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LETTER: The value of welcoming our New Mainers

This is a letter to Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald:

Mr. Mayor,

I read your column several times, and was most struck by the wonderful acknowledgements you made to the New Mainers living within your community. (“Enough is Enough: Extremist liberals widen the divide with Somalis,” TCT, Sept. 6, 2012)

I, too, have had this positive experience when meeting people from within the largest immigrant/refugee population (since the French-Canadians, of course).

Your words ring so true: “Since becoming mayor, I have met with groups of Somalis on several occasions. I have found the overwhelming majority to be kind and very hospitable. The majority express their appreciation for having been afforded the chance to live in a place that is safe and offers unlimited opportunities in which to better themselves.”

Like many of our own forefathers, who were immigrants themselves, all the way back to Columbus, people from the New Mainer population are so very relieved to be in a safe, beautiful place and eager to learn how to contribute to our wonderful country.

In particular, I think of a single mother of six children, from ages four to 17, who went through citizenship classes, obtained citizenship, is now looking for employment and doing adult ed. I also think of the father I know, working full time at Walmart, paying payroll taxes and putting money into a 401(k) to save for his family.

I know many youth from within the community, and their goals are to go to college or even join the armed services. As one young man said to me: “I want to protect our country so no one can do what they have done in Africa to the beautiful America.”

You acknowledge in your column that there are struggles of racism and resentment within their neighborhoods—again, so true and, regrettably, even outside those neighborhoods. The hope is that you, by your encouraging words and strong example, lead the residents of Lewiston to a place where this doesn’t happen. This is also the goal of Welcoming Maine: we truly are working for the same thing.

I also appreciated your acknowledgement that: “Many are employed. Many own homes. Many have started businesses, which have grown our tax base. Lastly, their children are bright, especially the girls. Many currently attend top private colleges and universities, maintaining a GPA of between 3.5 and 4.0. These are the Somalis I know.”

These are the Somalis I know, as well. Boys or girls, I agree. It’s the disparity of youth in general that boys get into more mischief than girls. If you check the numbers within multiple existing structures—education, DOC, etc.—you will note that in most areas, male youth exhibit more challenging behavior than women.

So you are spot on with your comment. The youth are bright, determined and wanting to make our country and our world a better place.

Again, I appreciate the value you put forth in making welcoming remarks to our New Mainers. I’m unclear about the use of “carpetbagger”, as this term seems antiquated and to some offensive with its connection to the post-Civil War reference.

I’m certain, as Mayor of Lewiston, you would not want your remarks misconstrued or your message of welcoming marred by making connections to days of unrest, prejudice, racism and discord within our truly beautiful country. We applaud all the kind remarks you have made about our New Mainer population.

Melissa Marcinuk, LMSW-CC

Welcoming Maine


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