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Somali American

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Somali American

Somali American
Total population
Regions with significant populations

Somali Americans are Americans of Somali ancestry. The first ethnic Somalis to arrive in the U.S. were sailors who came in the 1920s. They were followed by students pursuing higher studies in the 1960s and 1970s, and a few migrants thereafter. However, it was not until the 1990s when the civil war in Somalia broke out that the majority of Somalis arrived in the United States. The Somali community in the U.S. is now among the largest in the Somali diaspora.


Former Somalia embassy in Washington, D.C..

The earliest ethnic Somali immigrants to the United States were sailors who arrived in the 1920s, mainly from northern Somalia. Eventually acquiring American citizenship, they actively participated in the Somali independence movement and served as key liaisons whenever Somali political figures visited the UN headquarters. For their substantial contributions to Somali society, these early Somali expatriates were rewarded with medals by the Somali government and some were also issued land back home. Following independence in 1960, Somali students began arriving in the US to pursue higher studies while living with relatives or on scholarships. Many of the youngsters returned to Somalia after graduation and went on to play an important role in the development of their nation. During the 1980s, a small number of Somalis settled in the United States. They were later joined by many other ethnic Somalis from different backgrounds, who sought asylum in the US after the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia or emigrated from other parts of Greater Somalia.[2]

A Somali grocery store in Columbus, Ohio.

A large number of the Somali immigrants settled in Minnesota, which in 2002 harbored the largest population of Somalis in North America.[3] By 2006, Somalis in the state accounted for $164–$394 million in purchasing power and owned 600 businesses.[4] The city of Minneapolis in particular hosts hundreds of Somali-owned and operated commercial ventures. Colorful stalls inside several shopping malls offer everything from halal meat, to stylish leather shoes, to the latest fashion for men and women, as well as gold jewelry, money transfer or hawala offices, banners advertising the latest Somali films, and video rental stores fully stocked with nostalgic love songs not found in the mainstream supermarkets, groceries and boutiques.[5]

Somalis in the United States often send resources to their extended families abroad, remittances that were facilitated by the signing of the Money Remittances Improvement Act.[6] Following a greatly improved security situation in Somalia in 2012, many Somali U.S. residents have also begun returning to Mogadishu and other parts of the country.[7] A few of the homeward-bound immigrants along with some American-born associates have been sought and/or prosecuted for allegedly providing material support to the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, which is battling the Somali government.[8][9] However, according to intelligence officials, fewer expatriates were joining the group's ranks by late 2013.[10] Most of the returnees have instead repatriated for investment opportunities and to take part in the ongoing post-conflict reconstruction process in Somalia. Participating in the renovation of schools, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure, they have played a leading role in the capital's recovery and have also helped propel the local real estate market.[7]


Somali women at a Somali community event in Minneapolis.

Current estimates of the number of Somali immigrants living in the United States vary widely, ranging from 35,760 to 150,000 persons.[11] 2010 American Community Survey data indicates that there are approximately 85,700 people with Somali ancestry in the US. Of those, about 25,000 or one third live in Minnesota.[1] According to the Arab American Institute, Somalis are among the larger Arab American populations in the country.[12]

Texas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, Colorado and Florida.

In terms of cities, the heaviest concentrations of Somalis in the US are found in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul), followed by the Columbus, Ohio, Seattle, San Diego, Washington, D.C., New York City, Portland, Maine and San Francisco metro areas.[13][14]

In 2014, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution marking July 1 as Somali American Day. The event commemorates the Independence Day of Somalia, which is annually celebrated on the same day.[15] The council also approved a resolution making Minneapolis and Bosaso in northeastern Somalia sister cities.[16] Additionally, the Federal Government of Somalia announced that it would start officially keeping count of Somalis abroad.[17]

Community organizations

Somali cultural event hosted by the Somali Student Association at the University of Minnesota.

The Somali community in the United States is represented by various Somali-run organizations. Somali Community Services in San Jose and the Somali American Council of Oregon (SACOO) on the west coast offer guidance to new Somali families and works closely with the municipal authorities to strengthen civic relations.[18][19] The Somali Community Association of Ohio (SCAO) is one of several groups serving Columbus' Somali community.[20] In Minnesota, the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota (CSCM), Somali American Parent Association (SAPA), and Somali Action Alliance also offer various social services to the state's resident Somalis.[18][21][22]

Politically, a Somali American Caucus in the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party (DFL) was formed to represent the Somali community.[23] A Somali American also chairs the Republican Party's Immigrant Relations Committee in Minnesota.[24]

Diplomatic missions

Somalis in the United States are represented by the embassy of Somalia in Washington, D.C.. The diplomatic mission is led by Ambassador Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke.[25] The embassies of Djibouti and Ethiopia in the capital provide additional diplomatic representation for resident ethnic Somalis.[26]

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^ a b Survey: Nearly 1 in 3 US Somalis live in Minnesota
  2. ^ Diana Briton Putman, Mohamood Cabdi Noor (1993). The Somalis: Their History and Culture. Center for Applied Linguistics. p. 1. 
  3. ^ New Americans in the North Star State
  4. ^ Economic Contributions of Somalis in Minnesota
  5. ^ Talking Point by M.M. Afrah Minneapolis, Minnesota (USA) Aug., 12. 2004
  6. ^ "Ellison and Paulsen Reintroduce Money Remittances Improvement Act To Help Somali Families Send Money Home". House Office of Keith Ellison. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  7. ^ a b "SOMALIA: Returning diaspora help rebuild". Somalilandpress. Retrieved 15 January 2013. 
  8. ^ Gred Moran (31 January 2013). "Terror Trail of 4 Somalis Begins". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 8 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Ahmed, Majid (20 December 2012). "Crisis deepens within al-Shabaab after public rebuke of al-Amriki". Sabahi. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  10. ^ "Al-Shabaab Recruits in the U.S.". CNN. 23 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  11. ^ Chapter 1. Somali History and Immigration to the United States
  12. ^ Awad, Germine H. "The impact of acculturation and religious identification on perceived discrimination for Arab/Middle Eastern Americans". PsycNET. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  13. ^ "Translation Seattle". Lingo-Star. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  14. ^ Martin, Laira. "Little Saigon on the Map". Our City San Diego. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Minneapolis celebrates first Somali-American Day". Minnesota Public Radio. 1 July 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "Minneapolis City Council Approves New Sister City In Somalia". CBS. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "SOMALIA: Gov’t to launch population census ahead of 2016 elections". Koonfurta. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Member Organizations". National Network for Arab American Communities. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  19. ^ "FBI Honors Local Somali American with the Director’s Community Leadership Award". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  20. ^ "SCAO - Our Mission". Somali Community Association of Ohio. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  21. ^ "CSCM - About Us". Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  22. ^ "Somali American Parent Association". Somali American Parent Association. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  23. ^ "Somali American Caucus". Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  24. ^ Shah, Allie (13 October 2012). "Somali-Americans begin making mark on local politics". Star Tribune. Retrieved 9 February 2013. 
  25. ^ "Ex-Somalia PM named as new ambassador to US". Garowe Online. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 12 July 2014. 
  26. ^ "List of Embassies". Office of the Secretary. Retrieved 4 November 2014. 

External links

  • Somali American media
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