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Archive for the ‘employment/jobs for refugees’ Category

Springfield, MA struggling

Posted by Christopher Coen on June 27, 2014

jobsearch

While the Mayor of Springfield continues to scapegoat refugees for perceived political gain a leader of a local refugee resettlement group is using the defense that the city is struggling with, “a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates.” Of course that raises the question about whether the city is a proper destination for refugees in the US resettlement program.  An article in The Republican continues a series of articles covering the issue:

SPRINGFIELD – An organization that resettles refugees in Western Massachusetts said Monday the program should not serve as “a scapegoat” for city problems, as Mayor Domenic J. Sarno has renewed a request for a moratorium on new refugees in Springfield.

Jodie Justofin, a spokeswoman for Lutheran Social Services, said Monday that Sarno’s concerns about the resettlement of refugees in Springfield, including his claim that it poses a hardship on city services, was already addressed in a letter from the agency’s president Angela Bovill, in August.

“As you’ll note, Angela put this political issue in the context of the many challenges facing Springfield,” Justofin said. “In a city of 150,000 residents, the relatively small number of refugees (about 1 percent of the population) residing in Springfield should not be made a scapegoat for the city’s problems. Many of these refugees are contributing members of society, working, paying taxes and enriching the community.”…

At that time, Bovill said in part: “I trust you don’t mean to imply that in a city with a population of more than 150,000, Springfield’s longstanding struggle with a weak economy, high unemployment, crime, proverty [sic], inadequate housing, and low high school graduation rates are a direct result of the 250-300 refugees resettling to the City annually,”… Read more here

Posted in crime, employment/jobs for refugees, housing, Jewish Family Service of Western Masachusetts, moratorium / restriction / reduction, schools, Somali Bantu, Springfield | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugee woman lost seven fingers in meat-packing accidents, not understanding safety training

Posted by Christopher Coen on April 23, 2014

 neglected1

Iowa’s 6000 refugees from Myanmar are struggling on. The U.S. Refugee resettlement program still hasn’t figured out how to adequately assist refugees who move from their original resettlement location to other geographical locations for jobs or to be near family (secondary migration). This, even though large numbers of refugees have relocated in search of jobs since the 2008 economic recession. As a result, refugees have committed suicide, parents have lost custody of their children, children have died and refugees have been horribly maimed in meat-packing plant jobs – all due to the lack of support and assistance. An article in the Des Moines Register explains the situation in Iowa:

On the Monday after standard time went into effect, Lee Mo’s children missed school. The Burmese refugee family knew the American ritual of moving clocks forward and back, but they didn’t know on which dates that happened, so the school bus left without them.

Even if she had known the date, Mo couldn’t read a calendar. For much of her five years here, she has had to estimate time based on the position of the sun. She doesn’t know her age. She can’t make a phone call. Like about half of the people in Iowa who speak her native Karenni, she can’t read in any language…

Since 2006, refugees from Burma have been turning up in Iowa, becoming its largest incoming refugee group.

There are an estimated 6,000 refugees from Burma who are here…

It’s not just the inability of parents to communicate with teachers, or pick kids up or help them study. It’s someone being prematurely cut off food stamps because the paperwork wasn’t done due to language barriers. It’s the child who missed two years of schooling because the mother didn’t know to enroll her. The man who couldn’t read his eviction notice until a week before he had to move with the 14 people sharing his one-bedroom apartment. It’s the untouched FIP benefits debit card loaded with $900 that someone didn’t know what to do with, even as she fell behind on rent.

“We have people getting surgery, but they don’t know what surgery they’re getting,” said Ohr. One woman lost seven fingers in meat-packing accidents, not understanding the safety training. A newborn died after being kept waiting in the emergency room. People have lost parental rights for lack of “cultural awareness” or an attorney who spoke their language.

“It’s a crushing of the spirit,” said Ohr.

In 2012, just a year after their families moved to Iowa, three Karenni-speaking children drowned in the Iowa River at Marshalltown. The mother of two was so distraught she tried to jump out of her apartment window.

