Menominee, MI Earlier this week, the first wave of Syrian refugees, approximately 2,000 of the expected 4,500, finally reached the Menominee Marina in downtown Menominee, MI. The remaining refugees are expected to land over the next few days, depending on the weather and conditions of Lake Michigan.
John Maino, a correspondent for NBC affiliate WGBA, told viewers, “The waters of the Menominee shores are pretty calm right now, but a storm blew through this otherwise quiet town this week.”
For refugees arriving in a new country after a long and sometimes painful journey, the transition to a new life in a new environment is not without its challenges. While coping with the trauma of fleeing their homeland, they now have to adjust to life in a new culture.
With a population of approximately 8,600 residents, Menominee is the smallest city in the nation to harbor refugees from war-torn Syria and will see its demographics drastically change overnight.
Such a seismic shift in both population and culture has some area residents and city officials on edge.
Concerned local resident, Tammy Koutnik, told NBC 26, “Well I was wondering how we were gonna take care of forty-five hundred people in Menominee.”
Eagle Herald news editor, Penny Mullens, said simply, “You have to deal with it.”
Area resident, Justin Salzman, offered a possible solution. “I’m thinking maybe Marinette Marine with the Navy contracts and stuff.”
Menominee Mayor, Jean Stegeman, said her home phone was blown up by both enraged callers and others offering to help. “I got calls at my home, my answering machine was full. That’s not to say that we, of course, wouldn’t embrace somebody who needed help.”
Gabrielle Mays, weekend co-anchor from Fox affiliate WLUK, stated, “With a population of nearly eighty-six hundred people, adding forty-five hundred refugees raises some concerns about whether the city can support the increased population,” before adding, “city leaders agreed to fund a mosque for the refugees, [and] United Way would help with the transition.”
Menominee stalwart, Stan ‘the man’ Bresnahan, is heartbroken to see his beloved city being overrun by what he calls “jihadists.” Stan asks, “Now why on God’s green earth would we bring in refugees from countries that breed radical Islamic terrorists? Can someone please answer me this question?”
For Quest Summers, the in-house pro at Edquist Skate Park, he’s looking forward to meeting the city’s new arrivals. “We’re offering one month of free lessons with all new signups,” he said.
“The governor thinks it’s an economic plus,” reported Lansing Bureau Chief, Tim Skubick. “And to those who fear that the immigrants would take away jobs, the governor says, Michigan has a record of immigrants coming in and actually creating jobs,” said Skubick.