Small Town America Transformed by Somali Migrants

Paul Williams, Family Security Matters, July 16, 2010

Newly arrived Somali immigrants have transformed small towns and cities throughout the United States into tuulas (Somali villages).

The process is underway in such places as Lewiston, Maine; Shelbyville, Tennessee, St. Cloud, Minnesota, Clarkston,Georgia, and Jamestown, North Dakota.

The Jamestown Sun reports that 400 Somalis have applied for public housing in the past four months.

The Somali immigrants in Garden City, Kansas and nearby small towns have created the Somali Community Center of Southwest Kansas in order to tap into public welfare programs. Within this section of the heartland, white Christians have become the minority.

In East San Diego, the newly arrived Somalis have created a Little Mogadishu. The streets are lined with Somali stores, shops, and mosques. In the midst of this ethnic enclave stands the Iftin Charter School, where K-8 students are introduced to Arabic. 99% of the student population is Somali; Arabs constitute the remaining 1%.

The American Somalis now display the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country. They also remain the least educated. According to Andrew Liepman, the deputy director of intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center, Somali-Americans face “greater insularity compared to other, more integrated Muslim immigrant communities, [which] has aggravated the challenge of assimilation for their children.”

This problem is crystallized by the present situation is Lewiston, Maine, where African Muslims, many from the Bantu tribe, began arriving in 2001 at the rate of 100 a month.

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