Mo’s sister was in the hospital recently recovering from a suicide attempt. Alone, depressed and unable to find work, she stabbed herself in the stomach with a knife. Depression is widespread…

Paw Moo Htoo has been in America seven months with her husband and six children… She is withdrawn and expressionless.

“I don’t know how to go to the store, to doctor’s appointments, to my children’s school,” she said through an interpreter. She can watch TV only if one of her kids turns it on. “I struggle with so much…because of the language barriers, I can’t communicate with anyone.”

Htoo says her case worker only showed her how to turn on the lights and oven, but said nothing about enrolling her kids in school. So at first, they didn’t go. Money is tight. Her husband earns $1,200 a month at a Marshalltown meat-packing job, working 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. He pays $160 to be in a carpool and $740 for the 3-bedroom apartment they are required to have. And they’re paying $290 a month to reimburse the cost of their $8,000 airfare here… Read more here

 

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, children, drowning, Iowa, Marshalltown, meatpacking industry, mental health, neglect, secondary migration, refugee, taken away from refugee parents | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Waterloo refugee resettlement office not to close as said

Posted by Christopher Coen on March 16, 2014

business_open_sign

The USCRI (U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants) has announced that its local refugee resettlement office will not close after all when its federal grant runs out. The leadership has instead chosen to keep the office open on a part-time basis. About 1,200 Burmese refugees – attracted to the area by meatpacking jobs – who now make Waterloo their home will have ongoing assistance with interpretation/translation, tax preparation and other needs. An article at KCRG explains:

WATERLOO, Iowa – …

…On Wednesday night, volunteers worked with a handful of newer residents in Waterloo who have escaped persecution in Myanmar… At least 1,200 Burmese refugees now call Waterloo home…

In late February, [Ann Grove, lead case manager of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants office in Waterloo] said the federal funding for the USCRI office to help Burmese refugees in Black Hawk County was running out. Yet, on Tuesday, the office announced the USCRI’s leadership has chosen to keep the office open on a part-time basis.

“It gives us an opportunity to continue providing for the immediate needs of clients who are in town,” said Grove.

With the federal grant now expired, the office may have to depend on the continued involvement of volunteers… Read more here

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, funding, meatpacking industry, USCRI | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refuge placements to Amarillo restricted

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 23, 2014

amarillo

Last fall the State Department restricted new refugee placements to Amarillo in fiscal year 2014 to family reunion cases after local government agencies reported being overloaded with newly resettled refugees and secondary migrants coming from other resettlement sites. Congressman Mac Thornberry brought State Department refugee resettlement office officials to Amarillo to meet with community leaders. Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas are the local area resettlement agencies. They were asked three years ago to cut the number of resettled refugees (but apparently did not do so). Local government agencies complain that the schools was unable to handle the load of new refugee children, and that the City’s 911 emergency phone system was struggling to deal with the many languages spoken. Refugees – largely from Myanmar (Burma), but also from Iraq and Iran – have been migrating to the city for the $14 per hour meatpacking plant jobs, as well as to live near relatives. That “secondary migration” apparently continues, with the State Department only being able to cut the number of directly resettled refugees. An article in the Texas Tribune covers the story:

More international refugees were resettled in Texas in 2012 than in any other state, according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. And one of the leading destinations is Amarillo, where members of Mr. Thawng’s church and other newcomers from places like Myanmar and Iraq often work in meatpacking plants.

Now local officials are worried that Amarillo’s refugee population is straining the city’s ability to respond to 911 callers who speak numerous languages and to help children learn English and adapt to a new culture.

We’ve raised some red flags and said this isn’t good for some entities in the city or for the refugees themselves,” said Mayor Paul Harpole.

Amarillo, the state’s 14th largest city, with 195,000 residents, receives a higher ratio of new refugees to the existing population than any other Texas city, according to 2007-12 State Department data from Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican of Clarendon. And the only Texas cities that receive a larger number of refugees than Amarillo (which received 480 in 2012) are also the state’s largest: Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

But those numbers show only a refugee’s initial placement and do not account for secondary migration, Mr. Thornberry said. Many refugees who initially settle elsewhere relocate to Amarillo for jobs or to join family members.

