This is a story from San Diego, one of the hot Somali cities in the US, about the growing control of the taxi business by Somalis and other immigrants. Note that the International Rescue Committee is responsible for most of the more than 15,000 Somalis in that city.
Getting their friends into the business. From the San Diego Union-Tribune:
A few days after about 300 San Diego taxi drivers went on strike to protest the amount of money they pay to lease cabs, organizers gathered the drivers in a City Heights meeting hall to rally them. The impassioned speeches were in Somali.
In San Diego, Somali immigrants are nearly synonymous with the taxicab industry. Since Somalis began settling here in large numbers as refugees in the early 1990s, fleeing a civil war at home, they have come to dominate the business as drivers. While there is no official figure, it is estimated by groups who work with African immigrants and by drivers themselves that at least three-fourths of San Diego cabbies are East African, the vast majority from Somalia. Others are from Ethiopia and Eritrea, and a few are from other African countries.
“It is the easiest thing to do when you come from another country, and you know how to drive,” said Hakeem Kalif, 40, who arrived from Somalia in 1992 and began driving a taxi four years later. “You only need a Thomas Guide.”
The cabbies follow in a long-established tradition, the immigrant social hiring network, an informal system of referrals and recruiting that has existed for as long as immigrants have been landing on these shores.
Just as social networks help determine where new arrivals to the United States settle, they also help determine the jobs they get, with established immigrants helping arriving family members and friends find work.
Bringing their religion to their jobs! Readers may recall the controversy in Minnesota when Somali cab drivers refused to take passengers with dogs or liquor (mentioned here in this post on the quiet jihad).
Driving a taxi has become a common occupation for Somali immigrants and other East Africans, not only in San Diego but also in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Washington, D.C. In San Diego, with an East African population that includes an estimated 15,000 or more Somalis, it is not unusual to see a Muslim cabbie pull over to observe a call to prayer by taking a moment to pull a small prayer rug onto the sidewalk and kneel toward Mecca.
I wonder do they stop to pray if a fare is late for a flight or other appointment?
When the climate controls the work day? Or, more like they work when they feel like it?
Bob Montgomery, director of the International Rescue Committee in San Diego, said Somali immigrants entered the taxi industry soon after refugees began arriving in San Diego, following in the footsteps of earlier Ethiopian immigrants, who had also taken to driving cabs. The freedom of driving a cab works for immigrants from these largely agricultural economies, where the climate determines the workday, he said.
“Especially with East Africans, the 9-to-5 work schedule is something new to them — not to all of them, but to a lot of them,” said Montgomery, whose office helped settle the bulk of Somali refugees in the area.
We wrote about San Diego Somalis recently when one Somali guy set up a ponzi scheme and ripped-off his co-religionists, here.
For new readers :
The US State Department has admitted over 80,000 Somali refugees to the US in the last 25 years and then last year had to suspend family reunification because widespread immigration fraud was revealed through DNA testing. That specific program has not yet been reopened (that we know of), but will be soon. Nevertheless, thousands of Somali Muslims continue to be resettled as I write this.