Madino Idoor, a 35-year-old Somali with seven children, spent 12 years in a refugee camp before coming to the U.S. in 2004. She works two jobs—one at Goodwill at Springfield and another as a dishwasher at the Barnes Air National Guard Base in nearby Westfield.
"I can work hard and provide for my family," Idoor said. "I do not need for the mayor to worry about me."
She and others wonder why the mayor is targeting an already vulnerable population, an idea reiterated Friday in a Boston Globe editorial.
"While Sarno raises valid points about needing adequate resources to accommodate newcomers, his stance is far too rigid and ignores both the moral imperative to help refugees and the benefits those refugees can bring," the editorial read.
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About 67,000 Somalis have come to the United States in the past decade, seeking refuge from civil war. Most have settled in Minnesota, California, Georgia and Washington, D.C.
In 2004, more than 100 Somalis came to Springfield, placed there because it met criteria including a public transit and other urban infrastructure. The community has grown as others reunite with family members.
Sarno said the State Department has not been receptive to his requests to stop sending refugees, echoing sentiments sometimes heard elsewhere.
Lewiston, Maine, Mayor Robert MacDonald, who in 2002 asked Somalis there to help "reduce the stress on our limited finances," took heat a decade later for saying immigrants should "accept our culture and, and you leave your culture at the door." He later clarified that he didn't expect them to abandon their religion or language but said: "I'm not going to apologize for `leave your culture behind.'"
Manchester, New Hampshire, Mayor Ted Gatsas in 2011 asked the State Department to stop resettling refugees there. Last year, he told the AP he still believes the city could benefit from a break in arrivals to "get these people into working society."
Such requests are rare, said Daniel Langenkamp, a department spokesman.
"We make every effort to work with local officials and other stakeholders to ensure the resettlement of refugees is acceptable," he said.