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Owatonna's Dilemma

By randinah in Culture
Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 12:52:36 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Situated on the intersection of Interstate 35 and Highway 14 in southern Minnesota is my hometown, the city of Owatonna. With a population of approximately 20,000, this quaint rural city is just about as average as you can get with a historical central park, fairgrounds, white suburban families with 2.3 children, and its own myth. Except for one fact; this small city has experiencing a rapid influx of Somalian Refugees.

Owatonna has taken in hundreds of refugees out of Somalia because of the war and famine that has kept the country unstable for over fifty years. Around 1997 about two hundred Somalian refugees immigrated to Owatonna and were given jobs at factories such as Viracon, a glass making company, and Owatonna's Canning Company. Since then many Somalians, rich and poor (including, for a time the family of the prime minister of Somalia, Ali Khalif Galayidh) have begun to call Owatonna Minnesota home. With the arrival of the first Somalian immigrant some six years ago, Owatonna's residents have been coming to terms with the fact that their little nest of 20,000 has been changed forever.

Owatonna's inhabitants are uncomfortable. Everywhere they look Somalian bakeries are springing up, Somali is overheard at the grocery stores and at Wal-Mart, and women with strange headdresses walk up and down the streets. Bumper stickers with sayings such as "I heart Allah", and unfamiliar Koran passages adorn the bumpers of cars. Owatonna has been saturated by a new culture, and therefore saturated by rumours. Some popular rumours are that Somalians steal tools from their neighbor's garages, they "pretend" to not know how money works so they could get free haircuts, and American tax money is being given to them so they can send money home to their families in Somalia. Of course none of these rumours are true. And it's no surprise that a small white suburban town such as Owatonna would be this apprehensive about a whole new culture getting too comfortable in their fair city.

The Somalians arrived in Owatonna with little forewarning from the United States government. There was no cultural orientation for the Americans to deal with the new visitors. Perhaps worse in the long run, inhabitants of Owatonna were not informed of the rights or responsibilites of a refugee. Many Owatonnans still honestly believe that these Somalians do not pay taxes, and that American tax money is paying for the expensive cars that they are sometimes seen in (as if the prime minister of Somalia couldn't afford an expensive car!)

A refugee is actually entitled to a lot less than an average Owatonnan believes. The refugee process starts with the issuance of a Refugee Visa (it's free). When the refugee arrives, they are given temporary housing for thirty days and a little money to get them on their feet. Depending on the refugee resettlement program, they may or may not have to pay this money back. They are given work visas from at the point of their arrival to the United States. As soon as a refugee is hired they begin to pay income tax just like any other American. Men between the ages of 18-25 have to sign up for the selective service. Optionally, after one year in America, a refugee can apply for a Permanent Residence Visa.

Because Owatonnans haven't been given this sort of information, the whole town is understandably up in arms. The Owatonna People's Press, our local newspaper (unfortunately a person has to be a subscriber to view the full content), runs editorials every day concerning the effect immigration has had on Owatonna. Owatonnans are spreading rumours, quoting irrevelant state budget figures, and assuming the worst about their new neighbors. This small city just doesn't know what to do with a whole new culture living next door. At times, this apprehensiveness has given way to minor violence such as kids beaten up in the school yard and petty vandalism.

Naturally, Owatonna Minnesota is not the first (and not the last) small town forced into growth and change by the influx of an immigrant society. Kuro5hin's readers who live in, or come from, a city or town that has experienced a similar wave of immigration can attest to the sometimes hostile reaction of the native population. Yet it's hostility based on a simple lack of understanding. And the more the American government lets waves of immigrants crash into the shores of our comfortable populace, the more these original inhabitants become isolationists, apprehensive and unwilling to learn about different cultures.

It is necessary for the government to take a look at cities like Owatonna, Minnesota as examples of what can happen when the government drops a new culture in the midst of our own. But what can be done to soften the blow? The government could invest in public programs to help educate Americans about the cultures and traditions of immigrants, but your average American is already angry about the amount of money spent on immigration. I suspect such a program would not go over well. So if public awareness programs are needed, who pays?

Are there any other options? A small town wants to know.


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Owatonna's Dilemma | 114 comments (109 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
You get some big wooden crosses, and some gas... (1.15 / 20) (#3)
by Edgy Loner on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:24:56 AM EST

This is not my beautiful house.
This is not my beautiful knife.
So wrong (none / 0) (#35)
by n8f8 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:41:31 PM EST

So very, very wrong. Bad Loner. Baaaad Loner.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]
Where is your sig from? (none / 0) (#95)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:59:20 PM EST

It intrigues me. What does it mean? Where did it come from? Did you make it up? Why am I so fascinated by it?

[ Parent ]
Talking Heads? (none / 0) (#99)
by caca phony on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:32:47 PM EST

Talking Heads had a song on the album Remain In Light, the main single that got airplay from that album, with the lines "This is not my beautiful house, this is not my beautiful wife", perhaps the sig is a play off of or a mishearing of that song's lyrics. I am trying to remember the title of the song, but drawing a blank....

[ Parent ]
Allmusic.com is the answer (none / 0) (#104)
by protein folder on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 01:06:04 AM EST

Once in a Lifetime is the name of the song.
Okay, whose job was it to feed the butterflies?
[ Parent ]
Note to Americans who don't like immigrants (1.70 / 10) (#4)
by starsky on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:58:58 AM EST

You're all descended from immigrants, you thick fuckers.

Exactly right. (1.88 / 9) (#6)
by tkatchev on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:25:10 AM EST

Well, except for the Niggers and Indians, I guess.

But they aren't real Americans anyways...

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

chornya zhopa (1.66 / 3) (#11)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:57:58 AM EST

You know, of course, that only Native Americans (not African Americans) are native to America?

Or is your primitive slavic peasant brain too weak to comprehend that?

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Slaves weren't Immigrants (n/t) (4.00 / 4) (#16)
by sllort on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:38:32 AM EST

Warning: On Lawn is a documented liar.
[ Parent ]
Yes you are right. (none / 0) (#19)
by tkatchev on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 11:35:19 AM EST

My primitive peasant brain is too feeble to understand your European rationality.

Thanks for reminding me this once again.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

It must have something to do (none / 0) (#20)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 11:41:01 AM EST

with the Liquid Radioactive Napalm you keep using.

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
actually, (none / 0) (#21)
by pb on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 11:46:08 AM EST

My understanding is that no humans are native to America, but that Native Americans got there first. Or, if you want to look at it another way, all natural born Americans are native to America (where else?).

Take your pick; any other distinction in between is just a matter of time.
"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]

Only humans (none / 0) (#22)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 12:02:26 PM EST

Can own land... thus, the first humans to inhabit a particular land have the earliest homestead claim to that land as the native population. Anyone moving to the land after the original homesteaders (natives) is an immigrant.

Not that I really care... as far as I am concerned, borders should be open for both immigration and emigration. Of course, I am likely in the minority as I believe that the comfortably supportable population density of the Earth is somewhere in the tens of thousands of billions.

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Own Land (5.00 / 1) (#39)
by exile1974 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:53:24 PM EST

No one can "own" land. That is a myth and a popular delusion of this day and
age. We own nothing, and can keep nothing, and in the end we even have to
surrender our lives. But meantime we have access to stuff and can play with

"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]

Typical commie claptrap (none / 0) (#42)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:12:53 PM EST

You don't own your body? So any random passer by can "access" it and "play with" it?

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
That's a new one. (none / 0) (#68)
by exile1974 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:37:02 PM EST

The sentiment actually comes form many of YOUR Native American belief


"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]

I wasn't aware (none / 0) (#70)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:44:29 PM EST

that Engels, Marx, and Lenin were students of Native American political philosophy.