The State Department decides how many refugees are resettled in an area, and states review those recommendations. Last fall, the department, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and refugee placement organizations agreed that for 2014, placements in Amarillo should be limited to family reunifications, Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the commission, said.

We cannot keep going at the rate we’ve been going,” Mr. Thornberry said… Read more here

An article at FOX KAMR has more:

…Over the last five calendar years, more than 2,700 refugees have resettled in Amarillo.  That represents roughly 1.3% of our current population…

Right now, the bulk of refugees coming to Amarillo are from Burma, followed by Iraq and Iran.

Refugees will always be welcome but, right now, the numbers are growing too quickly. Putting too many in one place and putting too much burden on the schools system or the police or fire, is not healthy for refugees or us.” Mayor Paul Hapole said.

There are two organizations that help refugees in the resettlement process:  Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle and Refugee Services of Texas.

They were both asked three years ago to reduce the number of refugees brought to Amarillo.  But, original resettlements are not the main problem.

Nancy Koons, the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Texas Panhandle said.  “In addition to that we see a lot of secondary refugees that settle in other cities then choose to move to Amarillo because they have family here, they like the weather or they know that there’s employment.”

Despite the efforts to reduce the number of refugees brought into Amarillo, the population is still growing too fast.  That’s why congressman Mac Thornberry brought the state department to Amarillo to meet with community leaders.

“One of the things I hope we can accomplish is helping the state department understand that we’re not just dealing with the people they bring to Amarillo.  But, it’s the relatives and the secondary migration that we’re also dealing with and they’ve also got to take that into account.”  Thornberry said… Read more here

Posted in Amarillo, Burma/Myanmar, Catholic Family Service, Amarillo, children, Iranian, Iraqi, meatpacking industry, moratorium / restriction / reduction, Office of Admissions, Refugee Services of Texas, Refugee Services of Texas, school for refugee children, schools, secondary migration, refugee | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Federal funding dries up for Waterloo resettlement office

Posted by Christopher Coen on February 7, 2014

dreis up

The federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) having made a late arrival to Waterloo, Iowa to serve thousands of secondary migrant refugees (refugees who first resettled elsewhere and then relocated to Waterloo for jobs) is now pulling out. The ORR funded a branch office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants to offer services to the refugees since late 2012. Now, the group is arranging for volunteer groups and people to supposedly take over in its place and offer refugee services. Finding between $100,000 and $140,000 each year to fund these efforts is the biggest hurdle. An article in The Republic carries the story originally reported by the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier:

WATERLOO, Iowa — A federal agency is ending services to Burmese refugees in Waterloo, leaving volunteers scrambling to figure out how they can continue to help the immigrants.

The local office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, which opened in December 2012, will close on Feb. 28 when federal funding runs out, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported (http://bit.ly/1n1t9DG ). It has been helping Burmese refugees, especially those in their few first years in the country, learn English and understand what community services are available. That includes preparing for citizenship.

The office always intended to be a temporary presence in Waterloo, where about 1,200 Burmese refugees currently reside. To date, it has helped about 200 refugees…

[Ann Grove, lead case worker] said finding ways to fund these efforts among the groups may be the biggest hurdle. It will take about $100,000 a year to replicate most services provided by the federal office, she said… “…If we’re looking at increasing the amount of interpretation to our desired level, we’re probably talking closer to $140,000.”

…[the] plan [is] to focus on case work, community education, employment and language. Read more here

 

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, funding, meatpacking industry, ORR, poultry production, secondary migration, refugee, USCRI, Waterloo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Refugees abused at Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville

Posted by Christopher Coen on January 15, 2014

knoxville

A gentleman who contacted us back in April (history is here and here) about conditions for refugees resettled via Bridge Refugee Services in Knoxville contacted us again recently to give an update and more information.

