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 NC 11th in country for refugees

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March Mellow

Join date : 2009-04-26
Posts : 209
Location : Char-Meck

PostSubject: NC 11th in country for refugees   Mon May 25, 2009 4:35 pm

Published: May 24, 2009 02:00 AM Modified: May 24, 2009 04:46 AM
Y-Phuat Enuol lives with his brother, Dien, and is looking for a job. In the meantime, he helps take care of the family's 5-month-old baby, Dely Eban. He sleeps on this daybed in the family's living room.
Jason Arthurs, Staff photo by Jason Arthurs
Y-Phuat Enuol, who came to Raleigh in September, speaks very little English. He takes an English class at Wake Tech.
Staff photo by Jason Arthurs Buy Photo Buy Photo
Despite economy, refugees still flock here
Y-Phuat Enuol was thrown in jail by a communist regime in his home country of Vietnam. He has lived on the run in the jungle and in a primitive refugee camp in Cambodia. And for more than two years, he has been separated from his wife and seven children.
He came to North Carolina as a refugee in September, hoping to find the freedom and prosperity that has drawn immigrants to the United States for centuries. But nearly nine months later, he is still unemployed.

For the first time since North Carolina became one of the nation's top destinations for refugees who face political, religious or ethnic persecution in their home countries, they are arriving to skyrocketing unemployment and a growing suspicion of immigrants.

Most refugees, who come to the United States as legal immigrants, say they still see this as the land of opportunities, even if those opportunies are fewer and less palatable than in the past. It is taking most at least six months to find a job, and even those who are employed are facing reduced hours, long commutes or no benefits.

"It's hard," said Enuol, who lives in North Raleigh. "But I never lose hope."

The current federal refugee resettlement program began in 1980, and over the past decade, North Carolina has become a popular destination because of its plentiful jobs and low cost of living. Apartment complexes across the Triangle have transformed into global villages that house refugees from Vietnam, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Burundi, Sudan, Iraq and other war-torn nations.

Four refugee resettlement agencies now work in the Triangle, up from one five years ago. The agencies contract with the federal government to help new refugees find housing, learn English and look for jobs.

In 2008, North Carolina ranked 11th in the nation for the number of refugees settled here.

Now, with the state's unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, near the highest in the nation, the agencies are scrambling as never before. Refugees continue to arrive as those already here get laid off.

According to a report from the state Office of Refugee Resettlement, between the beginning of October and the end of January, 460 refugees moved to North Carolina, and 104 found jobs.

Jobs that once provided paychecks for dozens of refugees -- factory and retail work, housekeeping, restaurant dishwashing and construction -- have become scarce.

"Our staff is breaking their backs, knocking on the doors of employers," said Jason Payne, employment services supervisor with Lutheran Family Services. "We're having to be creative."

More refugees coming

Even as the recession deepens, the United States plans to bring in more refugees this year than in the past because of humanitarian crises in countries including Myanmar, Vietnam and Iraq. The quota for this fiscal year is 90,000, up from 70,000 in years past.

Refugee agencies decide where those refugees are resettled, and several North Carolina agencies say the economy has not affected their plans to bring new refugees here.

But as jobs become scarce, unemployment among immigrants is soaring, according to several national studies.

Refugees face even greater obstacles to employment than some other immigrants because many were not allowed to work while living in camps in Africa and Asia, giving them little experience. Many don't have cars, and while most take English classes, they often speak tribal dialects so foreign that it can take years to learn passable English.

The struggling economy is also heightening concerns about immigrants, even those who are here legally. Web sites that oppose refugee resettlement in the United States have sprung up.

Refugees get cash assistance from the government for up to eight months. After that, they are eligible for the same government welfare programs that other U.S. residents may receive. Many also get support from churches and community organizations.

Don Barnett, a former State Department employee, has become a well-known critic of the U.S. refugee program. He says the government has started bringing in refugees who struggle to assimilate. He cites a 2005 report from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, which surveyed refugees who arrived in the previous five years. It showed that more than half were receiving food stamps and 39 percent were using Medicaid.

Those who find jobs hurt the labor market for native workers, especially now, said Barnett, a software developer who lives in Nashville, Tenn.

