Abdirahman Kahin came to the United States from Africa in 1996 seeking asylum. Today, he is a successful entrepreneur and the CEO of Afro Deli, a fast, casual restaurant with two locations in Minneapolis. “We’re about to open a third location at the airport,” he says, “and we’re approaching $2 million in revenue for 2017.”
Immigrants come to the States with a lot of values, experience, assets, and ways to help the country compete globally.
Kahin, who is now a U.S. citizen, says he’s been welcomed by his local community in Minneapolis. But he admits that in the wake of the 2016 election, the atmosphere has been tense. “There’s been a setback on the progress that has been made for immigrants over the past few decades,” he says. “The finger has been pointed at us, and people are being told we’re hurting business and taking jobs. But we’re creating business, and creating jobs.” Kahin owned and operated a sit-down restaurant before launching Afro Deli, and between the two locations of Afro Deli he employs more than 35 people, about half of whom were born in America. He joins a growing class of immigrant entrepreneurs in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, which is home to 2,253 immigrant business owners, according to New American Economy research.
Kahin is hopeful that the Trump administration will adopt a more accepting and welcoming attitude toward immigrants, but he finds the administration’s rhetoric troubling. In early 2016, he was invited to attend the State of the Union address, along with other immigrants who had found great success in the country. “It was an amazing showcase of American immigrant success,” Kahin says. “Looking back at that and then looking at where we are today, it’s like, what happened?”
But Kahin knows that the topic of immigration stretches far beyond his own businesses, and he hopes that the nation will continue embracing immigrants in an effort to maintain a global advantage. “Immigrants come to the States with a lot of values, experience, assets, and ways to help the country compete globally,” he says. “We need to maintain our edge in education and especially STEM (science, technology, education, and math), and making sure that we’re educating and hiring people who can help us compete overseas. Immigrants are a vital part of that equation. We cannot lose our competitive advantage.”