Refugee Employment in the News

Photo credit: Pima County Public Library

I couldn’t resist keeping up with blog content over the holidays. In case you aren’t such a huge refugee employment geek, here are three stories you may have missed about refugees living and working in Tuscon, the Bronx and Lancaster, PA.

Career Ladders and Benefits of Refugee Experience in Tuscon

My experience as a refugee helped me learn how to look for all of the resources and services available here in Tucson…I provided them with information they needed until they got a job. Because I knew what it was like to start your life from zero. Bushra Faesel

Gyan Gurung Office in Times Square Suzanne DeChillonytimes

Photo Credit: Suzanne DeChillo, NYTimes

Commuting to an Office Job in Times Square

A photo essay about “the largest Bhutanese enclave” in the Bronx and Gayat Gurung’s commute to Times Square.

Starter Job in Lancaster, PA

Farhan Al Qadri, who recently arrived from Syria with most of his family, already has a $10.50/hr starter job in an egg processing plant and dreams of buying a house.

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Top 5 Posts of 2015

top-5Welcome to 2016!  In case you missed them the first time, here are your 5 favorite Higher blog posts from 2015.

1. Employer List for Ex-Offenders

2. Friday Feature: El Hielo by La Santa Cecilia

3.  Practical Tips on How to Network

4. 4 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

5. Congolese Resettlement Success in Knoxville

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Cuban Border Crossers and Changes in U.S.-Cuban Relations

Camera guyRecently, it seems like Syrian refugees are the only story.  Not true. Significant changes in U.S. Cuban diplomatic relations will continue to have an impact on our work and the lives of our Cuban clients.  There seem to be more questions than answers. What’s next and when?

What are the effects on new Cuban arrivals to the U.S. and the Cuban immigrant communities that welcome them? Cubans in Cuba when I visited in 2006 told me that everyone who stayed behind has family in the U.S. They believed those connections would drive economic growth for everyone.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

Second or third generation Cuban-Americans will have different assets to offer their families back on the island than payrolees (border crossers) still within their first five years in the U.S. Even before diplomatic relations were normalized, limits on remittances to Cuba were relaxed allowing Cubans in the U.S. to send larger sums of money back to Cuba for expanded purposes.  Have these changes resulted in increased financial support for Cubans in Cuba from relatives in the U.S.?Cuban Snip one

The number of unauthorized Cubans arriving in the United States nearly doubled in fiscal 2015, rising to 43,159 from 24,278 the previous year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained through a public records request. This represents a 78% increase over the previous year. Click here to read more from a Washington Post article and a Pew Research Center report, both from December 2015.

tico times

Photo Credit: Zach Dyer/The Tico Times

The surge in Cuban border crossers has also had an impact on the Latin American countries they often travel through en route to the U.S. and has made the Cuban journey more difficult and expensive. Ecuador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua have tightened travel restrictions in response to increase Cubans transitting across their borders. Border crossers often amass large debts incurred to pay for transportation, fees and bribes en route. How are their motivations, journey and resettlement experience different than in the past as a result of additional obstacles?

“El red Cubano”, the Cuban network, is an informal web of interwoven connections that stretch between Cubans here, in Cuba and along their journey. Information – and sometimes mis-information – spreads quickly through those informal channels. That powerful communication vehicle is almost certainly one factor contributing to increased arrivals.

Higher really want to hear stories about how changes in U.S.-Cuban relations are affecting Cubans on both sides of the 60 mile Straits of Florida that separate Cuba from the U.S.  Please share this post and get in touch at to offer your insight.


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Demographic Research about Islam and Muslims

Arabic calligraphy is so beautiful. Can anyone tell me what this says?

Click here to read data about Muslims and Islam in the U.S. and around the world from the Pew Reserach Center. No need to restate all of the reasons why you will find this useful.


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Friday Feature: Humans of New York

humansHumans of New York is featuring Syrian refugee pictures and stories in their own words on their daily blog.  Welcome to this future employment client in North Carolina from the December 6 post! .

