Maine and Corporate America See an “Opportunity”

“This is an opportunity for us. It might look like a challenge at the beginning, but long-term, this is an opportunity for Maine to bring these people to us when the border is closed. So we are very grateful to have these people come to us. I know it might be a challenge for this city but again we are responding as a community, as stakeholders, as corporations. It sounds like a crisis to some, but it’s an opportunity for me.”

Immigrants from Ebola-Stricken Congo

Those are the words of one Claude Rwaganje, in a recent interview with Public Radio International.  Rwaganje, a native Congolese, heads up an organization called  ProsperityME, which is active in bringing African migrants to Maine. He is also a board member of the Portland, Maine, Chamber of Commerce, which shares his enthusiasm for African migrants, whom they believe will be the solution to the state’s ageing population problem.

Rwaganje first came to prominence in 2010, when he was vocal in support of a move to allow non-citizens to vote in Maine. That effort was supported by others of his fellow African immigrants, including Abdirizak Daud, a native Somalian.  Some of Daud’s  nine children attended Portland city schools, and he told an interviewer in 2010 that that should entitle him to an electoral voice on school affairs. He explained that his being unemployed and knowing little English shouldn’t matter.  “I like the Democrats,” Daud said. “I want to vote for Democrats, but I don’t have citizenship.”

As for Claude Rwaganje, he obtained his citizenship and has since become a force in Portland affairs, including the recent push for more immigrants.  Asked by PRI, “[I}sn’t this [the wholesale influx to Africans into Portland] going to turn into a bit of a crisis? Is it sustainable to keep welcoming more and more people into Portland?”

Rwaganje:  “Portland may be overwhelmed on its own but definitely, we expect more cities to support as well. Once we send these migrants into different cities, I don’t think this is going to be a big deal for the city of Portland at all.” Portland will therefore, in Rwaganje’s mind, spread the wealth.  (Except perhaps to nearby Lewiston, which has a considerable and not altogether positive experience with African immigrants.)

With that cleared up, the interviewer threw a  final softball: “Is there anything any of the migrants have said to you that particularly moved you?”

Rwaganje:  “One thing that they said was, ‘We are glad that we have reached a safe place. We can’t go back to our home country. Here is our home country.'”

Groups like Rwaganje’s  ProsperityME and the local Chamber of Commerce are not alone in urging more and more African immigrants on Portland.  ProsperityME counts among its corporate donors the following: Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Morgan Stanley Foundation,  Toronto-Dominion Charitable Foundation, Hyatt Place Portland, LL Bean, UBS Financial Services, Wells Fargo,  Gannett Foundation, and People’s United Bank.

Another organization with similar aims is the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a group founded by Hamdi Ulukaya, a native Turk and chairman of Chobani Yogurt. The Tent Partnership sports a virtually endless list of corporate members, including Accenture, Airbnb, Barilla Pasta, Citibank, Deloitte, Expedia, Goldman Sachs, Hilton Hotels, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, IKEA, ING, Johnson & Johnson, Mastercard, Philips Electronics, Shell Oil, Starbucks, Uber, Unilever, Verizon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

These are the Big Money resources aligned against traditional Americans. No wonder things are as they are.

For more, see the World Tribune.


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