Furthermore, a gift economy is not the equivalent of a totalitarian hivemind.

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Oh? (none / 0) (#75)
by lb008d on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:42:06 PM EST

Ever heard of Lewis Henry Morgan. He studied Iroquois culture, and his writings influenced Engels and Marx:

Studying Morgan's account of "primitive" societies, with the Iroquois being his cornerstone, Engels provided what he believed to be an egalitarian, classless model of society that also provided justice between the sexes.

[ Parent ]

Learn something every day (none / 0) (#84)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:20:55 PM EST

NOTE: Engels, Marx, Lenin and Lewis Henry Morgan are all still asshats extraordinaire.

As I said before, the gift economy practiced by many Native Americans (and other cultures, like the Celts and Norse) bears no resemblance to the totalitarian bullshit advocated by Big Brother Knows Best statists.

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Depends on who it is..... (none / 0) (#69)
by exile1974 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:37:35 PM EST

"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]
Definitions (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by Drooling Iguana on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:55:10 PM EST

What is ownership, other than having access to something and being able to play with it?

[ Parent ]
Exactly my point (n/t) (none / 0) (#71)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:49:58 PM EST

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Exclusion (none / 0) (#79)
by driptray on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 08:33:26 PM EST

(Private) Ownership is not about access, it is about the ability to exclude others from what you own.

Any law student who has done Property 101 can tell you that.
We brought the disasters. The alcohol. We committed the murders. - Paul Keating
[ Parent ]

Well, hell... (1.00 / 2) (#26)
by Souhait on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:20:54 PM EST

If we're going to start using that rationality, may as well say that Europeans aren't native, they just happened to get there first. There are no native humans anywhere, they just happened to get to wherever they came from first. Or evolved their first. Down with the natives!

[ Parent ]
You assmonkey (none / 0) (#14)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:17:24 AM EST

My great-great-grandmother was full blooded Cherokee. If anyone has reason to dislike immigrants, it is the Native Americans. Now gimme Tennessee!

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
As it happens, (none / 0) (#27)
by werner on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:26:01 PM EST

it seems we Europeans got there first.

[ Parent ]
I'm sorry (none / 0) (#37)
by exile1974 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:49:23 PM EST

But the evidence is not conclusive as it stands. And there is no evidence that the skeleton was "white". Any overview of Caucasoid people shows a wide range of skin color and features that include the skull shape mentioned and hues from white to very dark. At this time, this is a hypothesis not even a working theory.

Even your sources don't categorically state anything other than "may".

This things are constantly issued to assert justification for the concept that we didn't steal land from the Amerinds since we were actually there first. The fact remains that even if this were remotely true, the quantity of skeletons found are insufficient to claim prior rights to an entire Hemisphere. Whoever, they were, they were not successfully in establishing themselves and died out. The Amerinds were successful.

"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]

However (none / 0) (#33)
by exile1974 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:35:15 PM EST

The Native Americans were the first immigrants, so still immigrants. Your objections should be more centered on wait the succeeding generations of immigrants did you your people. The current immigrants don't have a chance to steal a lot of land.


"A sucking chest wound is Nature's way of telling you to stay out of a firefight." --Mary Gentle
[ Parent ]

Ok (none / 0) (#44)
by tonedevil05 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:16:17 PM EST

You can have Tennessee, we haven't really done much with it anyway.

[ Parent ]
Okay (none / 0) (#52)
by CodeWright on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:12:16 PM EST

But before I take control of the property I want you to clean up all the crap that's been built up over the past 400 years.

Then I'm going to open a giant buffalo hunting casino theme park! Yahoo!

"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Well, (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by cdyer on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:16:50 PM EST

We did use it to stage the founding of Rock'N'Roll and Country Music. But those are just details.


[ Parent ]

Yeah, right. (none / 0) (#85)
by KnightStalker on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:28:28 PM EST

Tell that to the North American mammoth, North American horses, giant beaver, giant sloth, etc. of about 10,000 years ago.

Coincidentally, my great-great-great grandmother was also Cherokee. :-)

[ Parent ]

You gonna take Al Gore, too? <nt> (none / 0) (#100)
by borful on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 04:50:43 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Note to poor people who don't like immigrants (2.12 / 8) (#5)
by starsky on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:03:33 AM EST

'taking their jobs': If you're competing with these disadvantaged people for the same jobs (usually low paid manual labour), maybe you should have taken more advantage of the education system we provided for you freeloading fuckers with our taxes, no?

Of course ... (4.50 / 2) (#7)
by pyramid termite on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 06:18:38 AM EST

... if refugees from Minneapolis/St Paul or Rochester were to start buying up property and moving in to drive up the housing market, you'd hear a lot of complaints and possibly even editorials about that, too. Small town Midwesterns aren't very open to any outsiders - Somalians are a bit more obvious than city slickers, but the results are similar. More changes are likely to happen in the future. Eventually, the town will learn to accept them as it doesn't have a choice.

I grew up in a 50,000 population Midwestern town and have seen a similar process at work there.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
Excellent article (5.00 / 7) (#8)
by jubal3 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:56:34 AM EST

I lived in a community with a similar problem. A small agricultural town in eastern Washington. The population was about 85% white, 5% black, 5% Mexian (Not latinos, no guatamalans there) and 5% American Indian.
After the Immigration reform act of 1986, the town was literally inundadted with Mexican immigrants. The act pretty well encouraged the former migrant poulation to settle down. By 1992, the entire area had changed to about 30% Mexican immigrants.

The whole community was, and remains in, culture shock. The population of the rural area is in general, neither well-educated, nor well travelled.
Worse yet, the migrants themselves tend to be from the poorest areas of the Mexican State of Michoacan. These folks don't even speak Spanish, but rather a mixture of Spanish and Mixtec. (sp?) A huge proportion were completely illiterate, even in Spanish. At any rate, even in Mexico, they would be considered "okies," and in this little town, they might as well be from Mars.
Poverty in the area has always been high, and needless to say, being primarily farmworkers, the immigrant community is largely even more poverty stricken than everyone else. A huge number require welfare. Culturally, the new immigrants by and large have no exposure to or value of, education. Many hjang onto a dream that they will one day return to Mexico. A dream tht is rarely realized. Hence, many don't learn much english. Additionally, there is little opportunity for the ones that want to learn English, to do so. This particularly grates on the largely German/Swedish locals, who remember their Grandparents refusing to allow their native languages to be spoken in the home, because now they were going to be American.

Crime has risen dramatically, but more as a coincidence than a result of the immigrants. Of course few residents of the area believe that.

Never, living in virtually every section of the US and two placess in Europe, have I seen such open bigotry as is expressed by the white members of the community. The Indians are even worse. Discrimination is rampant.

The only up side to the story is that VERY gradually, the community is starting to come to terms with their new (like 20 years is recent) residents. The immigrants are slowly becoming citizens and voting and running for office. They finally elected a Mexican City Councilman in 1998. Many new businesses have opened which cater to the community. -Someone figured out that Mexican dollars spend just like white-bread bucks!
Additionally, the kids seem to be adjusting well. The racial tensions and cultural divides that appear among people aged 30+ generally don't seem to be present in large measure among the kids who went to school with "those" people.

