Melting Pot Blues

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Lewiston, Maine. Population 36,000. It’s blue collar, a bit run down, a city of long time residents, mostly white. Except for the newcomers.

In the past two years, over a thousand Somalis fleeing civil war, refugee camps, and dangerous American cities have settled in this mill town, founded a mosque, and sent their kids to school. But there’s friction too, as the immigrants stress city services, and local sensibilities. A recent call from Lewiston’s mayor asked Somalis to slow the migration, to give the city “breathing room” to adjust “emotionally” and “financially,” and it’s provoked charges of racism and religious intolerance.

How America handles its refugees and the story of Lewiston’s search for solutions.


Phil Nadeau, assistant city administrator for Lewiston

Abdirizak Mahboub, Somali resident of Lewiston

Arthur Helton, Council on Foreign Relations fellow and author of “The Price of Indifference: Refugees and Humanitarian Action in the New Century.”