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Refugees Making Positive Progress in Maine, U.S.

Experts say Lewiston, Maine, is a prime example of places where refugees are making progress integrating into American society and helping to revitalize local economies. (Teresa Chrzanowski Flisiuk/Picasa)
Experts say Lewiston, Maine, is a prime example of places where refugees are making progress integrating into American society and helping to revitalize local economies. (Teresa Chrzanowski Flisiuk/Picasa)
June 20, 2016

LEWISTON, Maine – A new report from the Fiscal Policy Institute and the Center for American Progress examines how well refugees from four key groups are integrating into American society.

One finding is that Lewiston is a prime example in New England of the positive effects of Somali integration.

David Dyssegaard Kallick, a senior fellow and director of the Immigration Research Initiative at the Fiscal Policy Institute, says about one in 12 immigrants arriving in the U.S. comes here as a refugee.

"Sure, they need some help to get started,” he states. “When they first come to the United States, they come from some of the most horrific situations around the world.

“But when you look at the long term, people become integrated, they start to get jobs, they own their own homes, they learn English – you know, they become Americans."

The report is based on an analysis of the 2014 American Community Survey five-year data, and looks at the progress of Bosnian, Burmese, Hmong and Somali refugees.

Kallick says those groups make up about 500,000 of the 3 million refugees currently granted asylum and living in the U.S.

Kallick says one refugee group is playing a particularly important role in breathing new life into cities like Lewiston.

"Somalis, around Lewiston especially, have really been part of revitalizing the economy there, helping to stabilize what's otherwise been population loss,” he states. “And I know that they've found jobs in some of the Lewiston factories, for example. So, I think that's one real standout within New England."

The report comes in the middle of a presidential campaign season full of tough talk against immigrants. Kallick says the good news is that, at this stage, it is only talk.

"Luckily, we're still talking about political rhetoric, which does its own damage, and not actual policies,” he states. “But, I think anything that alienates refugees is, I think, a really bad idea for any number of reasons – certainly also economically. "

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME