Somali Immigrant Settlement in SmallMidwestern Communities:The Case of Barron, Wis. Jessica Schaid and Dr. Zoltan Grossman (Assistant Professor of Geography) University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Somali RefugeesAfter civil war broke out inSomalia in 1991, 800,000refugees fled. 450,000+were in refugee camps by2000 (mainly in Kenya)At least 29,000 wereresettled in the U.S. (with thelargest group to Minnesota),followed by family members. KENYA
Somali Resettlement Minneapolis-St. Paul has become a de facto “capital” of Somalis in North America, with an community estimated at tens of thousandsSomalis have been drawnby the Twin Cities’ jobmarket, schools, serviceagencies for refugees(Half of recent MN immigrantsare refugees.)
Urban-to-Rural Migration Somali refugees have recently settled in smaller communities around the Twin Cities. Some move directly from elsewhere in U.S. Immigration Hinterland: Rural ethnic mix resembling Twin Cities (Mexicans, Hmong, Somalis, etc.)
Southern WesternMinnesota WisconsinRochester BarronSt. Cloud Hudson (briefly)Owatonna Others in the future…? Waseca Marshall Faribault Somali soccer team in St Mankato Cloud, Minn.
“Push Factors” from Twin Cities Growing competition for unskilled jobs Need English, driver’s license Some factory jobs moving to rural areas Crime rate
“Pull Factors” to smaller towns Job opportunities in meatpacking industry & other plants, due to labor shortage Jobs do not need high level of skills, English proficiency Less crime; quieter; Can walk to work/school
Intervening Obstacles: Visible MinorityLike other recentimmigrants in ruralareas (Latinos),Somalis have facedcultural conflicts.Somalis face greaterconflicts due to theirrace and Muslimreligious identity.
Intervening Obstacle:Negative Media Images The cultural and religious gap has been widened by movies, such as Black Hawk Down, that do not realistically represent Somalis. Minnesota Somalis faced intensified government scrutiny and public suspicions after 9/11.
Conflicts over Somali ImmigrationIn 2002, the Mayor ofLewiston (Maine) andwhite supremacist groupsasked Somalis to stopsettling in the city. Lewiston, MaineIn Jan. 2003, a crowd of4,000 rallied to supportthe Somalis.
Conflicts over Somali Immigration Several acts of racist grafitti and arson in St. Cloud, Minn., were aimed at Somali businesses in 2002. The community has been working with the St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization (SASSO) to build understanding.
Somalis in Barron, Wis. 13% of total population of 3,000, working at meatpacking plant facing labor shortage Immigrant workers offset loss of population, tax base Strengthening of Somali cultural unity
“Pull Factors” to Barron “Turkey Capital” of Wisconsin Jennie-O Turkey Store employment Lower standards than Minnesota for driving &Jennie-O Turkey high school graduationStore in Barron, (incl. older students)where about 350Somalis work
Intervening Obstacles:Uncooperative institutions No mosque building available No Somali foods in grocery stores No invitations to weekend community festivals
Invisibility of “Visible Minority” Somalis cannot stay in Barron on weekends Go to Twin Cities to visit, shop, and worship Lack of social interaction with Americans in Barron
Intervening Obstacle: Housing Housing shortage in Barron for Somalis Most Somalis live in one apartment bloc Some commuting from nearby Cameron, Rice Lake, Menomonie, etc. (secondary diffusion)
Intervening Obstacle:Tensions in high school Students’ lack of awareness of Somali culture Resentment of head covering, “privileges” Fights in Fall 2001 Somali flag desecration incident
Conflict resolution in high school Superintendent Monti Hallberg lived in Muslim countries School records from Kenyan refugee camps School staff training/ cultural day Multiethnic soccer team
Responses:Preparing community agencies Local governments, State/federal agencies, Schools, Businesses, Health clinics, Churches, Legal aid, Law enforcement
International Center Responses: in Barron (Catholic Herald). Herald).Educating SomalisEnable Somalis to adapt.International Center Teaching immigrants:(Workforce Resource)Somali & American staff English skills Computer skills Job skills Cultural skills Driving skills
Shortcoming:Outreach to Americans Barron relying on public forums and discussions that draw mainly enlightened residents. Does not challenge Americans’ preconceptions.
Wisconsin students’ Images of Somalia OtherSurvey atUWEC Famine Poverty Violence/ Desert/ war heat Poverty and Not images of Famine images violence & war
Wisconsin Students’ Image Sources Other Surveyat UWEC Childrens’ Fund ads News/ Black Media Hawk Down School
Recommendations: Proactive education of AmericansDevelop programs/ Teach Americans on:materials, educationalcurriculum Somali culture, Somali history,Go into schools, clubs Islamic values,in new communities Immigration patterns, Easing the transition
Goals of ResearchTo examine the push-and-pull factors thatinfluence the migration of Somali refugeesto small Midwestern communities.To examine how factors such as age,regional origin, gender, Englishproficiency, etc., have influenced Somalimigration to and within the Midwest.
Goals of Research (cont.)To compare and contrast the experiencesof Somali refugees in larger cities andsmaller communities.To issue recommendations to ruralcommunities and schools anticipating newSomali residents.
Methods of ResearchJournal and newspaper articles.Interviews with Somali group leaders,other Somali immigrants, and localAmerican leaders and residents. Nasra Xashi (International Center) and Jessica Schaid (UWEC)
Methods of Research (cont.)A bilingual questionnaire for Somali residents,asking about their experiences in migratingto small Minnesota or Wisconsin communities.Additional materials supplied by localcommunities and agencies, includingsurvey of mayors & school superintendents
Presentation of ResearchThe research will be presented in a paperthat will be submitted to academic journalsfor publication.The research will also be presented at theStudent Research Day at U.W.-Eau Claireand at national and/or internationalconferences.
This project is made possiblewith funding by the UWEC Center of Excellencefor Faculty/Student Research CollaborationProposal and bibiliography atwww.uwec.edu/grossmzc/somali.htmlThis PowerPoint at www.uwec.edu/grossmzc/Somalis.pptJessica Schaid, student email@example.com 715-838-1237Dr. Zoltán Grossman,Assistant Professor of Geographygrossmzc@uwec.edu 715-836-4471www.uwec.edu/grossmzc
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