ZOLTÁN GROSSMAN

Faculty member in Geography

and Native American Studies,

The Evergreen State College

Lab 1, Room 3012,

2700 Evergreen Parkway, NW

Olympia, WA 98505 USA

grossmaz@evergreen.edu

Office (360) 867-6153

 
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SOMALI IMMIGRANT SETLEMENT IN SMALL
MINNESOTA AND WISCONSIN COMMUNITIES

Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates,

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Summer 2003

 

Jessica Schaid and Dr. Zoltan Grossman

(With funding from the UWEC Center of Excellence

for Faculty/Student Research Collaboration)

 

Preliminary findings:

POWERPOINT

POSTER

PAPER

"Somali Immigrant Settlement in Small Midwestern U.S. Communities: The Case of Barron, Wis.," was published as a chapter in From Mogadishu to Dixon: The Somali Diaspora in a Global Context, Abdi Kusow and Stephanie Bjørk, eds. (Lawrenceville, N.J.: Africa World Press/The Red Sea Press, 2007).
 
ABSTRACT

Thousands of Somali refugees have settled in the Twin Cities since Somalia's civil war erupted in 1991. Minneapolis-St. Paul has become the de facto "capital" of the Somali community in North America. Somalis have arrived directly from refugee camps, or in secondary migrations from other U.S. cities, drawn by an attractive urban job market and refugee service agencies. More recently, many Twin Cities Somalis have begun to settle in smaller cities and towns around southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, in a classic case of hierarchical diffusion of an immigrant community. They have been drawn by meat processing plants (and other industries that do not require advanced English language skills) in small Minnesota cities such as Rochester, Saint Cloud, Owatonna, and Marshall, and the Wisconsin towns of Barron and Hudson. Much like Mexican and Central American meatpackers before them, Somalis have faced racism and cultural gaps in previously monoethnic rural towns. However, these gap are exacerbated by religious differences, and a negative focus on Somali Muslim immigrants after the release of "Black Hawk Down" and September 11. The study will use datasets and interviews to trace the migrations of refugees from Somalia to the rural Midwest, and contrast their experiences to urban Somali immigrants. It will also compare the policies of rural communities toward Somalis, and examine how class, gender, age and clan differences among Somalis affected their urban-to-rural migration.
 
PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Thousands of Somali refugees have settled in the Twin Cities since Somalia's civil war erupted in 1991. Minneapolis-St. Paul has become the de facto "capital" of the Somali community in North America. Somalis have arrived directly from Kenyan refugee camps, or in secondary migrations from other U.S. cities, drawn by an attractive urban job market and refugee service agencies (Leslie 2002). More recently, many Twin Cities Somalis have begun to settle in smaller cities and rural towns around southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, in a classic case of hierarchical spatial diffusion of an immigrant community.

Somalis have been drawn by meat processing plants, and other industries that do not require advanced English language skills, to small Minnesota cities such as Rochester, Saint Cloud, Faribault (Demko 2003), Owatonna, Waseca, and Marshall, and the Wisconsin towns of Barron and Hudson. The project will study Somali refugee migration from large cities to rural areas in the framework of the classic "push-and- pull" model of migration.

Much scholarly research has been conducted into the situation of Mexican and Central American meatpackers in Iowa, and the problems they have faced in previously monoethnic rural Midwestern towns (Grey 1999, Stanley 1992). A similar situation was also documented in the Wisconsin village of Norwalk, near Sparta (Martinez 1998). Somalis have faced similar racism and cultural gaps in rural areas, but these are exacerbated by a religious gap and global events.

The study will focus narrowly on the rural Somali communities because there has already been a large amount of research about Somali immigrants in the Twin Cities (Wilder Research Center 2000). The study will use some datasets to document the distribution of Somalis in the two states. Recently released U.S. Census data has proven to be extremely controversial, as it vastly underestimates the numbers of Somalis and other Minnesota refugees (Peterson 2001). Other data are available from school counts of students whose primary language is not English (Grumney 2002), from social service agencies and religious organizations, and from workforce development agencies (Kurtz 2002). Somali organizations estimate their Minnesota population at around 50,000 (Voth 2001).