He said there have been at least five injuries of refugees at the factories where they were placed by the temporary employment agencies that Bridge uses to get refugees employed.

One refugee reportedly injured his shoulder at work and Bridge would not do anything to help. An Ethiopian refugee broke his hand at Quality Bakery Products. African refugees were also injured at Ifco Systems pallets division in Knoxville. Again, the agency would not help. Another refugee injured his lungs, inhaling a chemical at a Cooper Standard factory (production of plastic automobile bumper parts). Yet another refugee passed out at that factory, also due to the chemicals. He now coughs a lot and has respiratory problems. A third refugee who worked at the factory developed a rash on his body, which may have been due to the chemicals used there. Yet another refugee, an older Iraqi gentleman, severely injured his shoulder pushing a heavy cart at the Goodwill warehouse on Middlebrook Pike. The cart came back at him and he put his arms out to stop it. He needed surgery to repair the shoulder and was off work for months. He said Goodwill treated him well so he decided not to sue. At Custom Food Inc. exposure to spices caused sinus problems for an Ethiopian refugee who has allergies. He requested to switch jobs but Bridge’s employment coordinator refused to help him. Finally, at Propak Logistics’ pallets repair section many Iraqi refugees reported injuries for years to Bridge’s employment coordinator but the coordinator ignored their complaints and sided with the company against the refugees.

Bridge has arranged work via Express Employment (and Adico), for whom the refugees work. Many refugees sign papers not knowing what they are signing; some do not read English. Under this arrangement with Express a factory pays $9 per hour but refugees only get a bit more than $7 per hour. The work is unstable, with refugees working a week and then being off a week.

A former case manager also sent us information about the agency and pointed out that the refugee employment figures are dishonest as most of the refuges have only temporary employment that does not help them to pay rent and be self-sufficient. The nature of the temp jobs also means that the refugees will be unemployed just a short time after the agency reports them employed to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at 90 days and 180 days. (This, however, is a problem throughout the refugee program, and it doesn’t seem that the the ORR has much of an interest in requiring that resettlement agencies report if refugees are working at temporary or non-temporary jobs.)

Many of the interpreters quit in 2012 and 2013 after the agency’s officer manager lowered their pay from $10 per hour to $8, and since that time the agency has picked the refugees up at the airport upon their arrival without interpreters for refugees from Myanmar (Burma) and Africa. The agency then takes the refugees to their apartments and gives flawed home safety orientation involving just pointing to things and turning things on and off in an attempt to show them how things work. It then takes weeks before they find an interpreter. When the case manager voiced his concerns about this to the office manager she responded that it was case managers’ responsibility to bring an interpreter. He asked her how he could use one that is not contracted. She said they would look into but that it was his responsibility to get one and that it was okay to have a volunteer interpreter.

These refugees don’t receive proper attention because nobody can communicate with them. The African refugees compared services the agency was giving them to other refugees and realized they were receiving fewer services and less attention in all areas. As a result, when the African refugees started their own organization to help their own community they refused to work with Bridge.

The case manager points out that the Bridge office in Chattanooga is more organized than the office in Knoxville due to the qualifications, dedication and experience of the office coordinator in Chattanooga. She comes in everyday at 8:30 am and leaves at 4:30 pm unlike the one in Knoxville who comes in at 9am or 10am and sneaks out around 2pm-3pm yet submits weekly time sheets indicating 40 hours of work. The agency lists the working hours on the door as 8:30am to 4:30pm, yet if refugees and others come in at 8:30am the only people they find are the financial manager and the case managers. If the case managers are not there the office stays closed until 9:30am.

The  Knoxville office manager also wastes staff time with pointless staff meetings early on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. On Friday they have two staff meetings; one for the Executive Director with meeting agendas that contain her personal events such as her son’s birthday and her marriage anniversary, and a second meeting with the office manager. The meetings consume most of the day until 2pm, at which time the Director and the office manager leave the office to go home while the rest of the staff stay to finish their paperwork, as Friday is supposed to be a day for that and not for meetings.

