The Jungle 2016!
I have been wondering for the last year whatever happened to Athens, GA after the Democrat mayor there said, give us a “formal refugee integration plan” to the International Rescue Committee (one of the top nine federal contractors) and the US State Department before opening a direct resettlement site in Athens.
Click here for several earlier posts on the controversy. In one, the IRC representative in Georgia said the feds would send the refugees anyway! But, apparently they haven’t.
Two lessons here for towns being faced with new offices: the first is that mayors can “rebuff them” and keep planned direct resettlement offices from opening, and secondly, apparently the contractor and the feds DO NOT want to be in a position to prepare plans (set a precedent?) on how the resettlement will work!
So, if they are coming to your town or city, make them give your town a plan (with public hearings!).
Here I see in the Flagpole, that nothing has moved forward (so far) on the office proposal.
This is one of those long stories meant to play on your heart strings about the wonderful refugees (and I am sure this family is very nice) who have arrived in the area (as secondary migrants) to work in a chicken processing plant.
One of those gushing in this account is a local real estate agent who has helped them buy homes (which they work 60 hours a week to pay for!).
LOL! Gee sounds familiar! I’m re-reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in preparation for a ‘Jungle’ revisited (100 years later!) fact finding tour this summer. Although one big difference these days is that the US State Department and supposedly ‘humanitarian’ NGOs act as head hunters for BIG MEAT companies that are often foreign-owned!
So after wading through 24 warm and gushy paragraphs about the stars of the story—a hardworking Burmese Christian family—we come to the news I was looking for. Apparently there is no movement toward opening a direct resettlement site in Athens, GA (although this story might have been placed as propaganda to begin the re-education of the community on the subject).
From the Flagpole (emphasis is mine):
All of the adults in the family work at the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant. Esther and her father work the night shift, while her husband and mother work the day shift. They do it this way so someone can always be home with the children.
Most refugees living in Athens and Comer work at a poultry plant—the industry that provides the most jobs for refugees in Georgia. It’s tedious work and physically hard, but the poultry plants pay $10–11 an hour [Ha! wages would be at least $15 and hour if they had to pay Americans!—ed], more than you can get almost anywhere else for unskilled labor, and that makes it hard to leave.
Esther stands on her feet for eight hours, five or six nights a week, cutting chicken in the cold factory, moving fast to keep up with the conveyer belts. One day she’d like to get a job that’s not so hard, maybe in a retail store or daycare. “We don’t have much time to be social,” says Esther, laughing, “because sometimes we work 60 hours a week. On Sunday we go to church, and then the whole week is finished.” [Wow! The Jungle!—ed]
Last year the International Rescue Committee (a nonprofit refugee resettlement agency) proposed setting up a small office in Athens and bringing 150 refugees here, but it was rebuffed by local government leaders. Subsequently, an ecumenical group composed of clergy and other citizens formed Welcoming Athens, a group “working to nurture a culture of welcome for all people in Athens and the surrounding area.” Among other things, the group is advocating for the city to let the resettlement office come.
The main reason Mayor Nancy Denson gave for not wanting IRC in Athens was that resources are stretched thin, and her priority is “to take care of the people who are already here,” citing issues with homelessness and panhandling. But some in the U.S. also resist taking refugees because of a concern that some refugees coming in might be criminals, violent radicals or unable to adjust successfully to American culture.
“That’s not why they’re coming here,” says Drago, emphatically. “They’re coming here to work, to go to school and have a better future. Now, after having been here awhile, they’re also part of humanity, and some people do commit crimes, but no more than people from any country. But to say that people come here to sow discord and terrorism in our country, absolutely not. They’re fleeing that! They’re coming here because they want to live in a peaceful place.