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MN legislators ask for $2 million to combat terrorist recruitment

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State Democrats are calling on the legislature for more money to help combat terrorist recruitment in Minnesota.

House DFL Leader Paul Thissen, Rep. Phyllis Kahn and Rep. Yvonne Selcer are asking for $2 million to go towards investing in community-based programs that work to keep at-risk youths from turning to terrorist groups, an email news release says.

The Twin Cities is home to the largest Somali population in the United States, according to U.S. News, and reports note dozens of young men have left the state to join extremist groups. U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger has even said Minnesota has a "terror recruiting problem."

These incidents prompted state lawmakers to set aside $250,000 to fund anti-recruitment programs last year. That money, along with the federal government and private donations, brings the total funding for Minnesota's Countering Violent Extremism program to $856,000.

But lawmakers say there aren't enough resources to "maximize the potential" of community groups like Ka Joog that work to empower youth through arts and cultural programs. (The U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota has said it would take $5 million annually to successfully fight terror recruitment in the Twin Cities, KSTP reports.)

“We know that these programs are having a positive impact in our community and we should continue that progress," Thissen said in the release. 

That's why they're asking for even more money.

“With our state’s $1 billion surplus, there is no reason we shouldn’t make a commitment to help at risk youth and to improve opportunities for them,” Selcer said in the release. “This is an opportunity for us to work together stop terrorist recruitment in our communities and lift up youth by providing them opportunities to succeed.”

A report released last week, according to MPR News, says the Department of Public Safety still hasn't awarded the $250,000 set aside by lawmakers last year, noting it is still studying the most effective ways to fight terrorist recruiting. The agency did lay out some of its options, read the report here.

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