The case manager tried many times to tell the administration that their everyday meetings are just a barrier that prevents them from doing their jobs but the office manager insisted on enforcing these meetings. He said she has no management skills and is only in the office manager position because the Director of Bridge is her close friend. The office manager also told the staff that no one is allowed to communicate with the agency’s board of directors, EMM and CWS (Bridge’s national affiliates), or TOR (Tennessee Office for Refugees); this to prevent any leaks of information to those organizations.  He said anyone who dares to violate that rule knows they may face retaliation and lose their job.

He also reports that Bridge is placing refugees in apartments in a bad downtown neighborhood with a lot buying, selling and use of street drugs. The apartments have carpeting that smells bad, broken plumbing, and heavy insect infestations.

Transportation of refugees was yet another area of violation by the agency. A van donated in 2011 used to transport refugees had mechanical problems in the steering wheel as well as no air-conditioning. The case manager told the managers that the vehicle was not safe to use but it was clear to him that money in the budget for their salaries (the director and the office manager who do not even work the full-time they are supposed to work) was more important than refugee safety issues. The heat inside the vehicle was so unbearable in the summer months that a staff member was overcome by the heat and had to be taken to the ER by ambulance. The agency only stopped using the van and sold it to the junkyard when the major mechanical problem in the steering wheel prevented it from being driven.

He pointed to another serious problem – that the agency did not have a shredder for years until recently in 2013. He used his own shredder that he brought from home. He says that every-time he spoke to the current administrators to give the staff a shredder they ignored him just as the previous executive director did when he told her a case manager who quit in 2010 threw boxes filled with confidential papers in the trash. She wasn’t concerned so he and another staff member dived in the dumpster to recover those boxes. The current administrators also do not care if staff use their own equipment to get the job done, such as their own laptops and other devices needed – a violation of HIPAA policy (privacy law). The agency is also violating the HIPAA policy by having unauthorized people being involved with refugee clients’ personal medical information, e.g. the office manager talks about the clients’ medical issues in front of her husband who often comes to the office.

The agency is run so poorly by the current administration, and with a lack of supervision from the board of directors, that the most highly qualified and decorated case workers have quit the agency since 2010 – in 2010 three case workers quit; in 2011 two quit; and three in 2013. In early 2013 the only two case managers left quit in the same month due to the hopeless situation with the management.

By the way, the most recent State Department monitoring report for this agency seems to have occurred back in 2006 — at least that is the most recent one that the State Department has released to us. The agency had a different director and case managers at that time.

Posted in abuse, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Bridge Refugee and Sponsorship Services, Burma/Myanmar, Burundian, community/cultural orientation, cultural/community orientation, post arrival, dangerous neighborhoods, employment abuses, employment/jobs for refugees, Ethiopian, home safety orientation, housing, housing, substandard, Iraqi, Knoxsville, language, language interpretation/translation, lack of, rats and roaches, transportation | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Somali-Bantu refugees in Maine farm to support themselves

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 29, 2013

farmbox

In Maine and around the country Somali-Bantu refugees are learning to support themselves as farmers. There is now a whole resettlement movement focused on agriculture, with scores of programs around the country. In Maine backers of the local program claim the efforts help the refugees learn some English while improving their physical and mental health. The farming is also a source of economic self-sufficiency for the refugees – at least during the growing season in Maine. A radio report and article at Public Radio International explains:

…Somali Bantu refugees refuse to let the weeds overtake their hard-won fields near Maine’s second largest city. That they’ve come to embrace farming as exalted work is significant, given the ethnic minority’s history. Farming was about the last thing Somali Bantus expected to do after fleeing their country, which collapsed into civil war in 1991.

For 200 years, the Bantus had toiled as subsistence farmers along the fertile floodplains of the Juba Valley in Somalia, where they had been brought as slaves from Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi.

