August 6, 2016

NEW ENGLAND NEEDS THEM MOST:

Somalis in Maine strike back after Trump's comments at rally : Somali residents of Maine say Donald Trump's characterization of their community as dangerous is unfair and could undo years of work to integrate into the country's whitest state (AP, Aug. 5, 2016)

Somalis began coming to Maine in the 1990s as part of a refugee resettlement effort in Portland. A housing shortage caused some to look to Lewiston, a former mill town 35 miles to the north, where apartments were cheaper.

Integration was not without challenges. Laurier Raymond, then Lewiston's mayor, told Somalis to stop relocating to the city in 2002 because of what he called a strain on social services. A few years later, someone rolled a frozen pig's head into a mosque, drawing widespread condemnation from the community and eventually criminal charges.

These days, Somalis and immigrants from other African communities attend public schools and run local businesses.

Portland school Superintendent Xavier Botana called the district's Somali students "a shining example" of the strength of diversity. It's common in both cities to see hijab-clad mothers shepherding children around playgrounds, something no one would have fathomed decades ago in the state that still has the lowest percentage of nonwhites in the U.S.

Other Somali communities have grown in places such as Minnesota and Columbus, Ohio.

Young men in Minnesota's Somali community have been targeted by terror recruiters in recent years, and three Somali men who were accused of plotting to go to Syria to join the Islamic State group were convicted in June of conspiracy. There have been no such arrests in Maine.

Rick Bennett, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party, said he did not think Trump's comments in Portland were a declarative statement that Maine's Somalis are dangerous. He added that the growth of Maine's Somali community is "an example of legal immigration working."



MORE:
Rain in a Dry Land (PBS: June 19, 2007)

Posted by at August 6, 2016 6:58 AM

  

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