Minnesota creates office for immigrant and refugee affairs led by Anisa Hajimumin

Anisa Hajimumin is the new assistant commissioner for the newly created office for immigrant and refugee affairs created by the state of Minnesota. Photo: Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has named Anisa Hajimumin as Assistant Commissioner of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Hajimumin will serve as the State’s primary specialist on immigrant and refugee affairs and will focus on assisting immigrants and refugee business owners and workers connect with resources while also analyzing their impact on the state’s economy.

“Now more than ever, we need to focus on eliminating economic disparities and historic injustices for people of color,” said Governor Tim Walz in a press release following announcement of the new office. Minnesota has one of the highest racial economic equality gaps in the nation with families of color having a disproportionate amount of wealth compared to their white counterparts.

Governor Waltz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan have the initiative of addressing these disparities under the theme One Minnesota. “One of the things that is a pillar for the theme One Minnesota is removing barriers for communities that have [been] left on the margins of our economy who have experienced significant barriers,” said Hamse Warfa.

Warfa is the Deputy Commissioner for Workforce Development for DEED making him the highest ranking African Immigrant in the State. Warfa, who has a background in consulting, non-profit organization and entrepreneurship, was appointed first as an assistant commissioner to help address disparities between whites and communities of color. A month into his position, he was promoted to the role of Deputy Commissioner in April of last year.

His first initiative was to provide immigrants an opportunity to express the obstacles they personally face when interacting with state agencies. Warfa was part of a listening tour with Governor Tim Walz that took place across the entire state of Minnesota.

The creation of the new leadership position was announced in February of this year. The position attracted nearly fifty applicants and ultimately, Anisa Hajimumin was selected and her position was announced on June 15.

“[Hajimumin] was selected based on her strong immigrant advocacy background her executive leadership experience coordinating between multilateral agencies such as the U.N., the World Bank, and as a Minister of Women Children and Family Affairs in Somalia where she was appointed as a minister from the diaspora,” Warfa said.

Hajimumin immigrated to Minnesota in 1996 and holds a Master of Public Administration from Hamline University in St. Paul and a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies with a minor in creative writing from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul.

After founding and leading two businesses focused on providing technical and strategic support to entrepreneurs from communities of color and immigrants and refugees, she returned to Somalia for the first time in 2014 where she served as the Minister of Women, Development and Family Affairs in the Puntland region until 2017.

During her ministerial service, she established a social protection framework for women and children, directed a program to prevent human trafficking, raised and distributed funds for displaced families, increased women’s political participation, oversaw the building of a center to serve people with disabilities, and drafted and facilitated passage of a bill (the first ever in Somalia) to prosecute sexual offenders.

“All that [experience] brought me to be more aware of what is happening here locally,” Hajimumin said as she discussed her new role with Mshale. Her ministerial position helped her to realize the importance of establishing closer relationships between local and state agencies to best serve individuals of immigrant and refugee backgrounds in the State.

Minnesota is home to nearly half a million immigrants and refugees that accounted for nearly 60% of the States labor force growth between the years of 2010 and 2018.

“I will be engaging with employers, educational institutions… connecting immigrants and refugees with the stakeholders, state agencies, [and] services being offered by other nonprofits and education service institutes,” Hajimumin said.

“The work that awaits me is challenging but it’s also a turnabout,” she said.

“I am just happy and feel blessed that I have a great team and supportive system that will enable me to engage with people and get things done.”

About Cynthia Simba, Mshale Reporter

Cynthia is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. She has interned at Mshale and Voice of America and previously worked at the Minnesota Daily. She recently returned from Seoul, South Korea where she was an English educator.

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