…[Refugees] flocked here from Atlanta, Dallas and Syracuse, drawn by affordable housing, good schools and, importantly, access to land. About 13,000 Somali Bantus were resettled from Kenyan refugee camps to the US by 2007. Now they farm and garden around the country, but perhaps nowhere as intensively as in Maine, where one of the greatest concentrations of Somalis — roughly 5,000 (about 1,500 Bantus) — has resettled in Lewiston housing projects and abandoned multiplexes…

Resettlement agencies gradually realized farming could help these otherwise low-skilled refugees (who didn’t know how to drive and lacked literacy even in their native dialects) learn some English while improving their physical and mental health. There’s now a whole resettlement movement focused on agriculture, with scores of programs around the country since the US Office of Refugee Resettlement started funding such efforts in 1998. In 2004, the USDA signed a joint memorandum to significantly fund these programs, though money for such beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers lapsed when the Farm Bill expired last fall…

Maine’s New America Sustainable Agriculture Project, or NASAP, is a movement leader. Conceived in 2002, the project has helped nearly 100 recent immigrants (primarily Somali Bantu but also South Sudanese, Guatemalan and Mexican) grow from community gardeners into managers of a 30-acre incubator on a land trust-protected family farm.

The program broadened in 2009, when NASAP merged with the youth gardening non-profit Cultivating Community. The farmers, who collaboratively market as Fresh Start Farms, sold more than $150,000 of produce this season to 300 CSA (community supported agriculture) customers, at 20 Maine farmers’ markets and to several restaurants. As the first group of farmers — nine of them…graduate from the program this fall, they’ll still lease land together and receive technical and business support.

It’s really a great resource for people to be in a community of other farmers,” says NASAP director Daniel Ungier. “We try to be aware of the fact that sustainable agriculture is moving towards ‘interdependence.’ We don’t want to push them in the opposite direction by asking people to do it on their own.”… Read more here

Posted in community farms, economic self-sufficiency, Lewiston, Maine, secondary migration, refugee, Somali Bantu, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

More refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those unable

Posted by Christopher Coen on December 24, 2013

supportIts become popular in a certain part of the political spectrum in the US to scapegoat refugees for economic ills of the country. U.S. Citizens who are struggling economically can be both vulnerable to these false arguments as well as contributors to a climate of hostility to other vulnerable populations — people resettled to this country. A Nepali-Bhutanese man’s Op-ed in The Oregonian however makes the case for refugee resettlement by addressing the economic arguments:

Refugee resettlement is an integral part of the U.S. immigration program, helping to bring the world’s most vulnerable populations to safety in the US. But some wonder why the federal government welcomes more of these strangers when the U.S. already has so many homeless and unemployed citizens. Based on my experiences arriving from a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, refugee resettlement need not be viewed as an issue of benefits to newcomers at the expense of old-timers. Usually, both the U.S. government and its newest arrivals end up winners.

First of all, refugees don’t come to U.S. for free or without going through a security check. When a refugee comes from refugee camps overseas or from a country torn by war or political unrest, he or she takes a travel loan from the U.S. government for airfare. Refugees have to pay that money back. I owed $1,300 for my one-way plane ticket. Within a year, I paid every penny back.

Refugee resettlement is an investment in the lives of refugees and in the development of this country. Annually, the U.S. resettles an average of 70,000 people, or roughly 1 percent of the total world refugee population. Since 1975, more than three million refugees have been resettled into the U.S., according to the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). That’s an enormous addition to the tax base. Even though refugees have to wait until they are U.S. citizens to receive certain benefits, they start paying taxes upon arrival…

…more refugees work and pay taxes than not, making up for those who are unable to…

…Initially, limited English skills lead most refugees to work entry level jobs that average Americans would rather not do. Big corporations like Marriott and Hilton count on refugees coming here to fill a legal workforce. Those same corporations donated to both Democratic and Republican parties and their candidates during the 2012 general election to push for the admission of more legal workers. These hard-working refugees stay at work longer than American co-workers. This helps American employers save some money on training and hiring costs. More seriously, refugees developed a burning desire to work while being banned from doing so in home and camp countries… Read more here

Posted in economic self-sufficiency, employment/jobs for refugees, legislation, Nepali Bhutanese, Oregon | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tyson plans to employ refugees at Wilkesboro chicken processing complex

Posted by Christopher Coen on November 7, 2013

Wilkesboro

*CORRECTION*: World Relief High Point office claims it never partnered with Tyson and only referred seven refugees to the Tyson plant (see comment from Office director Andrew Timbie below).

