Chief Author Senator Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) has responded to comments regarding his legislation. His comments are below
ST. PAUL, Minn. – A new bill put forth by Republicans and Democrats aims to spend $18 million of taxpayer money on “Somali community development.”
Republican Sens. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), Carla Nelson (R-Rochester), and Jerry Relph (R-St. Cloud) authored the bill along with Democratic Sens. Steve Cwodzinski (D-Eden Prairie) and Kari Dziedzic (D-Minneapolis).
The bill proposes creating a Somali community development pilot grant program to “identify and support community initiatives.” The grant program would set aside $18 million of taxpayer money over the next two years to go towards health care, education, housing, and economic development in Somali communities.
With Minnesota facing rising challenges from terrorist groups recruiting local Somalis, the grant program proposal is based on the speculative concern that poverty produces terrorism. However, Robert Spencer from Jihad Watch has shown several studies that debunk any connection between poverty and terrorism.
In 2010, the Economist reported that there is “little evidence that the typical terrorist is unusually poor or badly schooled.” A RAND National Defense Research Institute report arrived at a similar conclusion, writing that terrorists “tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.”
“Terrorists are not particularly impoverished, uneducated, or afflicted by mental disease,” the RAND report reads. “Demographically, their most important characteristic is normalcy (within their environment). Terrorist leaders actually tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds.”
Despite the lack of data to support the theory that more money will prevent Somalis from becoming jihadis, Minnesota legislatures still propose putting millions of taxpayer money towards Somali community development. A companion bill was also introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives, authored by Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minneapolis), Tina Liebling (D-Rochester), Duane Sauke (D-Rochester), Nels Pierson (R-Stewartville), and Tama Theis (R-St. Cloud).