Meanwhile, the immigration has continued. At present, the population is 40+% Mexican.
It's a hell of a situation, and one that frankly, a small rural town is ill equipped to deal with. Small towns tend to be xenophobic to start with, and a new race/culture moving in, breeds racism on top of that. From what I've seen of immigration and birth rate studies, it appears that this situation is going to be repeated all over America over the next few decades.
Hang in there. It gets better, but it takes a long time. Your town is going to have to deal with it, the same way other towns dealt with those "dirty" Italians, Germans, Swedes and Greeks. -Who now number among their most favored sons and daughters.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
Sunnyside, WA? (none / 0) (#38)
by Captain_Tenille on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:52:24 PM EST

I hear Sunnyside has a large Mexican population.
/* You are not expected to understand this. */

Man Vs. Nature: The Road to Victory!
[ Parent ]

sort of (none / 0) (#74)
by jubal3 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:41:55 PM EST

Actually I was referring to Yakima County in general.

***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***
[ Parent ]
Great! (4.00 / 4) (#12)
by lb008d on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:59:11 AM EST

This sort of situation is exactly what America needs. Maybe it'll wake some people's eyes up in this country that, gosh darn it, there are other people in this world and that they may appear totally different on the outside, they still are people.

Integration (5.00 / 5) (#13)
by jeroenb on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:02:11 AM EST

The key issue is always integration, but unlike most people think, it's something you have to do together. A typical stance is: "These people come here and now they have to integrate with us!" but that doesn't work. The beauty of a free country is that you're allowed to do whatever you want as long as you don't bother others.

To make this happen you both need a base set of values that must be shared by all. Once you've got that, it doesn't mean you can easily get along. Both parties need to take the trouble to look into eachothers' quirks and customs to fully understand them.

So in the end, it's to the people of Owatonna to organize cultural happenings - like a traditional American festival (or even more locally oriented, I'm not familiar in the US) and a couple of months later a Somalian festival (with lots of input ofcourse from the Somalians.) Free food at both events and people will show up.

Most of the time, the ignorance is not driven by xenophobia or some deeper hate, it's just that people need a nudge in the right direction. Perhaps you can organize something like that?

"The mouse, I've been sure for years, limps home from the site of the burning ferris wheel with a brand-new, airtight plan for killing the cat." -J.D. Salinger

Xenophobia (none / 0) (#76)
by LilDebbie on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:47:08 PM EST

The problem with your suggestion is that the Somalians are quite xenophobic themselves. Living in Minneapolis, MN very near to the heart of our Somalian population (they almost all live in the same neighborhood near the University of Minnesota, where I go to school), I've enjoyed a lot of contact with these refugees. Personally, I find their presence a refreshing change of pace to the otherwise whitebread style of most Minnesotans. It has been my experience, though, that Somalians tend to keep to themselves in tight-nit, tribal communities. In short, they don't want to integrate any more than Minnesotans of Scandinavian (the WASP ethnic background of choice here) descent want to integrate with them. Oh well, I guess we'll just have to rely on the non-confrontational attitude of most Minnesotans to keep the peace, and I'll continue to enjoy the kickass traditional dresses the Somali women around here wear.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
send them back to europe! (2.50 / 4) (#15)
by turmeric on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:35:30 AM EST

the whites cause too much crime and their food sucks.

Nuuh. (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by tkatchev on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 12:26:24 PM EST

We drove them out for a reason, you know.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

maybe we don't want them back? :-P (nt) (none / 0) (#45)
by vivelame on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:18:14 PM EST

Jonathan Simon: "When the autopsy of our democracy is performed, it is my belief that media silence will be given as the primary cause of death."
[ Parent ]
What, even the italians? (5.00 / 1) (#58)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:43:59 PM EST

I, a proud German-Irish-Welsh mongrel, proclaim, Italian food don't suck!

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Whites? (none / 0) (#111)
by LobsterGun on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:51:56 PM EST

He didn't say Italians, he said whites. Don't get mad, I'm not white either, I'm of German-Irish-French-Scottish extraction. I had the whole 'white' thing explained to me by some cultural studies guy at the State University. According to him I wasn't 'white' because I was part Irish, and he wasn't white because he was of low breeding. I didn't pin him down as to what exactly constituted a 'white', but I got the impression that you needed to be English, French, or Dutch and of good breeding. And you couldn't be Catholic either. He refered to Kennedy as the first non-white American President.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps bigger cities could handle it better? (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by HidingMyName on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:39:33 AM EST

I'm not sure if this is optimal, but large cities like Washington D.C., NY, LA, Chicago would be better able to handle the same sized influx of immigrants than a small town.

On the other hand, I'm curious, can you tell us a bit about Somalian style cooking/baking (I've never tried it).

I read somewhere (none / 0) (#25)
by werner on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:16:49 PM EST

that the Somalis actually moved there from such larger towns because they didn't want their kids growing up in bad areas.

One or two families moved there first, and then told all their mates they had found the perfect town.

[ Parent ]

Why Owatonna? (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by czth on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 10:47:57 AM EST

If, as this (editorial) comment says, the US government didn't assign the Somalis to move there - which I doubt it did - why did they choose Owatonna? It would be interesting to trace the history of the Somali movement to Owatonna; obviously others came because of (nationalized?) relatives in Owatonna, but what brought the original Somalis there? How long had they been there? Did the Owatonna local paper ever look into that? Could be interesting.


I have searched the internet for details (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by werner on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:14:36 PM EST

of this for weeks now. I remember reading an article somewhere about these immigrants. As I remember, what happened was a few immigrants moved to Owatonna and rang relatives in larger cities where they had been living - Miami or Los Angeles, I believe - where they were worried about crime etc., and said, "Hey, we've found a really, really nice town". So, the whole community moved there. They were basically worried for their kids growing up in bad areas.

I wish I could find that damn article again...

[ Parent ]

They probably started in Minneapolis (none / 0) (#64)
by millman on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:35:19 PM EST

When the gov't is trying to settle large numbers of immigrants, I believe they try to spread them out around the country, but they tend to regroup for (IMO) obvious reasons of community.  Minneapolis has a very large Somali community, as to why I'm not sure.  It may be because of the good welfare benefits, and no that isn't a troll.  That's half the reason the Hmong community here is so large, the other half being the fact that one of the highest (if not the highest) ranking members of the Hmong military settled in St. Paul.

Once they were in Minneapolis, you're only an hour from Owatonna.  So someone decided to settle there for some reason, and others followed as you described.  Chances are it was the Prime Minister.  If you want to do more research I would check the archives at startribune.com if you haven't been doing that already.

In a world full of thieves, the only crime is getting caught.
[ Parent ]

links (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by millman on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:46:38 PM EST

from the star tribune.  The first link is the best.






In a world full of thieves, the only crime is getting caught.
[ Parent ]

thank you, (none / 0) (#106)
by werner on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 07:35:37 AM EST

that's the one.

[ Parent ]
Why Owatonna? (none / 0) (#72)
by randinah on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:59:53 PM EST

I am of the understanding that Viracon mass hired a whole bunch of Somalians and that brought them and there families over.

"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
my small town (4.66 / 3) (#28)
by evilpckls on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:27:40 PM EST

had refugees from Kosovo. They did very well, i was involved in teaching some of the kids english, and about our culture. ever try to explain to an 8 year old what a cemetery is for, when he has no concept of why you would want to bury a person?

" I think I'll keep my dong out of strange men's mouths." --Goat

Were they (none / 0) (#105)
by lucius on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 02:44:54 AM EST

ethnically Albanian or Slavic (Serb/Macedonian)? If they were Albanian, what was their physical appearance? Tall/short? Dark/fair? Heavily/lightly built?

[ Parent ]
im not totally sure (none / 0) (#107)
by evilpckls on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 11:04:58 AM EST

they were all darker skinned....dark hair and eyes. about average height and build, i would say.

