Newsweek: Somalis save Lewiston, ME by bringing population growth

Update Jan. 24th:   Thanks to Mars for sending this update.  I knew it couldn’t be true and now comes an article from the local paper about the disappointment the residents feel about the very incomplete  picture Newsweek has painted of the town.  Will post more in a little while.  Here is my post.

Update Jan. 21st:   AP is reporting some of the real truth, employment is over 50% for Somalis in Lewiston, ME area.

Update Jan. 18th:   Recent report says immigrants cost the economy more than they add, so how can Lewiston now be booming?

Everyone has heard the horror stories about the Somalis who found Lewiston, ME about eight years ago and came en masse.  The mayor at the time wrote a letter to Somali leaders asking them please to not encourage more refugees to come to Lewiston and that caused a firestorm of criticism.   The local folks were called racists by the big city folks reading the big city papers.  Here is an article from VDARE at the time.

Now Newsweek tells us Lewiston has become a boom town thanks to the immigrants.

That was before a family of Somali refugees discovered Lewiston in 2001 and began spreading the word to immigrant friends and relatives that housing was cheap and it looked like a good place to build new lives and raise children in peace. Since then, the place has been transformed. Per capita income has soared, and crime rates have dropped. In 2004, Inc. magazine named Lewiston one of the best places to do business in America, and in 2007, it was named an “All-America City” by the National Civic League, the first time any town in Maine had received that honor in roughly 40 years. “No one could have dreamed this,” says Chip Morrison, the local Chamber of Commerce president. “Not even me, and I’m an optimist.”

Africans continue to arrive.

….. the Somalis kept coming, followed by Sudanese, Congolese and other Africans. By some estimates, 4,000 new immigrants have moved to Lewiston since 2001, and dozens are still arriving every month.

But, Newsweek never really tells you what is making the economy boom.  There is still no major industry.  Certainly a few African shops  and restaurants aren’t going to fuel the whole economy.   All I can figure is that it is a government based economy.  By that I mean, government grants and special loan programs for refugees help open shops.  Language teachers are needed and are hired with federal grants.  Refugees receive food stamps and other types of welfare and get special treatment from lending institutions to purchase homes (where have I heard that before?). 

Newsweek might have more fairly balanced this article with quotes from a few critics.   Surely there are even some environmental types in Maine who do not buy the  ‘expand the population formula’ for economic growth.

“Increasingly, there’s an acceptance that immigration is associated with good economic growth,” says urban-studies specialist Richard Florida, director of the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. “How is Maine going to grow? It’s a big state with a sparse population. One of the ways to grow quickly is import people.”

To top off the joy the economic boom has brought to Lewiston,  the refugees have brought that most cherished of all community attributes—cultural diversity.

Cultural diversity was the missing piece.” The question is whether the rest of Maine—and other states like it—can find their own missing pieces.

Hey, states that have tiny or non-existent immigrant populations such as Montana, Wyoming, and West Virginia, eat your hearts out!

Endnote:  I just searched our archives for Somalis in Lewiston stories and there are some unhappy locals there still.    Here is one in particular.   Amazing how that Newsweek reporter found no one with a differing opinion.  The stories coming from Lewiston are so diametrically opposed that it makes me wonder what the real truth could be.

Having fun at

I know I mentioned this wonderful government resource some time back, but I don’t think it was completely finished at the time (I’m not sure its completely finished yet).  In any case there is lots more information available now and I can barely drag myself away from it—-it is so much fun!

I started by looking up some of the Top Ten Volags ( non-profit federal refugee resettlement contractors) to see what they got from the taxpayers in 2008.   I went to this page “assistance” (that means grants rather than contracts) and just filled in the name of the organization.  You will see you have all sorts of differant ways to look up how much money the federal government is giving away.

I found out that in 2008 the following members of the Top Ten got some Big Bucks:

Ethiopian Community Development Council   $5,531,290

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society  $16,648,877

World Relief (Evangelical organization)  $18,745,431

Church World Service  $19,234,460

International Rescue Committee  $64,830,191

And the champion is!   Not able to find US Conference of Catholic Bishops I searched for Catholic Charities.

Catholic Charities  $85,402,886  

Call in the ACLU!

Then check out this page for how much the State Department sent last year to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees—almost a half a BILLION dollars.   Also, see that we supplied the special refugee agency that is funding generations of refugees in Gaza, UNRWA, $188,012,600 for 2008 alone!

And remember that Somali Center of Nashville that got in legal trouble awhile back over misappropriated federal grant monies, well they got another $150,000 in 2008.

Watching the Rohingya story metastasize

The story about the Rohingya Muslim boatmen attempting to get into Thailand (or accidentally ending up there trying to get to Malaysia) is growing.   Once CNN reported the supposed “whipping” on the beach story yesterday, like sharks, the media is all over this.    I used to see  a couple of stories on Rohingya a few times a week, today there were over ten.

If you are reading this and thinking, well what do illegal aliens in Thailand have to do with me, think again.   Whether wholly true or not this story will be used by human rights groups to demand more resettlement of Rohingya to Europe, the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

It is true that the military junta in Buddhist Burma (Myanmar) where these men originated is into ethnic and religious nationalism.   They don’t want all the minorities they have.  We have been resettling the Christian Burmese (mostly Karen) by the thousands and some Muslims too.  Officially we are not taking the Rohingya and I guess this is because they have been linked to Islamist groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda.   However, Rohingya are being resettled in the west, most recently the UK and Canada.

If you are new to this issue, check out the first post I wrote on Rohingya (exactly a year ago) here and also check out our whole category on the subject.  There are lots of posts there about Rohingya moving into countries throughout southeast Asia.

This latest move—Rohingya boatmen going to Thailand either on purpose or by accident has now gotten the attention of the western press.  Reports vary (and that is the problem!) about whether the Thai army is sending Rohingya back to sea without paddles.

At least the BBC has addressed (but poo-pooed) the issue of whether the Rohingya have come to join the Islamic insurgency in Southern Thailand, and that is more than CNN did.

They (unnamed officials) explained that Rohingyas are seen as a greater security threat than the tens of thousands of other illegal migrants, because they are Muslim, because they tend to arrive in large numbers at one time, and because they are almost (Edit:  I have seen no account of any women at all) exclusively men.

Immigration officials told us there is no evidence to support the allegation made by some in the military that Rohingyas have gone to Thailand’s deep south to join the Islamic insurgency there.

The officials have told us that while most of the Rohingya want to go to Malaysia – where there is already a community 20,000 strong and the prospect of well-paid jobs – increasing numbers are staying in Thailand. The official figure last year was 4,886, and the unofficial figure may be much higher.

The case of the four drowned Rohingya.

I have three accounts of the alleged case of four drowned Rohingya just to show how the incident is reported variously by the media, and why it is hard to know what to believe.

From the Straits Times of Singapore:

Rights activists say one of the boats pushed back out to sea later capsized, killing at least four refugees and leaving another 300 missing.

From Short-News in Germany:

In one case 4 people were drowned to encourage over 400 others to board a drifting barge. Several were later rescued, but 300 are missing after trying to swim to shore. Other times the navy will confiscate engines leaving refugees to drift at sea.

From the BBC:

On 18 December one group of just over 400 was put on a navy boat, which was towing a barge behind it, says Chris Lewa from the Arakan Project.

Their hands were tied. Once out at sea they were ordered to move onto the barge at gunpoint. They refused. The Thai troops then tied the feet of four of them and threw them overboard.

Apparently the same incident!   Pick the version that suits you best!