“We scratched our heads about this”

Minnesota demographers scratched their heads trying to figure out where all the Ethiopians were coming from.  This was from an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune over a year ago, but I thought it was worth mentioning.   (The July 16, 2006 article will not link).

“We scratched our heads about this,” Tom Gillaspy, the state demographer, said Friday. “It was a number that sort of stood out to us. There has been a steady, noticeable immigration from Ethiopia to Minnesota, but it’s larger this year.”


Ethiopians began coming to the United States a few decades ago to escape famine and civil war in their Horn of Africa nation. But their population in Minnesota has remained relatively small compared with groups such as the Hmong and Somalis.


The state says an estimated 7,500 Ethiopians were living in Minnesota in 2003 — the last year with complete figures — though immigrant leaders believe there are far more, perhaps as many as 20,000.


……secondary migration — in which refugees move here after first living in other states — might explain the increase. Ethiopians are coming to Minnesota for low-skilled jobs and to join their families, he said.

It shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise.   According to the 2005 ORR report to Congress (Appendix A),  Minnesota was the recipient of the 2nd highest number of Ethiopians resettled in the US (only California received more).

We’ve also previously mentioned that one of the ten major volags (voluntary agencies) resettling refugees is the Ethiopian Community Development Council, the mothership of the Los Angeles based African Community Resource Center whose director, a former refugee (refugees set up their own non-profits and bring in more refugees), was recently indicted for allegedly helping herself to federal grant money designated for refugee programs.    Not only do these volags resettle newly arrived refugees but they help facilitate family reunification and secondary migrations.  Here the African Community Center advertises for its services to help refugees bring over the family.

From Lexington, NE to Emporia, KS to Manchester, NH and Lewiston, ME

The story is the same from city to city.   The United States has resettled nearly 70,000 Somali refugees since the early 1980’s and they have in turn brought extended families and produced large families of their own, and now they are spreading out from originial resettlement cities in search of jobs and rural living.  The reports are all the same and follow the theme of this AP article of a few weeks ago from the Lincoln Journal.

He (Somali refugee) heard about Lexington, like many others, from a friend. He was attracted to the job, cheap living in a quiet town, and the chance to be surrounded by other Somalians.


Just how many African refugees have moved to Lexington and other meatpacking towns in the state and across the Midwest is unclear. But refugee resettlement officials and local immigration specialists say there has been a sharp increase.


One problem landlords faced when African refugees first began flowing into Lexington: burning wood on top of indoor stovetops to cook food.


The rapid change in towns like Lexington has been a shock to the system of services immigrants rely on, such as health care. Kutschkau said there has been a shortage of medicine for an influx of refugees who needed to be treated for tuberculosis.

We have written many posts about tuberculosis and how some cities are struggling with large numbers of immigrants who need treatment and can’t afford it.    See our “health issues” category here.

The latest news from Emporia, Kansas

Our readers around the world might be wondering if Refugee Resettlement Watch should be soon named the Emporia Refugee Watch!   However, Emporia is a very visible microcosm of the growing unrest in America about Refugee Resettlement and as such may serve to help others wondering what to do in their own cities and towns.  And, it is visible thanks to the Emporia Gazette’s on-line blog where readers can instantly react to the news.  Check out the latest article and the extensive comments here.

A common thread throughout the recent controversy in Emporia and indeed the common theme in communities where it is found that refugees have been quietly resettled is, how did this come about?  Who is promoting this? Where can we find answers?

“The city commission feels we need to have a public meeting,” Zimmerman said. “Invite all the agencies to come talk about costs involved. … I think it needs to come from the agencies that are doing the work. And we’re going to invite the people who are talking on the blogs. The city commission feels there’s a lot of legitimate concerns.”


The city, Zimmerman said, needs to have a role in finding answers to the questions raised.

Yes, you should have a large public meeting and invite all of your elected officials.   The most important ones are the federal officials because they are responsible for funding  Refugee Resettlement.  We highly recommend you invite the U.S. State Department, Asst. Secretary of State, Office of Population, Refugees and Migration, Ellen Sauerbrey.

Reform needed:    Do you know that for more than 30 years if the federal government expends money on any project that affects the quality of the human environment, the federal government must complete an environmental impact statement and hold public hearings?    I’m thinking it’s high time the Refugee Act of 1980 is amended by the insertion of a requirement for a SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACT STATEMENT  that would preceed the expenditure of federal money for Refugee Resettlement in a community.  Such an initiative would answer (in advance) all the questions that citizens everywhere are asking.