From Refugee to the U.S. Senate — Ilhan Omar’s Policies — Part 2 of 3

"Ilhan Omar (49518251067).jpg" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 license
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As mentioned in part one of this series, “Who is United States Representative Ilhan Omar?-Part 1 of 3,” Illhan Omar’s story in the United States started with the Somali civil war. From refugee to the U.S. Senate: she became a refugee in the U.S. who grew up to achieve many firsts by becoming the Representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. But, it’s not her beginnings that got her into Congress, but rather her policies and actions while working in politics.

Omar’s 2020 Campaign

On Nov. 3, Minnesota reelected Omar for the U.S. House of Representatives. According to Ballotpedia, she beat her opponent, Lacy Johnson by over 150,000 votes.

The slogan for her campaign, “Send Her Back to Congress,” takes a gleeful jab at President Trump’s attacks on her Steve Karnowski, a writer for the Associated Press, said in his article, “Rep. Ilhan Omar launches reelection bid with big advantages.”

Along with her slogan, Omar’s website also includes 13 of her “visions” for what she wants to achieve. 

Larry Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota said in Karnowski’s article that “Rep. Omar is one of the most progressive-liberal members of Congress.”

Ilhan Omar smiling and waving during a pride parade in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Ilhan Omar for Congress – Twin Cities Pride Parade 2018, Minneapolis, Minnesota (28131759337).jpg” by Tony Webster is licensed under CC BY 2.0 license

Some of her visions include providing healthcare for all, re-imagining the U.S. criminal justice system and fighting for LGBTQA+ rights. They also include creating a just immigration system, promoting peace and prosperity and ensuring environmental justice and energy independence.

The Green New Deal

Part of ensuring environmental justice and energy independence for Ilhan Omar means supporting the Green New Deal. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts introduced this proposal in 2019.

The Green New Deal, according to an article in the “New York Times” by Lisa Friedman, “is a congressional resolution that lays out a grand plan for tackling climate change.” It calls on the federal government to gradually move from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy. And for the government to control and minimize greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also guarantees more high-paying jobs in industries working on clean energy.

“I personally think this is such an important piece of legislation not only for its environmental benefits but for its impacts on economic and racial justice,” Sophia Shepp a political science and environmental sociology major at Colorado State University says. “It is here to raise up society to not only solve the threats we are facing with climate change and pave the way for future generations to succeed in America.”

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey introducing the Green New Deal
GreenNewDeal Presser 020719 (26 of 85) (46105848855).jpg” by Senate Democrats is licensed under CC BY 2.0 license

From Refugee to the U.S. Senate: the Controversy

While Omar has a lot of fans in her district and around the country, she also has critics that are always looking for something to comment on. 

One such occasion was at the beginning of Omar’s first election as U.S. Representative. In 2019, Omar tweeted that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was funding support for Israel. According to an NPR article by Cody Nelson, Omar received bipartisan backlash and many accused her of anti-Semitic speech.

In another tweet following the incident, Omar apologized for the tweet. She said she was listening and learning about “the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.” But she held onto her comments regarding AIPAC’s lobbying.

A little later on, She made another comment that got her labeled as anti-Semitic. This one took place during an event at Busboys and Poets, a Washington bookstore. Nelson says many viewed what Omar said as suggesting that Jews have a “dual loyalty” to the U.S. and Israel. 

In the article, Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, says, “Accusing Jews of harboring dual loyalty has a long, violent, sordid history.”

In response to the criticism, Omar tweeted saying, “Being opposed to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and the occupation is not the same as being anti-Semitic. I am grateful to the many Jewish allies who have spoken out and said the same.”

Despite the controversy surrounding Omar about being anti-Semitic in 2019, she still won her reelection this year with 64.3 percent of the votes.

The last article of this series, “How Ilhan Omar Is Altering U.S. Politics —Part 3 Of 3” looks at the changes Omar has made since being in Congress, and her incredible journey moving from refugee to the U.S. Senate.

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