Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, released a statement condemning what she said were “disparaging” remarks by presidential candidate Donald Trump during a stop in Maine. “Mr. Trump’s statements disparaging immigrants who have come to this country legally are particularly unhelpful,” Collins said. Paying tribute to immigrants in her state, Collins said, “Maine has benefited from people from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and, increasingly, Africa — including our friends from Somalia.”
Speaking at a rally in Portland on August 4, Trump said that “we’ve just seen many, many crimes getting worse all the time, and as Maine knows — a major destination for Somali refugees — right, am I right?” Continuing, Trump said, “Well, they’re all talking about it.”
Trump raised the threat of terrorism when he spoke of the large Somali presence in Minnesota. In June, for example, three Somali men were found guilty in Minnesota on federal charges that they tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State terror organization. “You see it happening. You read about it,” Trump said at the rally. “You see it, and you can be smart, and you can be cunning and tough, or you can be very, very dumb and not want to see what’s going on, folks.”
“Maine. Somali refugees. We admit hundreds of thousands — you admit, into Maine, and to other places in the United States — hundreds of thousands of refugees.”
Officialdom and Somalis in Maine did not like Trump’s message. “Coming from a troubled place does not mean that we are criminals,” said Abdifatah Ahmed, a member of the Somali community of Portland. To loud cheers, he said, “So we will stay here, and, you know, in November we will vote.”
Members of the Somali community and local officials attended a protest outside of City Hall in Portland to demonstration solidarity against Trump. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, who had a copy the Constitution in his shirt pocket -- emulating Khizr Khan, a Pakistani Muslim immigrant who denounced Trump at the Democratic National Convention while waving a copy of the foundational document – told the crowd “We need you here.” The crowd chanted, “More love, no hate,” and waved signs that read, “I love my neighbors.”
According to the police chief of Lewiston, Maine, the Somalis have not caused any increase in crime. Maine is home to approximately 12,000 Somali refugees.
Members of the Somali community, and the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, denounced Trump. The coalition said, “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.”
Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald, a third-term Republican, once urged immigrants to “leave your culture at the door” and has also called for an accessible, online registry of every person receiving public assistance.
Gov. Paul LePage of Maine is an enthusiastic supporter of Trump. During his swing through the state, Trump stated that LePage has an open job offer to serve in a future Trump administration.