"They are taking some pretty lousy jobs," he said. "It's allowed corporate America to keep some abusive models, and it's had a significant impact on keeping wages down."

The state report says refugees who found employment recently earn an average of $8.50 an hour.

Any legal job will do

Refugees are willing to take jobs many Americans would balk at.

Several dozen refugees from Myanmar recently started commuting two hours each way to a Perdue chicken processing plant in Rockingham. Some are paying a transportation service to take them to and from work each day.

Barnabas Ki Ning moved to Chapel Hill in March after living as a refugee in Malaysia for five years. He and his wife are members of an ethnic group that has been persecuted by the Myanmar government.

He said he too is considering taking a job in the chicken plant, which has been steadily offering jobs to refugees in recent months.

He said he would rather work nearby. But after living as a refugee -- being forbidden to work, fearing for his safety and sharing a three-room apartment with more than two dozen people -- he will do whatever he can to support his wife and 15-month-old son.

"As long as we are here, we are safe," said Ki Ning, 31. "I can do any job, as long as it's legal."

Refugee advocates say it is a moral obligation for the United States to take in some of the 13 million refugees around the globe, many of whom have lived in camps for more than a decade. They say most refugees add to the United States with their strong work ethic, deep faith and diverse cultures.

Agencies make a point of settling groups of refugees from the same country near each other, so they can form communities and help one another succeed.

Jason Stoddard, a member of Christ Covenant Church in Raleigh, which now has several members from Myanmar, said he has seen refugees endure even the most trying circumstances without complaint. Last month, when a large family was about to be evicted from their apartment, the refugee community came together to raise $2,000 to help pay their rent and utilities, Stoddard said.

Finding a way

Refugee agencies say that most refugees find ways to manage, no matter how tight their finances. After months or years of living in refugee camps, sometimes without such basics as running water, they don't expect luxuries.

Barutwanayo Jacques, a native of Burundi who spent 12 years in a refugee camp, has lived in Raleigh since June. He shares a small apartment with his wife and six children, who range in age from 8 to 23. They were driven out of their African nation by genocide.

In 10 months, only he and his eldest son, Levis, have found jobs. They do laundry for the Raleigh company Alsco, earning $7.48 an hour and no benefits. And in January, they were cut from eight-hour days to seven.

Jacques' wife and two teenage daughters have been unable to find jobs. But they pool their money and get by with the help of food stamps. They say they are happy to be in North Carolina.

Enuol was a subsistence farmer in Vietnam. As a Montagnard, an ethnic group persecuted by the Vietnamese government, he lived in constant fear of arrest after participating in political protests. He had no hope of buying land or pulling his family out of poverty.

Here, he is sharing an apartment with his brother's family. They work, and he takes care of their children, while his own family is thousands of miles away. He spends his evenings struggling to learn English.

Still, he says, at least he has freedom here. At least he has hope. or 919-829-4881
How resettlement works
People forced from their home countries by religious, political, racial or ethnic persecution are given legal refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The United States agrees to take in a certain number of refugees each year. This year, the limit is 90,000.
Each refugee selected to come to the United States is assigned to one of 10 resettlement agencies, which work with regional affiliates around the country.
Agency workers meet new refugees at the airport, arrange their housing, help them find jobs and offer them classes in English and American culture.
Refugees are entitled to up to eight months of special federal financial assistance. They get special social services, including counseling and other non-financial assistance, for up to five years. And after one month, they become eligible for the same government programs that U.S. citizens receive, including Medicaid and food stamps.
After living in the United States one year, they can apply for legal permanent residency, commonly known as a green card. After five years of permanent residency, they can apply for citizenship.
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Join date : 2009-04-22
Posts : 240
Location : Piedmont NC

PostSubject: Re: NC 11th in country for refugees   Mon May 25, 2009 6:58 pm

As badly as I want to be able to help the impoverished of the world, it makes precious little sense to bring them here to face such difficult conditions in these trying times.

Little by little our own people are becoming refugees of sorts in their own country, and to find our government is adding to the struggles of a weak economy by increasing the number of immigrant refugees is truly astounding.

I guess we'll just have to print more money!
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