Tyson Foods, Inc. Plans to employ about 250 Karen refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma) at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro, NC. The World Relief resettlement agency offices in High Point and Raleigh will be directing refugees to Tyson “to hire them in mass.” This seems to be a prescription for employer abuse when refugees are not treated as individuals with varying levels of employability and various employment area interests but are instead directed in mass to employers in distant and sometimes isolated locations. I note that the State Department resettlement contract documents signed by World Relief require individual assessments via individual case management. How will Tyson treat these people when it knows it can order up more large batches of refugee workers to replace them if it wishes?

A local church official says he was told that Tyson has carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri.  Tyson has also lured refugees in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kentucky.  Tyson has a troubling history in their treatment of Hmong refugees as well. An article in the Wilkes Journal Patriot has details about the plans for Wilkesboro:

Tyson Foods Inc. has announced plans to employ Burmese refugees at the company’s chicken processing complex in Wilkesboro.

Tyson officials shared the plans with about 30 local businesses, public schools, town and county government and law enforcement leaders and others during a meeting Tuesday at the Tyson technical services building on N.C. 268 West in Wilkesboro.

The [Karen] refugees are originally from Myanmar…

About 250 over two years

Worth Sparkman, Tyson public relations manager, said later that the company anticipated hiring about 250 refugees over the next two years to work at the processing complex in Wilkesboro…

People who attended the meeting, which wasn’t announced to the public or media, said Tyson officials indicated that it was hard to predict how many Burmese refugees might come to Wilkes to work at the Tyson complex and when.

Local officials comment

They said Tyson officials told them the newcomers would come as families and would contribute to the local economy with the money they spend here, including for housing. Refugees start paying U.S. and state taxes when they become employed.

People who attended the meeting said Tyson officials also talked about the responsibility of Christians to reach out and help the refugees and about the tradition of coming to America for a better life…

Dr. Marty Hemric, Wilkes school superintendent, attended the meeting and said state funding for the school system’s English as a second language program would increase if the number of students who don’t speak English increased.

Wilkes Sheriff Chris Shew also attended the meeting and said his biggest concern was finding interpreters for his department’s interactions with the refugees. “My concern is being able to bridge the communication gap,” he said.

Wilkes County Manager John Yates, Wilkes Department of Social Services Director Bill Sebastian, Wilkesboro Town Manager Ken Noland and other local officials are calling officials in communities elsewhere in the country who have experienced an influx of refugees for insight on what to expect here…

Involvement of churches

The Rev. Steve Gouge, director of missions of the Brushy Mountain Baptist Association, said Tyson officials contacted and met with him Thursday to discuss their interest in having the association’s churches interact with the refugees…

Gouge…said he was impressed with the plans shared by Tyson officials and said he was told the company carried out similar efforts in connection with its processing plant in Center, Texas, and with plants in Arkansas and Missouri…

Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride and other large food processors in the U.S. increasingly are turning to refugees from Myanmar, Sudan, Somalia and other countries for a more stable workforce. Tyson Foods processing complexes in Center, Texas; Shelbyville, Tenn., Waterloo, Iowa; and elsewhere each employ hundreds of resettled refugees.

World Relief assists

Tyson and other companies find many of these workers with assistance of nonprofit agencies that have contracts with the U.S. State Department to help refugees in the United States become resettled and self-sufficient…

Our role as a resettlement agency is to help find homes for them (refugees), help them get their Social Security cards” and address other basic needs, said Andrew Timbie, manager of the World Relief office in High Point.