SIGNIFICANCE

The issue of Somali migration to small U.S. communities has become a growing concern around the country. The mayor of Lewiston, Maine, recently criticized an influx of Somali refugees, and was quickly echoed by a white supremacist group (Belluck 2002). On January 11, 2003, a rally of 4,000 people turned out in Lewiston to support the Somalis (Kim 2003). In Minnesota, a negative focus on Somali Muslim immigrants has grown since 2001, marked by the release of "Black Hawk Down" (boycotted by the Somali community), and post-September 11 FBI raids of Somali-owned service businesses that local Somalis use to wire money home (Losure 2001). These incidents inflamed public suspicions of Somali immigrants as somehow linked to terrorism, just at a time when they were moving into smaller communities that strongly exhibited a sense of patriotism. Some Somali-Americans initially feared a repeat of the hostility exhibited toward Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. A series of racist incidents against St. Cloud Somalis in late 2002 heightened their feelings of insecurity (Associated Press 2002, Furst 2002).

Among of the goals of this research project are to document how Somalis have been faring in rural parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, and to gesture toward possible solutions to interethnic tensions, possibly in the form of future policy recommendations. The research project will examine questions such as: What is it like to be a Somali refugee in Wisconsin and Minnesota, and how does their experience and migration patterns compare to those of other recent immigrants ? What are the similarities and differences in the life experiences of Somali refugees in the Twin Cities, and the experiences of refugees in rural communities? What are these different towns doing to make Somalis feel welcome or unwelcome? Assuming that Somalis will continue to settle in other rural communities, how can local governments and organizations prevent tensions from arising there?

OBJECTIVES

1. To provide a research experience/project for an undergraduate student.

2. To document the urban-to-rural migration of Somali refugees in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

3. To conduct ethnographic interviews and interpret their findings.

4. To allow the undergraduate researcher to establish links with community leaders and local governments.

5. To give the undergraduate researcher experience in comparative work-by comparing urban and rural immigrant communities, the experiences of different immigrant and refugee groups, and the policies of different communities toward immigrants.

6. To enable the undergraduate researcher to connect "local" ethnic relations issues to "global" political developments.

7. To expose the undergraduate researcher to complex internal divisions within a seemingly monolithic immigrant group and within communities of U.S.-born citizens.

8. To assess policy options and possibly issue policy recommendations.

9. To develop new research questions and sites for future work.


METHODOLOGY

The primary methodology will be a series of ethnographic interviews, which use face-to-face questions and written questionnaires, in order to:

1. Trace the migrations of refugees from Somalia to U.S. cities and to rural Midwest towns, in terms of "push-pull" factors, and the new opportunities they encounter.

2. Compare the experiences and status of rural Somali immigrants to urban Somali immigrants.

3. Compare and contrast the policies of different rural communities toward Somalis and other recent immigrants.

4. Examine how economic and industrial shifts shaped the urban-to-rural migration.

5. Examine how class, gender, geographical, age and clan differences among Somalis affected their urban-to-rural migration, and were affected by the new rural setting.

 

STUDENT INVOLVEMENT

Jessica Schaid, a former student in Professor Grossman's Human Geography class, previously worked as a volunteer at a refugee service agency in her hometown of Rochester, Minnesota. She developed friends in the growing Somali community, and among longtime residents who work with Somali refugees. Senator Feingold's recent Human Rights Day speech at UWEC inspired her to carry these experiences forward into refugee advocacy and scholarly study. She will take the lead in collecting data for the research project in Spring 2003, in an Independent Study with Professor Grossman. In Summer 2003, she will take the lead in conducting interviews, and will later present the project's findings at conferences. Professor Grossman will help to shape and guide the project, and acquire research resources. The research article will be co-authored. Schaid will contact the following organizations, for contacts, data, and interviews:

Diversity Council, Barron, WI.

International Center, Barron County Office Complex, Barron WI.

Workforce Resource, Menomonie, WI

St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization (SASSO), St. Cloud, MN.

Somali Justice Advocacy Center, St. Paul, MN.

Somali Community of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN.

East African Community Development Center, Minneapolis MN.

Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, Minneapolis MN.

Somali Community Service Coalition, Minneapolis, MN.

Somali Society Services, Minneapolis, MN.

