Why Somali refugees are leaving Arizona for another U.S. state

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Is it too hot in Arizona?  Too many mountains?  Too close to Mexico?  What is the reason why nearly half the refugees who settle in Arizona from Somalia leave the state? And where do they go?

In most cases, they go to Minnesota, according to the Somali Association of Arizona. Reason being is most have family in the state; Minnesota has become the “place to go” for Somali refugees.

The reason why they leave is because of an inability to find employment and lack of public assistance from Arizona state coffers.

“I think Arizona is able to do more for refugees, to be honest,” says Somali Association of Arizona program coordinator Mukhtar Sheikh. “If Arizona invested in these families, it would actually benefit the state, because they’re really hardworking.”

Sheikh added that 7,351 refugees from Somalia have ended up in Arizona since 1981. The state pays $925 per person when they arrive, as well as food stamps and medical services. They have to submit a monthly report to show that they are seeking employment and taking classes to learn the English language in order to keep receiving public assistance.

But Sheikh stated that because of the language barrier, many Somalis are unable to read and fill out the reports and find themselves cut off from receiving checks.  A source of DML’s who works for the Tucson government, and who asked to go unnamed, told DML, “Why should Arizona, or any state, invest in teaching Somali’s how to take jobs that should go to American workers?  There is no good reason.”

Minnesota has taken a completely different approach.  They’ve made the investment in Somali communities, and as noted, the state now boasts the country’s largest Somali refugee population. Nonprofit groups which get paid by the government, such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, have been instrumental in helping Somali refugees in the Twin Cities and assist them in learning English and procuring employment.   Minnesota is now home to the first Somali refugee elected to Congress.  It is also home to a big problem: Measles!

Measles, a disease that no longer occurs naturally in the United States, has now occurred 32 times in MN., according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).  Officials are calling it an outbreak and link it back to the Somali communities.

 

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