" I think I'll keep my dong out of strange men's mouths." --Goat
[ Parent ]

One option... (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by skim123 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:28:21 PM EST

Are there any other options? A small town wants to know.

Get over it. I grew up in a small town in rural Missouri, 99% white (much smaller than Owatonna, my town boasted just over 2,500 residents). We had a token black kid in high school, a couple Hispanics, no Asians, Africans, or whites with accents. (Except for the country accent.)

Anywho, after high school I stayed in-state at college, but after college I moved to my current location - Southern California. To say there is more diversity here is the understatement of the year. I don't think there were enough non-Whites in all of mid-Missouri to be able to place me in a situation where I was the only White person, but I've had a number of such situations here.

In my now three year absence, my parents report to me that their small town is being taken over by.... Mexicans. Yes, it appears as if a number of (illegal?) Mexicans who don't speak English have invaded the quaint town, taking up jobs at the local factory. They don't have cars, so they walk everywhere. They don't speak English. Most of them either live at the subsidized housing apartment building, or live out of a very gross motel.

The townspeople talk about the Mexicans in hushed tones, mention their growing numbers and make remarks about their appearance, their lack of speaking English, and their car-less-ness. (This is a very noticeable fact in mid-Missouri, when you have to most often always drive to get to where you're going...)

Personally I think such an injection of non-White folks is a Good Thing. Perhaps it will give those people who have lived in mid-Missouri their entire lives some perspective - "You mean the entire world ain't white with a beer-belly?"

My advice to the fair citizens of Owatonna - just get used to it. Rather than talking in hushed tones about the government money these Somalians are supposedly stealing from your pocket, go up to one of these folks and say hi next time you see them on the street. Make a point to be friendly. Try to get to know the person. Don't think of them as a Somalian, but as your neighbor, because that's what they are.

What makes America work, IMHO, is that it can house a number of differing cultures, and the cultures can meld together and integrate well. Yes, there are many instances of cultures not integrating well (see Blacks v. Koreans in LA, for example), but from what I've read and heard, the "melting pot" of America is much more of a melting pot than in, say, Europe. I've read articles (don't have the links) that say there is a clear divide between the immigrants in Europe and the natural citizens. They are segregated in separate neighborhoods, go to different shcools, and speak different languages. I think you see a lot less of this in America, which is a good thing.

This is what makes America prosperous and peaceful.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

Bullshit (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by caek on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:13:20 PM EST

I've read articles (don't have the links) that say there is a clear divide between the immigrants in Europe and the natural citizens. They are segregated in separate neighborhoods, go to different shcools, and speak different languages.

I live in Sheffield, UK, which has the UK's biggest community of Somalis (in absolute numbers) and Pakistanis (in relative numbers). The above paragraph is simply not true anywhere in the UK which, last time I checked, was in Europe.

Segregation implies wilfull placement in a particular district and restriction of movement. This doesn't happen.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps segregation is a bit too strong a word (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by skim123 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:46:54 PM EST

Segregation implies wilfull placement in a particular district and restriction of movement. This doesn't happen.

I wasn't trying to imply that this is what happened. I wish I had bookmarked those articles... anywho, what I was trying to get it (it was a rambling post, I'll admit), was that from what I had read it made it sound like the certain ethnic societies were very separate and non-integrated with others. I think one article talked about the many Muslim schools in the Netherlands where they did not speak the national language. Portions of the cities that were dominantly a particular ethnicity and where others of differing ethnicity were not very welcome. He talked about the many muslim women who still were dressed in the traditional garb (burqas and whatnot). Perhaps the words, "lack of integration" may have been better put.

Compare that to the States. While there are certainly those who refuse to speak English, and those who cling tightly to their own cultures, typically this is seen much less here, especially in the immigrants' children. I think a big reason you don't see immigrants' children cling fast to their parent's cultures and language is because the children are placed in public schools where English is spoken, and where their classmates have differing ethnicities and cultures. The children's neighbors, while perhaps many are of their same ethnicity, many are of different ones.

Perhaps I am grotesquely mistaken in my understandings and assumptions regarding Muslim integration in Europe. I am willing to admit that might be the case seeing as I have no first-hand knowlege on the matter. However, I can say with certainty that there is a high degree of integration in first-generation, and especially second-generation immigrants here in the States.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
Do you think... (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by gidds on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:32:05 PM EST

...this town is related at all to Owatonna, Siam?

I wonder... (3.00 / 1) (#31)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:32:10 PM EST

Is there actually an huge inrease of Immigrants in this particular town, or have the insular people just noticed that some "black folk" have moved in?

Not that I,m actively disputing the assertion, but you don't really provide any hard numbers. Is it this town in particular, or is it just that they're the only one's that have bothered to notice?

Just a thought...

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

It wouldn't surprise me much (none / 0) (#50)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:06:55 PM EST

if there were. Immigrants often move to places where others from their country have already settled down. I've heard of similar clusters of Cambodians and various Central- and South- Americans.

Sometimes it begins as simply as a church group opening their homes to a few refugees then, as time goes by, the immigrant community swells.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him go off the high dive.

[ Parent ]
Somalians in Minnesota (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by millman on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:34:27 PM EST

I *believe* Minnesota has more Somalians than any other state in the US.  Did you research any info on this, even though it's not specifically related to your article?  I know there are plenty in the Minneapolis area, mostly because the majority of them live near the U of MN campus where I went to school.  Most taxi drivers in Minneapolis are either Somali or Egyptian, at least in my experience, and I've chatted up a few while being driven home after a Saturday night of boozing and dancing.  Life in Somalia sounds as bad as I had assumed.

I'm not sure what the government can do to help.  Public awareness programs might help a bit.  In my opinion, however, the only cure for ignorance and racism is time and interaction with "the others".  

A lot of white people have been running from the scary dark skinned folks for, oh, 50 years now.   I'm sure there are a number that reside in Owatonna for that reason.  I think it's a very good sign that there is a minority population in Owatonna, because it tells me that there are vanishly few places left for white people to run.

This helps bring the situation to a head.  It forces white people to either deal with their fears, or become something like a militant Klansman.  Most will not choose the latter.  The social costs will become far too high, since their vision will be far too extreme in relation to the average white person's worldview.

I'd write more, and the things I'm talking about require at least a book to adaquetly cover, but hopefully this will give some food for thought.

In a world full of thieves, the only crime is getting caught.

Sir, you have a brilliant plan! (3.00 / 2) (#54)
by tkatchev on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:25:56 PM EST

"Kill Whitey" is the perfect way to make friends and influence people!

Meanwhile, liberals are still as dumb as ever...

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Everyone Hates Change (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by n8f8 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:37:30 PM EST

That is a fact of the human condition. Most of the time we have little choice in the matter. On a positive note, it sounds like your little community will be gettign a real taste of a different culture.  It should be interresting to see the place in a few generations.

One thing your community should address is ensuring that the English language be used in public at all times. Sure you can't write a law, but you can reinfoce the importance of knowing english to these new residents and their leadership.

Other ideas: Invite guest speakers into the local churches and libraries. Give a little introduction to Somalian religion, culture and food.

It wouldn't be strange to see a lot of animosity toward the Somalians. After all, the same thing happened when German, Irish and Chinese immigrants flooded the states.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)

Why? (2.50 / 2) (#46)
by caek on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:18:26 PM EST

One thing your community should address is ensuring that the English language be used in public at all times. Sure you can't write a law, but you can reinfoce the importance of knowing english to these new residents and their leadership.
What would this achieve?