Center for Victims of Torture, 717 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455

American Refugee Committee, 2344 Nicollet Ave. S. Suite 350, Minneapolis, MN, 55404

Boys and Girls Club of America, Rochester, MN (Provides tutoring services for Somali children)

Carol Lloyd, Rochester, MN (Tutors Somali children in English)

New Comers Center, Mayo High School, Rochester, MN, 55902

South-Eastern Minnesota Multi-Cultural Center, Rochester, MN

Center for New Community, Oak Park, IL (tracks Midwest white supremacist activity)

 

FACULTY INVOLVEMENT

Dr. Zoltan Grossman is an assistant professor of geography, whose research areas include global interethnic relations, U.S. racial relations, American Indian studies, and international geopolitics and globalization. He earned his Ph.D. in geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2002, supported by fellowships from the Udall Foundation and U.W. Foundation. Dr. Grossman has written and spoken extensively on interethnic conflict and cooperation in the U.S. and around the world (including on Somalia's civil war). His doctoral dissertation, "Unlikely Alliances: Treaty Conflicts and Environmental Cooperation Between Native American and Rural White Communities," studied alliances of tribes and local farmers, ranchers, and fishers in the western and midwestern U.S. in the 1970s to the present. Much of the study examined harassment and violence against Native Americans in rural northern Wisconsin. He has been active in tracking anti-Indian, anti-immigrant, and white supremacist activity in the Upper Midwest, as well as community responses to this activity. Dr. Grossman has been a professional cartographer and map editor for 15 years, working on mapping projects such as Africa on File (Facts on File, 1995). He was chief editor of Wisconsin's Past and Present: A Historical Atlas (U.W. Press, 1998), and Mapping Wisconsin History (State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2000), by the Wisconsin Cartographers' Guild. He is currently teaching Human Geography, International Environmental Problems and Policy, and The Geography of Russia and Eastern Europe.

 

ANTICIPATED RESULTS

The findings of the research article may include policy recommendations to local and county governments in Wisconsin and Minnesota, on how best to deal with a future influx of Somali immigrants into their communities. It is very possible that if these governments, or state agencies, seek to implement these recommendations, they would request assistance to develop new policies. The goal would be to act proactively in preventing tensions like those that have surfaced in Lewiston and St. Cloud, by easing Somalis into new rural settings, and educating rural residents about Somali culture. This policy development and educational curriculum work could provide avenues of further support.

 

PLANS FOR DISSEMINATING RESULTS

1. Oral presentations at regional, national and/or international conferences.

2. Submissions of articles to peer-reviewed journals.

3. Presentations at communities where projects are conducted, as requested

4. Presentations at other institutions, as requested.

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

*Associated Press. "Somalis Flock To St. Cloud, Turn Cheeks To Racism." (Dec 2, 2002).

*Associated Press. "St. Cloud police investigating two more racial incidents." (Dec. 17, 2002).

*Belluck, Pam."Mixed Welcome as Somalis Settle in a Maine City."New York Times (10/15/02)

*Black, Eric. "Profile: Omar Jamal, director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Jan. 6, 2003).

*Black, Eric, and Lourdes Medrano Leslie. " What does an ousted prime minister do? Why, teach at the U, of course." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Aug. 3, 2002).

*Bloch A. "Refugee settlement in Britain: The impact of policy on participation." Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 26, no.1 (2000) pp. 75-88.

*Brown, Curt. 2003. "Somali advocate charged with immigration violations." Minneapolis Star Tribune (April 1).

*Chaichian M.A. "First generation Iranian immigrants and the question of cultural identity: the case of Iowa." International Migration Review 31, no.3 (1997) p. 612-627.

*Cook, Bill. "One week on the evisceration line." City Pages (Nov. 26, 1997).

*Demko, Paul. 2003. "The Lost Tribes of Faribault: Latinos, Somalis, and the American Dream in Souther Minnesota." City Pages (Oct. 8).

*Economic Summit II Report -- St. Croix Valley Region (Nov. 15, 2001), p. 7.

http://www.wisconsin.edu/summit/archive/2001/papers/stcroix.pdf

*Emerson, Julian, 2003. "Cultures collide: Somalis adjust to Barron way of life." Eau Claire Leader-Telegram (March 30).

*Fawzi, El-Solh C. "Be true to your culture: gender tensions among Somali Muslims in Britain," Immigrants and Minorities 12, no.1 (1993) p.21-46.

* Fedgazette (Newsletter of Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)"Bring us your tired, huddled masses (we've got job openings)" and "Faces of Change" in , September 2004 (articles quote Dr. Grossman).

*Frandsen, Kim, Jennifer Miller, and Janelle Nelson. "Building Bridges in the Community" (Barron). Principal Leadership (April 2003).

*Franklin, Robert. "Somalis work to make St. Cloud their home despite a few conflicts." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Nov. 26, 2002).

*Fujita, Mariko, and Toshiyuki Sano. Life in Riverfront : a Middle-Western Town Seen Through Japanese Eyes. Fort Worth : Harcourt Brace College

Publishers, 2001.

