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West Springfield Ranks Near Top In Per-Capita U.S. Refugee Resettlements

Mahamud Ali Adawe is a refugee from Somalia who resettled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2017.
Adam Frenier
Mahamud Ali Adawe is a refugee from Somalia who resettled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 2017.

A recent study shows that — per capita — West Springfield, Massachusetts, is fourth in the country for refugee resettlements.

The report from American Public Media's America Amplified project also shows Springfield is in the top 100.

West Springfield averaged 161 refugee resettlements per year from 2015 to 2019, according to the report.

Mayor Will Reichelt said being near the top of the list is a good thing.

"When you go down Main Street and Union Street in West Springfield, there's just so many new businesses and authentic restaurants, and really, refugee-run communities that have sprouted up, because so many people have been brought over to West Springfield, and have decided to bring their families over and settle here — and stay here," Reichelt said.

Reichelt said if it wasn't for the placements, West Springfield's overall population of more than 28,000 likely would have declined.

Ascentria Care Alliance has settled refugees in West Springfield for many years.

Its chief operating officer Tim Johnstone said a supportive community, affordable housing and jobs make it a good place for his agency to work.

"Refugees want to come and start a new life here, so they're anxious to get jobs as soon as they can, and start providing for families as soon as they can," Johnstone said. "There's been a lot of really great employer support in terms of helping refugees get started again."

Across the Connecticut River in Springfield, the city saw more than 150 resettlements a year, and ranks 66th in the report. It's the only other western Massachusetts city on the list.

Mahamud Ali Adawe, 65, came to Springfield from Somalia in 2017. A farmer by trade, he fled the civil war there. Adawe was able to bring two of his children with him to Massachusetts, but some others remain in a refugee camp in Kenya.

Through an interpreter, Adawe recalled saying "Thanks to God" when he got to Springfield. He said there's been a lot of opportunities, that he was able to have surgery on both eyes and that he was resettled very well. 

It may become harder for those like Adawe to make Springfield home. A Trump administration executive order gives individual cities the ability to block resettlement — although that's being challenged in court.

Mayor Domenic Sarno has said he will not grant permission for more placements.

Other New England cities ranking high in per capita resettlements include Concord, New Hampshire, at 11;  Worcester, Massachusetts, at 39; New Haven, Connecticut at 51; and Hartford at 59.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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