Domenic Sarno, the mayor of Springfield, Massachusetts, has asked the State Department not to send anymore displaced foreign families to his city. He claims the new residents are adding stress to an industrial area where many families already live below the poverty line.
According to U.S. census data, 28.7 percent of the residents in Springfield lived below the poverty line between 2008 and 2012. Most worked in the fields of trade, transportation and utilities.
Springfield is home to approximately 1,500 resettled refugees, nearly 400 of them from Somalia, according to numbers from The Associated Press.
Sarno, who formally made the request Thursday in a letter to his district’s representatives and the governor, told The Springfield Republican that he was not, “cold-hearted at all.” He said he was asking for accountability from the agencies involved as he explained, “You just can’t continue concentrating poverty on top of poverty.”
Sarno’s comments brought severe backlash from those who say that he is not satisfying his responsibility as mayor to help so many of these struggling families. Countless families were brought from such deprived countries such as Somalia and Turkey before being shuttled into apartment buildings in Springfield, which is the third-largest city in the state of Massachusetts.
City officials have complained that the refugees have been housed in buildings that don’t have heat or electricity and are overrun with rats and insects. Addressing these complaints, the mayor said that resettlement agencies are at fault because they are leaving these new residents “dependent on the city.”
In an editorial, the Boston Globe explains that refugees aren’t coming to this country as tourists or vacationers and are often traumatized by the chain of events that follow their arrival. “They shouldn’t also be stigmatized. While there’s always room for improvement in providing services, political leaders should voice a message of accommodation, not alienation,” the editorial said.
Madino Idoor, a 35-year-old Somali who spent 12 years in a refugee camp before arriving in the U.S. in 2004, said she is not a burden to the city of Springfield because she works two jobs to care for her seven children. “I do not need for the mayor to worry about me.”