January 2008 • For nearly two decades now, due to the civil war and the displacement of many Somalis, emigration has been increasing. From 2002 to 2004, 10,000 Somalis came to Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, by 2004, an estimated 25,000 Somalis lived in Minnesota. More than half of all displaced Somalis have chosen to settle and live in Minnesota.
“I came to Minnesota because I knew I will find some Somalis that will help me settle.” says Asha M., a Phillips resident. The reason the Somalis came especially to Minnesota is quite interesting. According to the organization Immigration in Minnesota, it is because of “the availability of unskilled jobs that don’t require English fluency or literacy.” Others, like Asha, came here because there is the existence of Somali communities who have systems designed for Somalis to fit like education and health care and more.
However, Somalis of different generations share quite different obstacles. “Starting all over again” for elders “When we as Somalis came here, we had to start all over again,” says Mohamud Ali, a Cedar resident. Mr. Ali emphasized on how it does not matter what higher credential you have attained, you have to start from the bottom. “You wonder why many Somali men are really in the cab driving business” added Ali, giggling.
”I started all over again,” says a Somali taxi driver who wanted to remain anonymous. He said that he was a Somali history teacher in Mogadishu, but “I can’t teach it here because there is no need for that.” He has said that he taught his lessons in Somali but he now has little English fluency. Other Somali cab drivers share the same problem with the history teacher; in fact, some were doctors, military men and professional business owners. It is an obstacle that many Somali men share, which is the lack of job transference.
Language barrier, Somali teenagers Although language barrier is a problem for both young teenagers and adults’ lives, Mahad Hussein, a Roosevelt High School student, felt that although teenagers have more access to language than adults do, it is still harder for teenagers because they have to learn. Adults can work in factories that do not require English fluency, but teens have to go to school and pass state tests.
Hussein says that coming to Minnesota on a winter day with a rain jacket on was not easy. He has seen some cons on his way. He said that communication has hard. Hussein said that learning “a whole new foreign language in the quickest amount of time was hard.” Hussein explained how language barriers are a big problem for many Somali students in the public schools.
Both the elders and the young adolescents of the Somali immigrants have faced obstacles, but if we consider both, the elders face bitter obstacles. Hey, come on it is easy to learn and grab a language, especially if you are a teenager. Nevertheless, when elders start their whole life again, I think it is sad. I just hope that everything works out for everybody.