Kentucky becomes state number 18 where Iraqis are unemployed

We’ve been keeping a running tally of states* where we see news accounts of unhappy Iraqi refugees unable to find employment in the US.  Some are well-educated professionals who can’t even find a low-level full time job.   But, perhaps more troubling is that someone abroad is telling them that life here will be a cake walk.

This article from the Lexington Herald-Leader reports on several Iraqis and what their experience has been in the US, some are happy to be safe, but all are worried about finding work.  This is Raghad Abdul Majeed’s story.

Months later, when it became clear she would move to the United States, Majeed attended an orientation meeting for refugees in Syria. It will be easy to find jobs in America, she was told.

Since her arrival last May, however, that has not been the case. Her professional training as an Arabic teacher didn’t count for much here because she could not speak English. In the dreadful economy, she applied for jobs that didn’t require language skills, but she encountered Americans with college degrees applying for the same work.

She landed a couple of odd jobs.

After a week as a hotel maid, she was fired for not working fast enough. Then, her temporary job at the shipping center stopped soon after the holidays were over.

“We had imagined America to be the safest place for our children and that it would be the best place to find a job. (But) the lack of a job is a kind of threat. It’s not a safe situation if you don’t have a job here,” Majeed said.

Luckily a church is picking up some of the slack since her resettlement agency obviously has too many refugees to care for.

When the initial money from Kentucky Refugee Ministries ran out, food stamps paid for meager groceries. Walnut Hill Church paid her phone bill and utilities. Still, it didn’t alleviate her frustration.

If only I had known….

“It’s not just my problem. It’s the problem of all the Iraqi families here,” she said. “If someone told me these are the obstacles I would find in America, I wouldn’t have come … I would return to Iraq.”

*The 17 other states where Iraqis have few job prospects and are unhappy include: Arizona, Maryland, New Hampshire,Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Idaho, Connecticut, New Mexico, California, Utah, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont and Washington. See our Iraqi refugee category for all these stories and more.

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