U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison (DFL-MN) recently returned from a humanitarian trip to eastern Africa. The 5th District representative visited Mogadishu, Somalia and Nairobi, Kenya last week to discuss the status of Somali refugees in the region as well as U.S. remittances.
Ellison was the first member of Congress to visit Somalia in nearly three years, on the heels of the U.S. government recognizing the Somali government earlier this year.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, leaders of the new Somali government, the Mayor of Mogadishu, the Somali Chamber of Commerce, the director of the American Refugee Committee and several Somali-Americans from Minneapolis met with Ellison in Mogadishu.
From there, Ellison traveled to Kenya to visit the new Nairobi project of the Center for Victims of Torture. CVT's work is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Populations, Refugees and Migration.
Ellison was also updated on the Dadaad refugee complex in northeast Kenya, which houses more than 380,000 refugees—most of whom are Somali.
"Many Minnesotans have family members who live in refugee camps in Kenya,” Ellison said in a statement. “The United States must work with the Kenyan government and international aid organizations to improve living conditions in Kenya’s refugee camps. We have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable among us, especially those forced to flee their home countries because of violence, persecution or natural disasters.”
He also met with U.S. Special Representative to Somalia James Swan and U.S Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec.
Ellison Talks Budget Cuts, Sequester with WCCO
With the March 1 deadline looming for Congress to reach some sort of compromise deal to substantial budget cuts, Keith Ellison paid a visit to WCCO's Sunday Morning Show to discuss the budget issues with Esme Murphy.
The $85 billion in across-the-board cuts to federal spending, often referred to as "the sequester," will begin to kick in Friday, unless some sort of deal is made. Ellison said there's a substantial chance it could happen, but said it's not a guarantee "given that at multiple points along my congressional career we got up to the 11th-hour and come up with some kind of deal."
Ellison said constituents don't necessarily want their representatives giving in to the other side simply to avoid budget crises, but said the series of "manufactured crises"—the debt ceiling, the sequester, the expiration of tax cuts and the the continuing resolution in a few weeks—aren't necessary, either.
"They create uncertainty, they create job losses, they diminish our growth—which we need to literally pay down the deficit—so it's awful policy and I hope Americans of all stripes demand that it come to an end," Ellison said. "But I hope they also understand that we can't just capitulate or a lot of people will suffer."