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African Immigrants to the Rescue?

by Nelima

This is a rare immigration story.  As the economy worsens, immigrants are increasingly seen as a burden and competition for welfare resources, but this story in Newsweek gave a much needed fresh angle of the impact of immigrants on the American economy. Here are some excerpts, but make sure you read the full article.

Barely a decade ago, LewistonMaine, was dying. The once bustling mill town’s population had been shrinking since the 1970s; most jobs had vanished long before, and residents (those who hadn’t already fled) called the decaying center of town “the combat zone.” 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.

But 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. 

Contributions range from commerce;

The center of town still has pawnbrokers and bars, but now there are also shops with names like Mogadishu and Baracka, with signs advertising halal foods and selling headscarves and prepaid African phone cards.

” Retailers sell clothes and spices imported from Africa; other entrepreneurs have launched restaurants and small businesses providing translation services, in-home care for the elderly and other social services. There’s even a business consultant. “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.

To importation for education and work;

Although University of Maine enrollment has dropped systemwide since 2002, the student population at its Lewiston campus jumped 16 percent between 2002 and 2007. And Andover College, which opened a campus in Lewiston in 2004, had to start expanding almost immediately to accommodate a boom in applications. Enrollment doubled in two years. The reason? “Young people didn’t want to go to a place that’s all white,” says Morrison. Practically everyone in Lewiston credits the Somalis’ discovery of their town with much of its newfound success. “It’s been an absolute blessing in many ways,” says Badeau. “Just to have an infusion of diversity, an infusion of culture and of youth. 

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One thought on “African Immigrants to the Rescue?

  1. Great story about African Immigrants. Judging from the comments following the article, it seems like some of the American residents of the area to do not agree with the ‘fresh angle’ presented by the author.

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