*Furst, Randy. "St. Cloud faced with perceptions of racism, anti-Semitism." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Dec. 28, 2002).

*Grey M.A. "Immigrants, migration, and worker turnover at the Hog Pride pork packing plant."

Human Organization 58, no.1 (1999) pp. 16-27.

*Griffiths, D. "Somali refugees in Tower Hamlets: clanship and new identities," New Community 23, no.1 (1997) p.5-24.

*Grumney, Ray. "Somali populations favor metro areas." Map and graph. Minneapolis Star Tribune (Mar. 16, 2002).

*Harman, Danna. "US opens arms to Bantu Somalis." Christian Science Monitor, 12/12/2001, Vol. 94 Issue 14, p6, 0p, 1 map, 1c.

*Horwich, Jeff. "Soccer Culture: Sport and community inseparable for ethnic teams." Minnesota Public Radio (June 17, 2002).

*Hughes, Art. Census: Asians Gaining Wealth." Minnesota Public Radio (Sept. 17, 2002).

*Johnson, Mark. "Diversity and growing pains come to small-town Wisconsin." Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (July 24, 2004). (quotes Jessica Schaid)

*Kim, Ann. "Thousands turn out for pro-diversity rally where Maine mayor once urged immigrants to stay away." Associated Press (Jan. 11, 2003).

*Kumar, Kavita. "Somali 'National Tour Against Hate' begins next week." Minneapolis Star-Tribune (Dec. 30, 2002).

*Kumar, Kavita. "Minnesota Somali leader makes connections in Seattle." Minneapolis Star- Tribune (Jan. 8, 2003).

*Kurtz, Bill. "Center helps newcomers with jobs, language skills." Superior Catholic Herald (Dateline Barron, Wis., 2002).

*Labi, Nadya. "Give Us Your Tired Just Not All of Them." Time ,10/28/2002, p10, 1p, 1c.

*Leslie, Lourdes Medrano. "Sights, sounds of Africa increasing in Minnesota." Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 4, 2002).

*Lorch, Donatella. "Following Freedom's Trail." Newsweek, 9/2/2002, Vol. 140 Issue 10, p34, 4p, 1 map, 5c.

*Losure, Mary. "Rally supports Somalis in Minneapolis." Minnesota Public Radio (Nov 9, 2001)

*Martinez, Ruben. Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail. Metropolitan, 1998.

*McConnell E.D. ; and Leclere F.B. "Selection, context, or both? The English fluency of Mexican immigrants in the American Midwest and Southwest." Population Research and Policy Review 21, no.3 (2002), pp. 179-204.

*McCoy, Sue. "Survivors of torture and trauma: evaluating the four year experience of the Edmonton Centre." Migration World Magazine 28:27-9 no 5 2000.

*McMichael, C. "Every where is Allah's place: Islam in the lives of Somali women in Melbourne, Australia," Journal of Refugee Studies 15, no.2 (2002) p. 171-188.

*Miraftab, F. "Sheltering refugees: the housing experience of refuges in Metropolitan Vancouver, Canada," Canadian Journal of Urban Research 9, no.1 (2000) p. 42-63.

*Peterson, David. " Skepticism greets new census data; State Hmong and Somali totals stir doubt." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Aug. 6, 2001).

*Prusher, Ilene R. "Forgotten Somalia fights on." Christian Science Monitor, 8/28/97.

*Reuters. "White supremacists plan anti-Somali rally." (Jan. 11, 2003).

*Ruefle W. ; Ross W.H. ; and D. Mandell. "Attitudes toward Southeast Asian immigrants in a

Wisconsin community." International Migration Review 26, no.3 (1992) pp. 877-898.

*Stanley K. "Immigrant and refugee workers in the Midwestern meatpacking industry: industrial restructuring and the transformation of rural labor markets." Policy Studies Review 11, no.2 (1992) p. 106-117.

*Voth, Irene. "St. Cloud forum seeks to create better understanding of Islam." St. Cloud Visitor (Nov. 9, 2001).

*Wilder Research Center. "Speaking for themselves: A survey of Hispanic, Hmong,

Russian, and Somali immigrants in Minneapolis-Saint Paul" (Nov. 2000 report).

*Williams, Sarah T. "Somalis find refuge from war in Owatonna." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Dec. 17, 2000).

*Wolfe, Warren. "Faith & Values: St. Cloud bishop suggests bringing African refugees to Minnesota." Minneapolis Star Tribune (Dec. 28, 2002).