[ Parent ]
Handicap (5.00 / 2) (#47)
by n8f8 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:23:12 PM EST

Until they are fluent in English they will be at an extreme disadvantage in the marketplace. So will their children. It would also help with other non-Somalis so they don't get paranoid about being made fun of.

Another importnt point is that each citizen has a certain amount of responsability to go along with their newfound rights. Among them is to not become a burden on society and try to become part of the new culture.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]

Hmm. (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by caek on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 06:07:54 PM EST

I don't think legislative of cultural coercion to speak English in public would help the economic or social situation of migrants. In my experience, migrants to Europe learn and are heppy to speak the local language. Why they should be forced to do this in public is beyond me. It seems to do nothing but allow busy-bodies to listen into conversations.

Being able to speak a language is very different to being forced to speak it.

[ Parent ]

Misread (none / 0) (#93)
by n8f8 on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:09:21 PM EST

I suggested that the immigrants be asked to encourage speaking English in public. As they say, the US is a free country. OTOH, if yiy want to encourage distrust with the locals then carry on a convernation in your native tongue in public.

As far as how well immigrants are treated in Europe, I read the news.

Sig: (This will get posted after your comments)
[ Parent ]

You read the news? (none / 0) (#101)
by caek on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 05:02:07 PM EST

I live here. I have done for 21 years. You said:
Sure you can't write a law, but you can reinfoce the importance of knowing english to these new residents and their leadership.
. I agree with this, although I'm sure they realise the importance of knowing the native language. Reinforcing this is likely to be patronising. You also said:
One thing your community should address is ensuring that the English language be used in public at all times.
Why would failure to do this encourage distrust with the locals?

[ Parent ]
Language. (none / 0) (#63)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:32:33 PM EST

The right thing, in my opinion, would be to complement English language signs with others in Somali (what do they speak? Perhaps Arabic? I don't know).

You don't try to make friends enforcing your own culture into others, no matter that the official culture is your own, there is nothing more unwelcoming that avoid trying to breach the obvious differences that exist.

I would not be judgamental if I was a Somali and everybody demanded that I spoke ENglish, but certainly will not make me feel appreciated.

Might is right

[ Parent ]

Mostly they speak Somali (none / 0) (#90)
by Gully Foyle on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 05:49:33 AM EST

It's one of the more widely spoken languages in Africa.

If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
[ Parent ]

Perverse Definition of "Average" (2.50 / 2) (#36)
by Baldrson on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:46:21 PM EST

this quaint rural city is just about as average as you can get with a historical central park, fairgrounds, white suburban families with 2.3 children

Sorry guy, but you're still living in the 1950s. The "average" is no longer "white suburban familie". Even in Iowa, that paragon of "white middle America", the chambers of commerce have been working with State officials and taxpayer dollars to set up official "diversity centers" in towns as small as a few thousand to systemically import labor from overpopulated areas of the world.

-------- Empty the Cities --------

true, but (none / 0) (#112)
by livus on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:44:59 PM EST

it is ideologically "average". Lets face it, only true freaks are "average" anymore yet their values and characteristics still get held up in the culture as a shining beacon of normalcy.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
They might be right (4.00 / 2) (#40)
by Blarney on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 01:57:48 PM EST

A refugee is actually entitled to a lot less than an average Owatonnan believes.

Probably true. But that doesn't mean they're not getting benefits from Owatonnan's taxes. Some of these things could be checked out - you don't bother to debate the Owatonnan isolationist viewpoint. Yet such statements as:

We pay for the new jail to house lawbreakers with special dietary restrictions.
And here, 31 percent of our county budget goes toward social services.

are eminently falsifiable. Is there a new jail, or isn't there? Does the county spend a sizeable amount of money on social services for their new immigrants, or don't they? You mention that Federal benefits are limited to 30 days, that they sometimes take the form of loans rather than grants - but nobody is complaining about Federal expenditures. It's well known that Federal welfare programs have become very strict on what immigrants are allowed to receive, but that isn't the issue here.

Then they are told the best town in which to live, which often happens to be my town, Owatonna, where they collect welfare that is funded by local taxpayers.

They're complaining about county expenses. County social programs may well be far more extensive than Federal programs, especially if the county's inhabitants are less right-wing Social Darwinist crazy than the Federal government as a whole.

...and to pay their medical expenses. Defenders such as Mr. Toivonen say refugees help fill the cheap labor market.

Of course the Somalis who work at "cheap labor" aren't paying their own medical expenses. They're getting Medicaid, or they're going bankrupt as soon as they set foot in a hospital. Even many working citizens here can't afford medical care, even up to 40 million people, and medical bills are becoming one of the largest reasons for bankruptcy - where have you been? Maybe the Somalis can be blamed for this and maybe they can't. I'd say that the employers who don't pay their "cheap labor" enough for the necessities of life are screwing you guys and not the immigrant workers themselves, but how can you just say this isn't happening? We need socialized health insurance, this isn't working, but until then you have to figure out how to pay for these people and their children when they get sick.

What's the real story? It's your hometown, why not just call the county executive office and ask for the relevant documents?

Looks like a prime site for Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes (5.00 / 3) (#41)
by cestmoi on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 02:10:02 PM EST

The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, this white third grade class got a firsthand lesson in discrimination. It's a lesson they never forgot.

The lesson consisted of the teacher announcing that blue eyed students were superior to brown eyed students. To help them keep track of who the inferiors were, the brown eyed students had to wear a collar. The following day, the teacher announced she had lied, the "truth" was that blue eyed people were inferior to brown eyed people. The collars were switched accordingly.

Watch the video and you'll see a remarkable lesson unfold.

The Wave (none / 0) (#55)
by Work on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:31:30 PM EST

was anyone else made to watch this movie while in school?

IMDB entry

[ Parent ]

The Wave was a book first. (none / 0) (#80)
by eann on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:06:09 PM EST

And we were forced to read it in 8th grade. But the brown eyes/blue eyes video is much, much creepier, because it's real.

ObPlug: support your local PBS station.

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.

[ Parent ]
apparently so was the wave... (none / 0) (#83)
by Work on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:53:07 PM EST

the book was actually inspired by events in a palo alto high school in the late 60s.

[ Parent ]
Watch the video (none / 0) (#108)
by JChen on Thu Apr 03, 2003 at 10:58:47 PM EST

during assembly block as part of a "Black History Month" activity was a complete waste of my time.

What I garnered from the video was that half the class fell asleep, the other half was busy doing homework, and maybe all of about four people in the entire auditorium actually gave half a shit about it.

My opinion is that it trivializes the issue and turns it into black and white (no pun intended) rather than shades of gray: certain kinds of discrimmination are acceptable (i.e. male not wanting to marry parapelegic), and others are not very nice (i.e. forcing Blacks to sit in the back of the bus) (though there's no such thing as good or bad: the whole issue in of itself is a battle of opinions formed from being human).

Let us do as we say.
[ Parent ]

actions (5.00 / 4) (#51)
by adiffer on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:09:14 PM EST

The sensible thing to do is absorb them.  You outnumber and outspend them, so it shouldn't be hard.  Pull them into your culture.  If you have to make minor adaptations to do it, remember that they are making big ones.  In a few years, you will all know each other and those questions based on ignorance will seem laughable.

Start soon though.  Delays create the perception of racism and that can last for decades.
--BE The Alien!

I say feel proud. (5.00 / 2) (#56)
by mrondello on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:40:33 PM EST

Your community is undergoing a small microcosm of what the nature of America is really all about. With all the American rhetoric that has been going about the last few years, both good and bad, your community has a chance to see what it is all truly about. These are Somalians you are discussing, and not some migrant farm workers. They are refugees, and their past may very well be absolutely horrible.

