Skip to main content

US: Ron DeSantis calls for Ilhan Omar's deportation over mistranslated remarks

Omar has faced backlash for comments she made in Somali at an event addressing Somali Americans in Minneapolis
US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks during a news conference calling for a ceasefire in Gaza outside US Capitol Building in Washington DC, on 13 November 2023 (AFP)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday called for the expulsion of Representative Ilhan Omar from Congress and her deportation, citing her recent comments on Somalia.

Earlier this week, Omar faced backlash for comments she made in Somali at an event addressing Somali Americans in Minneapolis. In an incorrect translation that went viral online, Omar was translated as saying: "We, as Somalians, love each other."

"There are areas of friction that led us to kill each other, but in reality, we are an organised society - brothers and sisters, people of the same blood, people who know they are Somali first and Muslim second who protect one another and come to each other’s aid and to the aid of other Muslims too," Omar was quoted as saying.

The video of the translation, which was not verified, was circulated by Rhoda Jama Elmi, Somaliland's deputy minister of foreign affairs, who criticised the congresswoman for employing "ethno-racist rhetoric" and urged her fellow legislators to pay attention to her behaviour in public.

Somaliland has been a self-governing region of Somalia for more than three decades, but its claim of independence is not recognised by Mogadishu or any foreign government.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


DeSantis, who recently dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Donald Trump, quickly went on to say, "Expel from Congress, denaturalise and deport!"

But the translation was incorrect, Omar and other Somali speakers said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. 

"It's not only slanted but completely off, but I wouldn't expect more from these propagandists. I pray for them and for their sanity,” Omar wrote on X.

Omar reposted a tweet showing what she said was the correct translation of her statements by Somali analyst, Abdirashid Hashi. 

"We Somalis are people who love each other. It is possible that some of us are rough with each other, but when the going gets tough, we are people who have each other's backs. We are sisters and brothers, supporting each other, people who know they are Somalis and Muslims, coming to each other's aid and aiding their brothers and sisters," Hashi said was the accurate translation. 

"Somalia belongs to all Somalis. Somalia is one. We are brothers and sisters, and our land will not be balkanised. Our lands were taken from us before, and God willing, we may one day seek them, but what we have now will not be balkanised."

Never-ending criticism 

The congresswoman, who is both Black and Muslim, continues to endure harassment even following the conclusion of the Trump administration.

Navigating hate and death threats: What it's like working for Ilhan Omar
Read More »

In January 2019, Omar made history as the first Somali-American congresswoman in US history and was among the first two Muslim women to take the oath of office as a member of Congress.

Upon her entry into Congress, she quickly became known for her sharp critique of US military actions and various facets of American foreign policy.

She has faced continuous criticism from conservative pundits, Republican figures, and even some within her own Democratic Party.

Every action she takes is closely examined. Conservative media outlets frequently misrepresent her comments.

Last year, Middle East Eye spoke to several of Omar's aides who said that the representative had received thousands of threats since entering office in 2019. 

"Somalis in Somalia and in the diaspora are united in that effort and I stand in solidarity with them. No amount of harassment and lies will ever change that," Omar wrote on X. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.