The stories are coming every week, will they be daily soon? We have reports from 15 states* that there are no jobs for Iraqi refugees. Surely other refugees are experiencing the same problem, but it seems the Iraqis attract more news coverage.
Oregon Public Broadcasting has this report from Boise, Idaho where refugees are still pouring in despite the desperate economy. The story of Iraqi truck driver Kaled Wali is told with the help of an interpreter. His government assistance is running out, he has no job, he has 8 kids and his wife is ill.
Khaled Wali/Adel Muhammad: “The UN help me and my children. The UN gives him cash card for cash money monthly and this paper to food for my family. He save this because story for your children.”
Wali’s face softens as he explains the day he and his family found out they would be resettled in America. Now, all ten of them have been in Boise for nearly four months. They’re living on federal assistance; $1100 a month for rent and utilities; $1200 a month in food stamps. They also get Medicaid. But after 8 months all of the federal help goes away.
Sadie Babits: “After eight months what happens?”
Khaled Wali/Adel Muhammad: “I don’t know because don’t found any job here.”
Sadie Babits: “You don’t have a job in Boise?”
Khaled Wali/Adel Muhammad: “No. not yet.”
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) representative hopes no one will have to go to a shelter! The IRC is one of the richest of the federal contractors. Its CEO makes nearly $400,000 a year and it got $88 million of your tax dollars in the most recent year I could find (2005)—-hey President Obama, how about capping salaries of the non-profit CEOs too and keep the refugees they bring to America out of shelters!
Leslye Moore is the executive director for the International Rescue Committee — the IRC — in Boise.
Leslye Moore: “You know the difference between an American not having a job and a refugee is that most Americans have a safety net of some kind built in. Refugees coming have nothing. They don’t have anything to fall back on so it’s a much more terrifying experience for them knowing there’s no work for them out there and wondering what their future is going to be.”
Unemployment in Idaho is the highest it’s been in 15 years. Major employers in Boise like Micron recently laid off some 1500 workers. That’s increased competition for entry-level jobs, which have historically been a good fit for refugees. And this isn’t just happening in Boise. Moore says resettlement agencies across the U.S. report major difficulties finding work for refugees.
Leslye Moore: “You know the last thing we want to do is put a refugee family in a shelter. We haven’t done it yet “
Once again, high expectations are not realized.
Wali says he’s thankful to be here. But coming to America he had high expectations: a house, a new TV, and plenty of money. Now that he’s here he’s discovered just how unrealistic those expectations were. Adding to the disappointment and worry, Khaled Wali’s wife Zahra is sick. Doctors think she may have thyroid cancer.
By the way, the IRC is a part of the Refugee Council USA that wants to double the number of refugees we take in 2010. So, it isn’t just Wali’s expectations that are unrealistic.
* The fifteen states we have written about so far that have no jobs for Iraqi refugees are Arizona, Maryland, New Hampshire,Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Connecticut, New Mexico, California, North Carolina, Utah and Washington.