We have a team working with employers to hire them in mass. Our goal is to get them employed and to set them up for self-sufficiency.”

Timbie said World Relief staff work with leaders of refugee populations to get the word out about available jobs, such as at the Tyson complex in Wilkesboro...Read more here

Posted in Karen, meatpacking industry, poultry production, Raleigh-Durham, secondary migration, refugee, Wilkesboro, World Relief | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Refugees out-achieve U.S.-born neighbors

Posted by Christopher Coen on October 28, 2013

 out-achieve

A study commissioned by refugee resettlement groups in Cleveland finds that refugees in Cleveland are more likely to hold a job than native-born residents, more likely to send their children to college, and less likely to be on public assistance — after two years in Cleveland only 8 percent of refugee households are still receiving public assistance. Refugees are also more likely than U.S.-born citizens to start a business and to create a business that succeeds. They founded at least 38 businesses here in the last decade. An article in the Plains Dealer explains:

…A new study reveals that refugees — the world’s most desperate immigrants — tend to do well in Cleveland and often out-achieve their U.S.-born neighbors over time.

Eye-opening revelations include the fact that refugees are more likely to hold a job than native-born residents and more likely to send their children to college. After two years in Cleveland, researchers found, only 8 percent of refugee households are still receiving public assistance, a level of self-sufficiency that beats national norms.

The study by Chmura Economics & Analytics, which is being released Monday, challenges stereotypes and may illuminate a new economic development strategy. Far from burdening a community, refugees tend to assimilate quickly, find work, buy houses and often start businesses.

“Basically, we are business minded. That’s our caste,” Nar Pradhan explained in a soft Himalayan accent. “Cleveland is perfect for us. All of our family is here. All of us are employed.”

The study’s lead author, economist Daniel Meges, cautions the refugee community is minute — numbering fewer than 20,000 people in Greater Cleveland — and its economic impact would not match, say, a major new manufacturing plant.

Still, he said, he was surprised by the scale of economic activity generated by a little-known class of immigrants and concluded a depopulated city would be wise to welcome more of them.

“For a rather small investment, most of which is federal dollars, you bring in people who quickly find jobs and spend money,” Meges said. “These are people who would not be coming here otherwise and who tend to stay. By and a large, our refugees do OK.”…

In Greater Cleveland, the resettlement efforts fall to Catholic Charities, the International Services Center and US Together, an affiliate of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.

Recently, those three groups teamed up with several nonprofit and faith-based groups to form the Refugee Services Collaborative of Greater Cleveland.

With a grant from the Cleveland Foundation, the collaborative commissioned a study of the refugee community to gauge how it was faring and to plan how they could best help.

Researchers limited their survey to the 4,500 refugees who arrived since 2000 and to Cuyahoga County, where most of them live. From the study emerged unexpected discoveries.

  • Seventy-five percent of the county’s refugees over age 16 are employed, compared to 57 percent of the general population.

 

  • Most refugee families have more than one wage earner, allowing a decent standard of living even at minimum wage jobs. Nearly 250 refugees have bought houses.

 

  • Refugees are more likely than U.S.-born citizens to start a business and to create a business that succeeds. They founded at least 38 businesses here in the last decade.

 

  • Refugee households and refuge businesses combined contributed $45 million to the regional economy in 2012.

“Our hunch was this was true,” said Brian Upton, the assistant director of Building Hope in the City, a church-based group that works with refugees and that is part of the collaborative. “They are not takers. They are not a drain on our community. They are very entrepreneurial.”…

Tom Mrosko…directs the Office of Migration and Refugee Services of Cleveland Catholic Charities, the region’s busiest resettlement agency.

Cleveland-area refugees may do better than most because they arrive in modest numbers, Mrosko said. In a region that attracts few immigrants overall, refugee families get more attention from the schools, clinics and libraries that help assimilate new Americans… Read more here

 

Posted in Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services (Cleveland), employment/jobs for refugees, International Services Center (Cleveland), US Together | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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