Somali and other immigrants hit by recession in Kansas City

We’ve been writing about the decline in employment for refugees all over the US as the recession progresses.   I don’t know how we are going to manage the 80,000 new refugees projected for FY09.

Here is a story from Kansas City that caught my eye.  Now immigrant-owned businesses are suffering.

On a Thursday evening, Cabdul Barrow sits in the dimly lit Somali restaurant and waits for customers.

Usually at this hour at Towfiq Restaurant in Kansas City’s Northeast area, African immigrants who work late shifts come in for a meal of goat meat and rice or just a cup of green tea.

These days, the restaurant is quiet. [Maybe they have followed the lead of their Somali brothers from Minnesota and have gone off for terrorist training in Somalia?]

“Kenyans, Sudanese, Ugandans, they all come here,” said Barrow, 42. “But there have been a lot of layoffs, and that’s why business is slow.”

In this recession, immigrant business owners and operators such as Barrow, a native of Somalia, face the challenge of expanding their customer bases beyond their communities to stay afloat.

The Northeast area — bounded by the Paseo and Interstate 435, and Gladstone Boulevard and Truman Road — has seen the bulk of the Kansas City area’s new immigrants and refugees, including families from Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Myanmar and Vietnam.

If you are wondering how do all these refugees find the capital to even start a business, you should know that the Federal government gives special loans to immigrants to start a business (here).   There are even shariah finance compliant loans to help Muslim immigrants in particular (see Jump Start here).   Hmm, have any of these loans contributed to the banking crisis?   Follow daily information on Shariah Finance at Shariah Finance blog here.

Back to my story.   Big Somali community in KC:

The city’s 5,000 or so Somalis make up one of the metropolitan area’s largest refugee populations. Businesses such as Towfiq, near the corner of Brooklyn and Lexington avenues, are the heart of the Somali community.

Who helped them get to Kansas City?

When they open their own business, most of their products are geared toward their community,” said Martin Okpareke, a refugee employment training manager at Jewish Vocational Services, which has resettled 650 refugees in the last three years, including 487 in the Northeast area.

If you read the Jump Start link above, note that it is these non-profits who administer the loans, not the federal government (we, taxpayers,  just give the money).   I don’t know if Jewish Vocational Services has any such loans, but other volags (non-profits) do.

All of this, creating these ethnic neighborhoods, is encouraged by the local Chamber of Commerce.

The effort to help immigrant- and refugee-owned businesses expand has become a priority for the Northeast Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, which envisions the Northeast area becoming an international market for Kansas City, a place where families can sample foreign foods and other products.

Now, what will the Chamber do with neighborhoods of unemployed immigrants?

By the way, we have heard through the grapevine (but have nothing in writing so far) that the Muslim Brotherhood’s US headquarters is in KC.

For new readers,  the State Department has suspended a portion of the refugee resettlement program because widespread fraud was discovered primarily among refugees from Africa.

How many Somali refugees were admitted to the US in the last 25 years?  Go here.

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