Hundreds stand with Mainers from Somalia, but some prominent Republicans refuse

Hundreds stand with Mainers from Somalia, but some prominent Republicans refuse

More than 200 people packed the steps of City Hall in Portland this afternoon to repudiate the attacks leveled against Somali-American immigrants in Maine by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during his rally in Maine yesterday, where he characterized the community as a likely terrorist threat.

“Somalis have been part of Maine since the early 1990s. We are citizens of this country and members of this community. We are participants in all sectors of the economy. We are professionals, laborers, students, business owners, veterans and members of law enforcement. We care about our communities and we are here to stay,” said Deqa Dhalac of the Somali Community Center of Maine. “Trump’s rhetoric at his rally in Portland on Thursday was very destructive. It is damaging to the psyche of our youth to hear a major party presidential nominee condemn our culture and religion, especially while standing next to the governor of our state. We condemn his name calling, scapegoating and the lies perpetrated by his campaign.”

Several of the participants held up copies of the U.S. Constitution, referencing both an address at the Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier who was killed in Iraq, and a protest held yesterday during Trump’s speech.

“When somebody who is running for president of the United States stands on values of bigotry and xenophobia, when somebody who is running for the president of the United States doesn’t even know the first line, of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which says, ‘Freedom of religion will not be abridged.’ When somebody of who is running for president of the United States doesn’t understand that we have to stand up,” Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling said at the rally, according to the Portland Press Herald. “We cherish the Somali community here. You are welcomed here, you are cherished here. But more than you are welcomed and cherished here, we need you here.”

Other politicians, however, were more reticent to condemn Trump’s remarks.

Governor LePage, a Trump ally, was silent, while Senator Susan Collins issued a statement that was broadly supportive of immigrants, but was far less than full-throated in rebuking Trump. Her harshest characterization was that his remarks were “particularly unhelpful.”

Congressman Bruce Poliquin issued a statement saying that he is “not participating in day-to-day media carnival surrounding the presidential campaign.” He them bizarrely claimed on Twitter that it wasn’t a reference to Trump’s remarks, despite the fact that the release also included a link to previous coverage of Somali immigrants.

The controversy on immigration comes just days after a new report was released showing how vital a role immigrant families play in Maine’s communities and economy, one that will be increasingly important as the nation’s oldest state continues to age.

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