Your community has the chance to extend its hand, bear a burden and give life defining changes to a people that may never have dreamed of anything other than starvation and brutal death and destruction.

Sure it is going to be a long haul, and it may get bad in spots, but your community will be doing what every American politician likes to lay claim to in their fervent ideological speeches. You will be taking your turn at being American. Not many Americans can really claim that and have it be true.

PS: The American slant was used because this is about an American community. However the same can be said about any other free Democracy out there. Isn't this exactly what these ideologies have all been about?

rejoice (4.25 / 4) (#57)
by loudici on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:41:36 PM EST

Your community is actually pretty lucky. Somali refugees, and political refugees in general, are hard working smart people, often the best of their country of origine, who moved half way across the globe to get a better life, not unlike the original settlers of owatonna, and they will not remain on welfare long enough. I am ready to bet that in a few years some somali delicacy will become owatonna's favorite, just like bagels and pizza are New York City icons, some of those tall amhari kid will become the star of the owatoona high school track team.

someone would have come to fill those rare vacant industrial jobs anyway and the situation would be worse if you were dealing with mexican economical migrants who are not leaving because they are the most brilliant members of their society, but because they are the most starved.

and the few bitter white losers who are voicing anger would have been angry at something else if there were no immigrants.
gnothi seauton

Also in Lewiston Maine (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 03:57:36 PM EST

A few months ago I attended a small business seminar in Lewiston Maine, and also attending were some somalians wanting to start a somali fast food restaurant.

(Both Rusy and I live in Maine.)

The seminar was at an employment center and there were a number of other somali people visiting.

I since read about the friction that has been happening there. The mayor was accused of being a racist after he asked the immigrants not to bring any more relatives to Lewiston, because the city couldn't afford to provide services for them. Then-governor Angus King spoke out in support of the mayor, saying that he knew the mayor not to be a racist.

Things have gotten pretty heated. I read that a white supremacist rally was planned for Lewiston, with prominent hateful people traveling in from all over to spew their vitriol.

Try this Google search for "lewiston maine racism".

Also you would enjoy reading the book The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, about a tragic failure of American medicine to communicate effectively with Hmong refugees.

The title of the book is what the Hmong call epilepsy. A young Hmong girl was stricken with it and probably could have been treated effectively had the doctors understood how to relate to her family. Instead she sufferred many terrible seizures that eventually rendered her a vegetable.

(Despite her condition, she still receives such loving care from her parents that she is in quite good health, something you wouldn't expect to see in a typical American patient.)

Something like 10,000 Hmong settled in one small town in California after a rumour spread around that a prominent Hmong general from the Vietnam war was going to move there.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

About visa sponsorship (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:20:20 PM EST

Probably not all the Somalis there are actually refugees. Understanding why should help you understand one reason immigrants tend to cluster in large numbers all at one place.

A citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. can sponsor a relative for an immigrant visa. So once one immigrant has made it to America, they can bring their family, and then those people can bring in more relatives. If there's a lot of pressure to leave wherever they are coming from, having just a few people arrive as refugees can result in many more arrive as sponsored relatives.

The process is not very simple and can be expensive, especially if you have to consult with an immigration attorney (which I would suggest is a good idea, because even simple mistakes can cause significant delay).

I applied to sponsor my Canadia wife shortly after we were married in July 2000. You would think that when she married an American citizen she could get a visa immediately, but that turns out not to be the case (and it wouldn't have been the case had she tried to sponsor me for a landed immigrant visa in Canada).

Most such visa have a waiting period. Only a certain number of people are allowed in each year. The priority gets worse the more distant the relative is. For a spouse there is the special case that there is no waiting period - which led me to think it would only take a couple months to get her visa. Sadly, that was not the case.

The waiting period for something like a cousin or nephew is I think more than ten years.

In Bonita's case, we got an initial reply after about four months telling us that her visa application had been approved and was being submitted to the department of state for processing. Up to that point is what was supposed to not have a waiting period, for others as I said it could take ten years.

But it turned out the department of state wanted more paperwork, such as my tax returns and a hefty fee, and finally a personal interview with a consular officer in Montreal.

I made a couple of small mistakes on the paperwork and it delayed her application by about six months. That's why you should hire an attorney.

Importantly, visa sponsorship requires the sponsor to commit to supporting the immigrant for ten years. You have to sign an affidavit guaranteeing the support. I am required to notify the INS anytime I move. If Bonita should ever receive public assistance during those ten years, I will be required to pay the government back for it.

So one reason that all the immigrants live in the same community is that their sponsors are supporting them and helping them get their new lives started. The immigrants actually can't get welfare - to take its place they have to get support from their relatives.

(I had to submit my tax returns to prove that I had made enough money for at least three years to keep Bonita and myself above the poverty line).

Also I imagine if someone were sponsoring a relative, they would want them close by to keep an eye on them, to be sure they don't get into any trouble lest the sponsor be hit financially.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

It took two years (none / 0) (#61)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:27:58 PM EST

I forgot to say, it took almost two years to complete Bonita's visa. We actually celebrated our second anniversary in Montreal the day before her interview, which was quite nice.

Another catch is that if you sponsor a spouse when you've been married less than two years, the visa is not permanent but only conditional. Within a couple months after your second anniversary you have to file some other form to prove you're still married or the immigrant will be deported.

That's meant to cut down on the number of people who have marriages of convenience for the purpose of immigration.

The consular officer asked about this in Bonita's interview, and when we told her that our second anniversary was the day before, Bonita got a permanent visa, so I didn't have to file the form.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

[ Parent ]

Fellow Owatonnan (none / 0) (#62)
by MasterLx03 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:30:14 PM EST

I don't have a specific comment on the Somali situation in my hometown, I left several years ago when there were (relatively) far fewer in town, though my mom works with Smali children in Owatonna everyday. I'm just curious if I know you, Randinah. Given the likelihood of an Owatonnan being on this site, I'm guessing I do.

Re: Fellow Owatonnan (OT) (none / 0) (#81)
by Mojo JoJo on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:15:15 PM EST

Wow, another one. I didn't know there were so many K5ers in this area.

I live in Waseca (about 20 miles from Owatonna) and always figured the closest other K5er was probably Minneapolis/St Paul.


SkyNet told me to tell you that Google is watching you. - CheeseburgerBrown

[ Parent ]
sothern mn K5ers (none / 0) (#102)
by Skippysaurus on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 06:38:53 PM EST

There are more than you might think. I'm over in Mankato and I know of several others in the area that only post occasionally.

[ Parent ]
fellow owatonnan (none / 0) (#87)
by randinah on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 11:57:50 PM EST

I graduated in 2001 from Owatonna High School, but am currently living in Canada.

"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
Small World (none / 0) (#91)
by rally on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 10:05:17 AM EST

My father lives in Owatonna, imagine my shock when I saw this story on kuro5hin!

[ Parent ]
Everyone's surprised (none / 0) (#98)
by MasterLx03 on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:09:42 PM EST

I would have been a 1999 OHS grad, but I went to the Arts High School in Golden Valley my Jr. and Sr. year. I've lived in Chicago ever since then. Seriously, I've thought public education initiatives about cultural awareness would be a great idea in Owatonna, it's just they wouldn't catch on. My mom's a school teacher and they have curricula in place to deal with somali integration to the classroom, but they find themselves stuck at the inter-clan animosity. It's bad enough white students, still too young to rationally deal with conflicting emotions, have trouble adapting to foreign students, but when they see the Somali students going after each other, sometimes (the exceptions) viciously, it re-affirms stereotypes and lingering fears rooted in misunderstanding. I think it's true it'll take a few generations before "the somali problem" becomes mediated to the level of benign neglect and tolerance that, say, the migrant hispanic issue has (a big, big deal when I was much younger), but I was slightly heartened the last time I was home to see Owatonna public access featuring Somali hosted or themed shows. Part of me laughs to think about "Owatonna Today: The Kwaanza Show" just because, well, who'd have ever thought Todd Hale would ever do a Kwaanza show.

