The city of Portland, Maine, once the most covetous of communities regarding African immigrants, appears to be coming to the realization that in fact you can have too much of a good thing.
The city’s quest for more and more immigrants from African nations has been well documented. Now that that particular message has spread globally and more and more immigrants have begun pouring in, city officials appear to be re-thinking their policy.
This week Portland City Manager Jon Jennings set up an emergency shelter for more than 250 “asylum seekers” he had just learned were unexpectedly headed to his city. Jennings said city officials were told during a conference call that more than 700 African immigrants had just crossed the border and were en route to various destinations, including Portland.
Many migrants, especially from Africa, ask to be sent to Portland, because of the support the city has traditionally provided and because the city already has an entrenched immigrant community.
Jennings indicated that he would be asking neighboring communities to share in the bounty.
One of those neighbors is the city of Lewiston, which has had its own experiences with African immigrants. In the early 2000s, thousands of Somalis began coming to Lewiston, and were initially greeted enthusiastically by locals. It didn’t take long, however, for the bloom to fall from the rose as the consequences of this in-migration became clear. Rising crime, increased poverty, growing demand on welfare services, and a host of related problems over the years disabused most Lewistonians of their naivete.
By 2002, 18 months after the first Somali arrived, followed by more than a thousand with more on the way, the mayor at the time wrote an open letter to leaders of the Somali community asking them to slow their migration to the city. Yet still they came, and began to have children. Last year, some of those children beat to death a local white man, prompting the town to cancel “World Refugee Day” festivities on June 20.
(Those interested in learning more about Lewiston’s experience with the Somali influx can find a wealth of stories at Ann Corcoran’s website, Refugee Resettlement Watch.)
Consequently, the prospect of accepting offloaded “refugees” from Portland is less than appealing, to Lewiston citizens and officials alike. Lewiston City Administrator Ed Barrett said Thursday. “[A]t the moment, our housing market is fairly tight with few vacancies and, as you know, the city does not operate a public shelter. In addition, we do not have a community fund available like Portland does….” Lewiston Mayor Kristen Cloutier said Thursday night she had not discussed the matter with Portland officials.
Comments on social media clearly indicated the public opinion. More than 600 comments on the newspaper’s Facebook page uniformly expressed opposition to accepting any more “refugees.”
Whether Lewiston has any say in the matter is an open question. They have to be somewhere, and for some reason known only to God, they can’t be sent back.
For more, see the Lewiston Sun Journal.