Update 1/31/08: A refugee advocate from Arizona wrote a critical letter to the editor at Time. See her letter here.
Time magazine this week has a story about Iraqi refugees trying to adjust to America — the country where they thought every car was new and everyone was rich. Instead they find roach infested apartments and menial work. We reported on a similar article in the Washington Post a couple of months ago. Here is how the Time article begins:
There are moments when Faeza Jaber wants to pick up Khattab, her 7-year-old son, and flee back to Baghdad. Life in Phoenix is proving harder than she had expected. She needs a job that will pay her rent–not easy for a 48 year-old single mother with basic English and little local experience. Then there are a number of smaller challenges that, taken together, can seem insurmountable for a woman who has never previously lived away from her homeland–where to find day care for Khattab, how to decipher utility bills, what to do about her car that’s been towed away. Just the thought of more logistics is daunting. “My head is tired,” she says, her voice shaking. “All these papers. In America, a woman must be a man.” So sometimes she dreams of going back to Baghdad, where she knows the language and the streets and has friends and family–and where the men do the paperwork.
Read it, its just another in a long line of stories about refugees whose expectations of America have not been realized. Makes you wonder who is preparing them for the culture shock.
Just happened to come across this website called “Colorado Confidential” with an article about African refugees who dream of jobs in meat packing. And, for those who want to get a broader view of what goes on behind the scenes in refugee resettlement its a good overall article. But, in light of what happened yesterday at Tyson’s Food in Emporia, KS, I wonder if there needs to be a reassessment of the job prospects in that industry.
Omar, 23, also from Somalia, spent nearly five years as a refugee in Nepal* before finally being resettled in Colorado. He arrived in mid-December. Once he gets a Social Security number, Omar plans to move to Greeley for a job at the Swift meat-processing plant, where wages start at about $10 an hour.
* A side issue: What was Omar doing in Nepal? It’s not exactly next door to Somalia and in fact it’s on another continent!
This was interesting in the article too.
Krassin Gueorguiev is program coordinator and lead teacher at the Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, which has offered WorkStyles, an intensive course on American employment culture for refugees and asylees, for 25 years. Gueorguiev says many refugees arrive with a utopian image of life in the United States, and the reality – that most of them barely scrape by – is a hard slap.
The Spring Institute is the same outfit that was involved in settling the Somalis in Emporia, KS, so will they go back there now and help them find new employment? On the Spring Institute’s Form 990 it states that “Grants are received from the federal as well as local governments to assist foreign students to work with US companies.” At least $900,000 was received as a government contract in FY 2006. You are paying for this.
As for the last line in the quote above: “utopian image of life in the United States.” I discussed that increasing problem in yesterday’s post on Bhutan. Guess they got a hard slap in Emporia yesterday.