[ Parent ]
The View from Minneapolis (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by bhurt on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 04:56:17 PM EST

One of my best friends is a manager over at the Reuse Center up here in Minneapolis. The Reuse Center employees a large number of Somalis. In general, the Somalis are honest people, and hard workers (most of them work 2+ jobs). They may not look like your averge swede or norwegian, may not sound like them. But they're just here trying to make a life in the promised land- and aware that this means hard work. And in many ways they miss where they come from, and long for that little slice of home. This makes them not a whit different from any of the *other* waves of immigrants that have made this country- the Chinese, Poles, Italians, Germans, French, English, etc. Welcome to the melting pot. The problem is, I think, their skin color. A southern racist doesn't mind blacks being nearby so long as they aren't 'uppity'. A northern racist doesn't mind blacks being 'uppity' so long as they aren't nearby. And we have our share of northern racists up here, trust me. Brian

A different perspective (4.25 / 4) (#67)
by Ralph Slate on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 05:26:14 PM EST

The Somali resettlement was/is being proposed for a town where I work, Holyoke Massachusetts. Several "human services" groups sponsored a proposal to resettle the refugees in Holyoke, which is the poorest city in Massachusetts.

The residents protested, and were promptly labelled racist. They argued that their town was the poorest in the state, and that it had enough problems without imporing several hundred new poor people. They argued that even though federal dollars would initially come into Holyoke to support the resettlement, that in other towns in the US, the pattern was that a group of funded refugees would be placed in the city, and then a larger unfunded group would invariably settle in the community to be near their culture.

The sponsors argued that Holyoke was the best town to accept these refugees because they already had so many poor people, and therefore had services set up to help those people. Ted Kennedy came out in favor of the resettlement, and stated that morally we should be bringing in more Somalian refugees, not trying to block their resettlement.

The one problem I had with the entire effort is that the people supporting the resettlement all lived in the wealthy suburbs. They were in essence pushing a problem onto a city that could not defend itself -- and onto a town that did not have many resources to start with.

Ted Kennedy did not volunteer to house Somali refugees in Hyannis. He thought that they should be placed in a very poor town.

The sponsors did not volunteed to house Somali refugees across the street from their house. They wanted them in the area, resulting in an increase of funding for their human services programs, but they pushed the problem onto others as well.

I personally think that the best way to integrate a large group of poor refugees into a state or country is to break the group up. If you have 300 cities and towns in a state, and 300 refugee families, then send one to each city/town. That's not enough to overwhelm any town's system.

But when you send all 300 poor families to one city or town, you are essentially permanently altering that town. Why should any politician or social group have the right to do that, especially when they don't live there?

Why should even our elected leaders "sacrifice" the poor cities so that the wealthy suburbs can be free of refugees, crime, poverty, and illiteracy, along with the costs that those problems bring? Because no political donors live in those poor cities?

Has our government degraded to a "highest bidder" system instead of a system where each person's rights are guaranteed under the Constitution? Aren't we all guaranteed equal protection under the constitution? Then why are only poor cities & towns targetted for programs like this, yet wealthy suburbs never face similar situations?

I don't see this as a black/white issue; I see it as a powerful/powerless issue. Owatonna was politically insignificant, so they took the hit.

You can't send a person to be isolated (none / 0) (#82)
by baronben on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 09:36:55 PM EST

I personally think that the best way to integrate a large group of poor refugees into a state or country is to break the group up. If you have 300 cities and towns in a state, and 300 refugee families, then send one to each city/town. That's not enough to overwhelm any town's system.
You can't send a person to a foreign culture completely on their own. Sending only one Somalian family alone to a large city would cut them off from any cultural contact. While I certainly expect refugees to attempt to adapt to a new culture, things like that take years, if not decades. You need a cultural group that you can bond with and help each other. Thats why you get cultural enclaves in cities, like Chinatowns or Little Italy's, because new immigrants like to be near other immigrants from their own country
Ben Spigel sic transit gloria
[ Parent ]
I agree with most of this comment... (none / 0) (#88)
by Menard on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 01:40:27 AM EST

But disagree with your conclusion that the group should be broken up. That would absolutely isolate people, and, as cultural integration is a tremendously lengthy process, they would be left cut off from any sort of community at all for many years. It is better to find a place for the settlement of a large community.

However, the assertion that they should be sent to the poorest communities is blindingly insane. The idea that they would have the best social services hardly holds up. The good social services tend to accrue around the rich, because they have the resources to raise a fuss about these things.

Furthermore, even if the poor community has more social services, these would be still be stretched thin by all the need. And it seems self evident to me that any poverty-stricken community would have a tremendous lack of jobs, which ould make it a terrible place to suddenly add several hundred people. They would have a hell of a time supporting themselves, and the jobs they did get would be jobs suddenly unavailable to needy local residents, which would both exacerbate the poverty and fuel the fires of racial tension.

What a stupid, stupid, plan. Send them to a cmmunity of moderate wealth, where the cost of living is not so high as to be prohibitive to the poorer of the refugees, but where the wealth of the region is enough to support a large influx of new people. This seems so absolutely obvious, I have no idea who on earth would come up with the plan you describe.

[ Parent ]

Owatonna has been saturated by a new culture (none / 0) (#78)
by enterfornone on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 07:52:05 PM EST

God forbid any American should have to be exposed to a culture other than their own.

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Own culture? (none / 0) (#89)
by forii on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:57:04 AM EST

But wait! I thought America doesn't HAVE any culture! At least that's what the Euro-snobs keep on telling us.

But I guess having a little culture clash is inevitable when we don't have "detention centres" to stick our refugees in. Of course, I suppose being locked up as a criminal is historically the proper introduction to Australian culture. :)

Proud member of the ACLU, the NRA, and the EFF.
[ Parent ]

American culture (none / 0) (#94)
by enterfornone on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 02:07:41 PM EST

Something to do with McDonalds and Coke and not knowing anything of the outside world :)

efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
[ Parent ]
Story of another town (none / 0) (#86)
by rustyc20 on Tue Apr 01, 2003 at 11:51:26 PM EST

I went to university in a small, rural town in the Shenandoah Valley that about ten years ago had to cope with a sudden influx of immigrants. The immigrants came from all over to work in the poultry factories that abound in the area.

At first, there was a lot of tension and some overt racism, but ten years later the town is thriving in its diversity. The town still has a quaint, small-town Southern charm, but also has the best Cuban coffee, Thai food, African drummers, Kurdish dancing, and high school soccer team (supplemented with Latin American children) in a sixty-mile radius.

The integration was helped along by a thriving church community that welcomed the immigrants with open arms (free english classes, translation services, exchange events, etc), and the city even sponsors an annual international festival where local bluegrass bands play alongside Mexican folksingers. Overall, the community has gained a lot from its immigrant population and the mutually beneficial coexistence of cultures is one of the [getting to be fewer] things that make me proud to be an American.

