PORTLAND — Republican Donald Trump has a new target when it comes to immigrants: Somalis.
Trump told an audience Thursday at packed Merrill Auditorium in Portland that Maine is a “major destination” for Somali refugees and that they’re coming from some of the “most dangerous places.” He said the nation’s acceptance of refugees is a problem that must stop.
“We’ve just seen many, many crimes getting worse all the time, and as Maine knows — a major destination for Somali refugees — right, am I right? Well they’re all talking about it. Maine. Somali refugees. We admit hundreds of thousands — you admit, into Maine, and to other places in the United States — hundreds of thousands of refugees,” Trump said.
“And they’re coming from among the most dangerous territories and countries in the world,” he added. “This is a practice that has to stop.”
Somali immigration has been a political flash point in largely white Maine, particularly in Lewiston, where officials estimated last year that between 4,000 to 5,000 Somalis live in a community with an official population of 36,000.
Trump also cited a story by The Washington Times that said efforts to resettle Somali refugees in Minnesota are straining resources and gathering potential targets for “Islamist terror groups.”
“You see it happening. You read about it,” Trump said. “You see it, and you can be smart, and you can be cunning and tough, or you can be very, very dumb and not want to see what’s going on, folks.”
In Lewiston and Portland, where large numbers of Somali immigrants reside, reaction was swift in response to the story, although not everyone agreed about whether Trump was right or wrong in his assessment.
“Yes, they’re coming from dangerous places,” Patricia Washburn, of Portland, wrote on Facebook, “that’s why they’re leaving! Judge them on what they do here — in many cases, raising families, going to school, starting businesses, learning English, practicing their religion in peace, and working.”
Sources used in the story: Associated Press, Main Sunjournal, Boston Globe, and Maine Public Broadcasting.