen.

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“We have a president of this country that is coming into our communities and specifically targeting us,” says 21-year-old Ekram Elmoge.

The former Somali refugee has lived in St. Cloud, Minn., for the last six years.  She is now a U.S. citizen and like thousands of other newcomers in the community, she will be voting in this election for the very first time.

“Our community is so excited to vote out Trump. If you go out to the community, people are just like, we’re done. We don’t want a divided country.”

Read more: Trump promises made, kept and broken from his 2017 inaugural address

This is how, according to St. Cloud State University professor Monica Garcia-Perez, Trump’s campaign strategy in Minnesota could backfire.

“One of the interesting things about the Somali community in Minnesota is that it has been a very vocal and active politically.”

In 2018. voters in Minnesota elected the first Somali-American, Ilhan Omar, to the United States Congress.

The Democrats won Minnesota in 2016, but not by much. Trump lost the state by only about 45,000 votes.

“In the current climate, where things are close, every voting block is a sizeable block,” said Greg King, Executive Director of FIRM, (Fillipinx for Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice Minnesota).

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The group was formed in 2017 in response to changes to federal immigration policy.

“There are people who have been waiting a decade or more to have family members come even just to visit, and at this time, family-based visas, work visas, tourist visas from the Phillipines, except in very, very specific circumstances, have all been shut down.”

King’s group has been working to support the state’s southeast Asian communities get out to vote.

“Of all the groups if you add them up, I think we’re talking five to seven percent of the electorate here in Minnesota, so it’s more than enough to swing an election.”