I'm living in Owatonna right now (none / 0) (#92)
by LittleWashu on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 11:13:03 AM EST

I was pretty surprised in my daily view of K5 to see my hometown here. Cool! As far as the "damn Somali problem" as they call it here, I really haven't noticed a change other than on the surface. We see more colorful clothing on people in the wal-mart and in line at the grocery store, and there are more kids in the school system. Thats really about it. Taxes have gone up a bit, but they're always raising them a for all kinds of things unrelated to the immigrants. People complain about the taxes and blame the Somali's because they benefit from the improved infrastructure. What the complainers didn't seem to realize is that EVERYONE benefits. We have lots of nice parks, roads, new schools etc. These things would've been built even if we never had any Somalis here. But people hate property taxes, and there are a lot of expensive homes here. The schools were old and needed rebuilding. People say its because of all the new Somali kids, but I don't buy that. The county jail is the worst in the state. Has been for a long time. It needs to be rebuilt, with or without immigrants. These people are not anymore trouble than any other part of the community, but they are often scapegoats. People resent them for haveing some "perks" for being immigrants. I don't think they understand what its like to be new in an alien environment. They can't see their own part of the world as being alien at all. Its the "speak english or die" mentality. It will take a generation or two before that changes. Hopefully the Somalis will still be here by then

McDonald's and Coke, eh? (none / 0) (#96)
by smithmc on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:04:41 PM EST

Something to do with McDonalds and Coke and not knowing anything of the outside world :)

Well, if our culture's so lame, why does it seem that y'all just can't get enough of it? (Except for the French, that is.)

Yet another perspective... (none / 0) (#97)
by knawsey on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 03:05:53 PM EST

I happened to be living in Eastern Africa (Nairobi, Kenya actually) in 1991 when Mohamed Said Bare was ousted as Somalia's Leader by rebel warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed, and in 1996 when the USA came in to oust the rebel leader (The epic 'battle' in Black Hawk Down). Both conflicts resulted in a large refugee influx into neighboring Kenya, with tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Somalis moving in and settling in the major cities in Kenya.

A large number of the refugees in the initial influx were well off and settled in an area of Nairobi which later came to be know as 'Litte Mogadishu'. The 'new money' they brought with them (in dollars, ironically) increased the cost of living in 'Little Mogadishu' and in Nairobi although to a lesser extent. Later waves of refugees into 'Little Mogadishu' were not as wealthy and because no one wanted them as neightbors they settled in 'Little Mogadishu'. With every wave 'Little Mogadishu' went from a livable community to a horrible cesspool.

While, it is unlikely that Owatonna will experience anything like what happened in Nairobi in the late nineties, one of the things the people of Owatonna can do is to make it easy for their new neighbors to get integrated into society as opposed to alienating them and treating them like outsiders.

strange. (none / 0) (#103)
by /dev/trash on Wed Apr 02, 2003 at 10:46:25 PM EST

I'd think the biggest shock to a Somali, living in Minnesota would be winter.  Of all the places to move to in the US, I'd guess that the upper midwest wouldn't be one of them.

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
Somali political leader in Minnesota detained (none / 0) (#109)
by HongPong on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 03:27:40 AM EST

An issue of contention here in the Twin Cities has been over the Minneapolis police and their conduct towards the Somali community. There have been a number of incidents between the cops and wayward Somalis. (BTW it's Somalis, not Somalians) In particular one time the cops shot the hell out of one guy wandering around a street with a machete. He wasn't threatening anyone, just wandering around. How many Somalis died at the hands of those machetes? How many people did he lose? He was well-known in the community as troubled. This isn't particularly important to the police, who cut him down in a blast of bullets. He wasn't responding to them, really, but i don't know if his command of English was good. The state of social services here is not as strong as it needs to be. People emerging from a genuine Hobbesian suspension of order have true shell shock and they need to be looked after. But the cops aren't ready to take this on in the streets when it gets ugly.

There have been excellent political leaders from Minnesota that looked after immigrant communities, met with their organizers frequently because that was a secret of populist strength, as it always has been. Paul Wellstone's call was seriously touching to these people, and they supported him.

When Walter Mondale opened his 5-day sprint to the Senate, he issued his first press conference right here at my college. (He went here and the U of M) In the audience was one Omar Jamal, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minneapolis. He spoke up about Paul's committment to the defense of immigrant communities. He asked Mondale if he was committed to addressing the needs of immigrant communities. He is an emotional guy, he gets up in arms, rambles and talks some smack, particularly towards the INS/Homeland Security. He has this particular enthusiasm for the cause which is both enlightening and entertaining. (this question was pre-arranged I believe) Mondale confirmed his advocacy of immigrant communities including Somali interests, as he basically confirmed a committment to following most of Paul's basic principles, except he would be able to do so from a perch of high seniority.

But now the Department of Homeland Security has arrested Omar Jamal and is holding him at the Bloomington INS facility. He is claimed to have been misleading on how he got into the country, and possibly forged papers. Is Omar Jamal a cheater of INS rules? To be honest I don't think its important because he is serving his community as much as possible, and we couldn't ask more of an upstanding person here, in this troubled time. Because he could speak on behalf of those who can't inter-relate with American society, who don't understand how things work here and can only struggle with what has happened to them. (Press release) The weekly Pulse of the Twin Cities has closely followed the Somali story here.

Beyond the shooting, the INS has shut down Somali money-transfer businesses, attaching a label of terrorist financial support. In time these allegations were proven false and the businesses re-opened. But more cruel is the deportation of Somali minor-crimes violators to Somalia, where at least one was killed in a nation space with no government whatsoever. To send one back to an anarchic hell without due process to die, is cruel, unusual and must be stopped.

I took a pic at a St. Paul peace march on Mar. 22 which I think reflected a lot of Somali sentiment here. Hopefully the INS will take some serious flak and Omar Jamal won't get deported. The loss of Jamal would be a serious loss to the efforts of building a social connection between our Somalis and the rest of Minnesota.

hongpong.com-- Sublime agitation
Somalian (none / 0) (#110)
by randinah on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 12:43:07 PM EST

Not to nitpick or anything but actually both Somali and Somolian are accepted terms for one who comes from Somalia.

"Why waste time learning when ignorance is instantaneous?"
[ Parent ]
I think there is a govt. responsbility here (none / 0) (#113)
by livus on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 05:49:43 PM EST

We have a whole lot of Somalis and so on over here too. There are no problems where I live but out in the more suburban areas there are cultural clashes sometimes. It seems to me that the best remedy for this is understanding.

I think if a government is going to bring refugees in, then it has a responsibility to prepare the way for them by educating the incumbent population. Fear and hate are spread by ignorance, and said ignorance is all to often an honest mistake caused by people making assumptions about another culture.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

You may not be He-Man, but you do have the power! (none / 0) (#114)
by StephenFuqua on Fri Apr 04, 2003 at 10:22:09 PM EST

Find some other concerned citizens. Find a conference/auditorium type facility (can you use the high school auditorium for free?). Post flyers around town inviting people to a public forum on the refugee issue. The flyers don't have to make it clear that you think most of the long-time residents are nitwits for not understanding the situation. In fact, more might come if they just happen to think they'll agree!

Try to get someone from INS from Minneapolis, or an immigration lawyer, to come as the main speaker. Bet you can find someone willing to donate their time. Try to get one of the more recognized Somalis to create a small presentation on Somali culture and how it translates over when one becomes an American refugee. A few short presentations and then Q&A. When knowledge is lacking (as it clearly is), supplying knowledge is the only answer.

This really isn't all that difficult, if you get a few others to go along. And it might do wonders for your community. Baha'u'llah once said "the well-being of mankind, its peace and security, is unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." In my eyes, this would definitely qualify as an attempt to further the cause of unity, and thereby further the cause of peace and security.

Good luck, and please give us an update on the situation in 6 months!

Owatonna's Dilemma | 114 comments (109 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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