Controversy Over Somali Muslim Immigrant Communities in Small N.E. Town

October 14, 2002

Source: The Boston Globe

On October 14, 2002 The Boston Globe reported that "a year ago, a coalition of religious charities told Holyoke [Mass.] Mayor Michael Sullivan they were seeking nearly $1 million in federal funds to relocate as many as 60 Somali Muslim families over the next three years to this city, one of the state's poorest. Holyoke seemed the perfect fit, the charities said, because of affordable housing, entry-level jobs, and the city's long tradition of absorbing newcomers. Sullivan agreed, but advised the coalition to find more money for education, interpreters, and police training. Two months ago, the funds came through - $320,000 a year, for three years. But now, city councilors say that even with the grant, Holyoke cannot afford to welcome the refugees. Two weeks ago, the councilors, who said they had just learned of the plan, voted to ask the federal government to take the money back... opposition to the resettlement plan has become so loud and angry that the charities canceled a public hearing scheduled for this week, saying hostility would overshadow a planned slide show of the plight of the Bantus. The charities are scrambling to find another solution, lest the Bantu, unwanted in their own country, travel here only to face the same situation."