A Somali-American refugee activist and community leader who is running for Boston City Council says she has received huge support from the public since she announced her candidacy two weeks ago.
If elected to represent the Roxbury district of Boston during municipal elections later this year, Deeqo Jibril will be the first Muslim immigrant to win an office in the city.
Jibril’s announcement to stand for election came five days after U.S. President Donald Trump issued an executive order temporarily banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia. The order has since been blocked by U.S. courts.
Jibril said she has received huge public support and donations from the community after making the announcement to run for a seat vacated by a council member who is running for Boston mayor.
“A lot of people reached out to me because they want to get involved,” she told VOA’s Somali service. “They are disappointed (by) what is going on at the national level, and the response I’m getting is positive and the people are saying it’s time you represent us.”
Asked if the crisis from the suspended travel ban affected the support she received, Jibril said the response from the public has been positive.
“So far it has been helping me because the media wants to know who is this former refugee, a Muslim candidate for the city of Boston?” she told VOA Somali.
Jibril said some people have offered to volunteer, while others have donated $1,100 to her campaign.
“People donated to me right away. I have one donation that came from New York City, a guy who wanted to donate to my campaign, who thinks it’s the right moment,” she said.
“Regardless the amount, it means a lot to me, that a person takes the time to donate and believes in my mission and my campaign, so I’m going to send each one who donated a thank you card,” she added.
Jibril arrived in Boston in July 1991 when she was 12 years old. She fled the 7-month-old civil war in Somalia, which eventually led to state collapse. Jibril said she lost relatives in the war.
Since arriving in Boston, she has been active in the community, advocating for the refugees, working with local enforcement agencies and attending conferences on community relations. In February 2015, she attended the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism in Washington, D.C., representing Boston communities. She was seated next to former Vice President Joe Biden.
Bridge for communities
She sees a need for more affordable housing in the city, and sees her campaign as a bridge between the various communities in Boston.
“I am a bridger, I bridge between the law enforcement and the Muslim community,” Jibril said. “I’m running to unify the whole district, whether they are immigrants, whether they have been here for generations. At the end of the day, Boston is one community.”
Jibril, who is running as a Democrat, hopes to have broad appeal to different communities.
Jibril said the president’s executive order limiting immigration and banning refugees is un-American.
“It’s not what we believe or what our value is. This time I think people would be more engaged to get to know what is going on, and how immigrants are part of the American fabric. This great nation was built by immigrants like myself,” she said.
“I got the chance to come to Boston in 1991, and I think everybody should get the chance to come to the United States regardless of what city they choose to,” she added.
Trump said he issued the travel ban for the security of the United States. After a federal court blocked key parts of Trump’s travel ban, the president said he would issue a new executive order next week.
While campaigning for president last year, Trump made several disparaging remarks about Somalians in the United States, especially in Minnesota, which has a large Somali community. In the days before the November election, he said Minnesota had “suffered enough” for taking in thousands of immigrants, who had been a “disaster” for the state.
The Somali community in the state, however, celebrated when the first Somali-American woman, Ilhan Omar, was elected to the state’s House of Representatives in the fall election.