Suvarna Garge (Editor)

History of the Somalis in Maine

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History of the Somalis in Maine

Somalis are an ethnic group in Maine. As of 2013, there were around 10,000 Somalis in Lewiston and Portland.



In the 2000s, Somali immigrants in the United States began a secondary migration to Maine from other states on account of the area's low crime rate, good schools and cheap housing.

In October 2002, Mayor Laurier T. Raymond wrote an open letter addressed to leaders of the Somali community, predicting a negative impact on the city's social services and requesting that they discourage further relocation to Lewiston. The letter angered some people and prompted some community leaders and residents to speak out against the mayor, drawing national attention. Demonstrations were held in Lewiston, both by those who supported the immigrants' presence and those who opposed it.

In January 2003, a small white supremacist group demonstrated in Lewiston in support of the mayor, prompting a simultaneous counter-demonstration of about 4,000 people at Bates College and the organization of the "Many and One Coalition". Only 32 attended the rally by the white supremacist group. The mayor was out of state on the day of the rallies, while governor John Baldacci and other officials attended.

In 2006, a severed frozen pig's head was also thrown into a Lewiston mosque while the faithful were praying. This was considered very offensive by the town's Muslim community, as swine is proscribed in Islam. The culprit admitted to the act and claimed it to be a joke. He later committed suicide.

In 2006, KPMG International released a study identifying the best places to do business around the world and ranked Lewiston as the best in New England. In January 2009, Newsweek associated a drop in crime rate, soaring income per capita and increased business activity in Lewiston with recent immigration to the town by Somalis.

In June 2011, the Lewiston Sun Journal also noted the growing number of Somali recent immigrants earning high school degrees, with more enrolling in local community colleges. The university students consist of both adult undergraduate and continuing education pupils, as well as high school graduates.


In 2011, there were an estimated 5,000 Somali immigrants in Lewiston. Around 5,000 Somalis also resided in Portland.

Somalis have opened up community centers to cater to their community. In 2001, the non-profit organization United Somali Women of Maine (USWM) was founded in Lewiston, seeking to promote the empowerment of Somali women and girls across the state. The Somali Community Resource Center also provides English and citizenship classes among other services to Portland's resident Somalis, as does the Somali Cultural & Development Association.


In August 2010, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported that Somali entrepreneurs had helped reinvigorate downtown Lewiston by opening dozens of shops in previously closed storefronts. Amicable relations were also reported by the local merchants of French-Canadian descent and the Somali storekeepers.


In 2010, several Somali immigrants, now citizens of the United States and residents of Portland, filed to run for the Maine Legislature. Mohammed Dini ran in District 119 in a Democratic Party primary, and Badr Sharif ran in the Republican Party primary for District 116; both candidates were defeated in primary challenges. Additionally, Portland's Somali community led a campaign to permit non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.


History of the Somalis in Maine Wikipedia