U.S. Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn is withdrawing the welcome mat for members of at least one left-leaning group.
The first-term congressman from the First District said this week that his Minnesota office staff would no longer hold in-person meetings with members of the liberal group Indivisible.
Hagedorn came to the decision, a letter to the group states, after one of the leaders of the St. Peter and Greater Mankato Indivisible group said the visits were designed to distract staff from attending to other work
"This is disappointing, especially coming from a group that claims to be dedicated to making people's lives better," Hagedorn said in the letter.
The ban applies to all chapters of Indivisible within the First District, not just the St. Peter and Greater Mankato Indivisible group.
Pernell Meier, a leader in the Rochester chapter, said she was disappointed in the blanket ban.
Though Indivisible chapters share goals and strategies, they also operate independently of each other. The Rochester chapter had had little contact with Hagedorn's staff but was planning visits in the future.
"I find (the decision) to be offensive — the concept that constituents trying to engage with our elective office is just a waste of their time," Meier said. "He's there to represent everyone in the district — not just those who agree with him."
Yuri Hong, a leader for the St. Peter and Greater Mankato group, told Minnesota Public Radio that a handful of Indivisible members have met with Hagedorn's staff weekly to discuss issues since Hagedorn won the seat in the 2018 election.
A Hagedorn spokeswoman said the Indivisble group was afforded 20 in-person meetings, and the visits from the "very small, very vocal group" were interfering with staff's ability to perform their jobs "efficiently and effectively." That work includes dealing with issues related to veteran's benefits, immigration cases, passport issues and Social Security payments.
The group is still welcome at town hall meetings and to submit their questions and comments in writing.
Indivisible is not the only group that Hagedorn's staff have reportedly declined to meet with. Regina Mustafa, a Rochester Muslim leader, said a staff member cancelled a meeting with her in June
Mustafa said she wanted to address her concerns about Hagedorn's campaign positions on Islam and refugees. But the staff person said she would not meet with Mustafa because of her affiliation with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), an American Islamic advocacy group.
Mustafa said she is not currently affiliated with the group, but she did do contract work for the nonprofit last year.
"Once she said CAIR, I was very much aware of where she was coming from, because it's a far right-wing theory that CAIR is funded by terrorists," Mustafa said.
Hagedorn emphasized that he ran on a platform that included securing the country's borders, defending gun rights, and implementing merit-based immigration, suggesting that he wasn't likely to be swayed from those positions
Yet to Meier, the ban against her group felt "undemocratic."
"It feels like he's just cutting off the opportunity before we even made our voices heard," Meier said.