Living in America

Meet the neighbors

I don't have a problem with other groups. We all live here and we got to get along. No prejudice, just respect each other. I've gone through it a lot on the other end, but it changed me to a better person. When I first arrived, there was a lot of prejudice in the beginning, because there weren't a lot of us. So many people called me monkey boy, you know? Being called names and getting pushed around. Chink, whatever, you know, chink, gook, whatever. Why don't you go back to your country, and all that bullshit.

Maybe they just don't like what race you are, or your skin or something like that. They bring us here, and then they act like they don't want us here. But I learned how to deal with it when I was little and I kept on going to jail, and learned to be friends with people. This is my country. I got nowhere to go. It's too bad they don't want me here, but I'm here.


Bill Cameron

Who's Here and Why
A breakdown of local immigrant populations collected from the International Institute of Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Health, the U.S. Census, and the U.S. State Department



WHERE ARE THEY FROM? Eritrea is a small country in East Africa bordered by Ethiopia and the Red Sea.

WHY DID THEY LEAVE? After a century of colonization by Italians, British, and Ethiopians, Eritrea gained independence in 1993. In 1998, war erupted with Ethiopia that continues today.

WHY/HOW DID THEY END UP IN THE TWIN CITIES? In the 1980s, Eritreans came to the United States as refugees from Ethiopia, usually as university students, and received political asylum. Another wave came, on visas, in the late 1990s.

ESTIMATED LOCAL POPULATION: Roughly 2,000 Eritreans in Minnesota.

WHERE ARE THEY CONCENTRATED? A large community lives in St. Paul's West Seventh area.

SOCIOECONOMICS: They tend to seek higher education and work in a variety of service industries, especially at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.



WHERE ARE THEY FROM? Ethiopia is a landlocked country in East Africa, where there are more than 75 ethnic groups (and 80 languages). Most populous are the Oromo (40 percent), followed by the Amhara and the Tigrean.

WHY DID THEY LEAVE? Since 1980, civil war, ethnic conflict, drought, and famine have caused hundreds of thousands to flee the country. The Amhara had long dominated the political landscape, but in 1991, the Tigreans took over and now run the economy.

WHY/HOW DID THEY END UP IN THE TWIN CITIES? In the 1980s, many Ethiopian professionals and students obtained political asylum in the U.S. As many as 1,500 Ethiopian refugees and immigrants arrived in Minnesota in 1999. Since then, more have come as secondary migrants to seek jobs and reunite with family.


WHERE ARE THEY CONCENTRATED? Many live in Minneapolis's Seward and Cedar-Riverside neighborhoods.

SOCIOECONOMICS: There exists an educational divide among Ethiopians, so while there are many educated professionals with university degrees living in Minnesota, others find work as parking-ramp attendants, security guards, and food service workers.



WHERE ARE THEY FROM? Liberia is a small nation on the Atlantic coast of West Africa.

WHY DID THEY LEAVE? Liberia, founded by the offspring of freed American slaves, has long had close relations with the United States, even during periods of civil unrest in the 1980s and '90s. More recently, the country has experienced utter chaos due to an uprising and the ouster of a longtime president.

WHY/HOW DID THEY END UP IN THE TWIN CITIES? More than 800 Liberian refugees were resettled in Minnesota in the 1990s.

ESTIMATED LOCAL POPULATION: As many as 3,500--the numbers have fluctuated wildly since the latest unrest.

WHERE ARE THEY CONCENTRATED? They are scattered throughout the Twin Cities, but have significant enclaves in Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.

SOCIOECONOMICS: More than 60 percent of Liberians are Christian (the rest are Muslim) and almost 30 percent of Liberians speak English, the country's official language. Many Liberians are highly educated, and tend to work in nursing and healthcare fields. Others have little or no education, and work in manufacturing and service industries.



WHERE ARE THEY FROM? Somalia is a nation of eight million people on the Horn of East Africa

WHY DID THEY LEAVE? In the latter half of the 19th century, Britain, Italy, and France divided up the Somali territory for themselves. After World War II, Italy granted Somalia independence. Since the nation's political system collapsed in 1991, it has been without a functioning government and has been plagued by famine and civil war. As many as 400,000 Somalis have died during the last decade, and more than one million have fled their homeland, mostly to neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda.

WHY/HOW DID THEY END UP IN THE TWIN CITIES? Many came as refugees in the 1990s, with relatives continuing to arrive as secondary migrants.

ESTIMATED LOCAL POPULATION: Roughly 25,000, the largest concentration of Somalis in the United States.

WHERE ARE THEY CONCENTRATED? Eighty percent reside in Minneapolis's historically poor neighborhoods, including Cedar-Riverside, Phillips, and Eliot Park. More and more, Somalis are moving to the suburbs--most significantly Eden Prairie--and rural Minnesota.

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