The World Is Watching Ilhan Omar, 1st Refugee And 1st Somali-American Woman Elected To Congress

Written by Dana Sanchez

In a string of historic firsts, Ilhan Omar, 36, won her race in Minneapolis, becoming the first refugee, first Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to the House of Representatives — poetic justice given the anti-Muslim rhetoric that helped ram President Donald Trump to power in 2016.

Congratulatory tweets poured into Omar’s Twitter feed from all over the world including emotional tributes thanking her for giving hope to women and refugees.

“You have shown hope to millions of people in Africa especially refugees that you can make it nomatter what the obstacles will be.” –Abdirashid Khalif, Twitter

“Inshallah we will create a world where every woman is respected.” — Bridget Kromhout, Twitter

A policy analyst, human rights activist, coalition builder and community educator, Omar ran on a progressive agenda that included pushing for a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for all, abolishing ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) and subsidizing higher education costs for low-income students.

Born in Mogadishu and raised in Baydhabo, Somalia, Omar spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp after fleeing Somalia’s civil war. Her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12. She became a symbol of hope around the world in 2016 when she was the first Somali-American elected to state legislature.


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Omar won a seat in the 5th Congressional District, which represents Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs. She is replacing Rep. Keith Ellison, one of the highest-ranking Muslim elected officials in the U.S. Ellison won his bid to be Minnesota’s next attorney general despite facing accusations of domestic abuse from a former girlfriend. He announced in June that he would withdraw his bid for re-election to Congress.

The 5th Congressional District has not sent a Republican to Congress since 1962. Omar often speaks out against Trump’s travel ban against Muslim-majority countries, Salon reported.

Here in Minnesota, we don’t only welcome immigrants; we send them to Washington,” Omar told supporters at a victory party in Minneapolis.

Omar joins Rashida Tlaib in the House of Representatives. A Palestinian American, Tlaib won her race in Detroit, replacing outgoing Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned in 2017 amid sexual misconduct allegations.

Omar, who came to the U.S. more than 20 years ago, tweeted thanks to her volunteers and supporters for “believing in the possibility of this moment.”

In 2016, she became the first Somali-American, Muslim legislator in the U.S. when she was elected to serve in Minnesota’s House of Representatives in District 60B, according to her campaign website. She and her campaign team increased voter turnout by 37 percent.

Ilhan Omar
State Rep. Ilhan Omar takes the oath of office as the 2017 Legislature convened Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, in St. Paul, Minn. Omar is the nation’s first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)