Check them out. You can also find them on Facebook.  Share them to help quiet unfounded fears about resettling Syrians.

“I learned last Thursday that I’m going to a state called North Carolina. I’m very nervous. I know nothing about it. More than anything, I want to finish my education. But mostly I hope that whatever is waiting for me there is better than what I’ve gone through.”

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Syrian Refugee Employment: Facts and Characteristics

syrianwelcomeLearn several insights about some of the expectations and cultural differences we will need to consider when helping Syrians successfully enter the U.S. workforce. Syrians are as diverse as any client population we resettle, so these are only general observations and trends.

The information is summarized from expert presentations heard last week in Detroit, Michigan from a resettlement agency’s statistics and experience resettling 18 Syrian families, the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Director of a program that works with refugees in Egypt, including Syrians.

First, a few statistics about the 2,290 Syrians resettled in the U.S. since 2011.

  • More than half (1,680) were resettled in the past fiscal year.
  • 59% are families (with at least one adult and at least one child).
  • 54% are under the age of 18. 1% are over the age of 65.
  • Less than 3% are single women-led households and less than 2% are single men not part of a family.
  • Less than 4% are Christians*

*Only 10% of all Syrians are Christian. Many live in relatively stable areas of the country and have chosen to remain. A significant number of those who did flee are in Lebanon, where the U.S. is not currently able to process refugees for resettlement in the U.S.

  1. Expectations and Technical Skills. Syrians have high expectations that they will be able to work in jobs that use their skills and training. Many bring experience and training in agriculture or skilled trades like construction, plumbing or electricity. We might find fewer professional certifications or advanced degrees than with other recent Middle Eastern populations we’ve resettled.
  1. Lifestyles and Quality of Life. Syrian heads of household are motivated to accept early employment so they can provide their families with a similar lifestyle to the one they were forced to leave behind. Across rural/urban settings as well as class and economic status, Syrians enjoyed a relatively high quality of life.
  1. Traditional Roles for Women. In general, women are not expected or accustomed to working outside of the home. The ability for them to play the role of homemaker is related to cultural values and perceptions of a high quality of life. Their educational attainment is likely to be less (middle school) than that of men (high school).
  1. English and Driving. Syrians are very aware of the importance of English language skills and the ability to drive for achieving the quality of life and success they want. They are motivated to learn these skills, which are not as common upon arrival as we might have expected.


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Friday Feature: Soup for Syria

soupforsyriaClick here to support Syrian refugees, stay warm as winter settles in and buy holiday presents at the same time.

Nearly 80 acclaimed chefs have contributed soup recipes for a humanitarian cookbook project whose profits will be donated to UNHCR to provide urgently needed food relief for Syrian refugees.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)


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How Can Refugee Employment Professionals Respond to Paris Attacks?

parisWhat are any immediate effects you’re hearing related to client jobs and employer partners after the horrible events in Paris this weekend? Please share what you’re experiencing and how you’re responding at

Employers may have questions and concerns. Refugee’s work colleagues may be afraid or angry and react accordingly. Refugees may fear real or imagined consequences.

You could check in with key employers and working clients who might need extra support.  When you know what’s going on, you can consider how to respond.

We’ll collect advice and experience from the network and share employment services strategies to consider.

Meanwhile, here is an excellent step-by-step explanation of the rigorous security process that every refugee being considered for U.S. resettlement must complete before we receive them. Thanks to USCRI for making it widely available for all.


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Friday Feature: Imagine Dragons, #One4 Campaign

As part of a campaign called #One4, Grammy Award-winning band Imagine Dragons recently released a single on iTunes called “I Was Me” with all proceeds going to the UNHCR to help with the refugee crisis in Europe. Read this op-ed on cuepoint to hear lead singer Dan Reynolds talk about his band’s passion for this cause, or watch this video:

To download the song on iTunes click here.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Refugee Employment: European Conversations and Innovations


Photo credit: @e5bakeshop

There is so much news swirling around about the Syrian refugee crisis.  It’s sometimes difficult to identify specifics that are immediately relevant to refugee employment.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review highlights European conversations about the same issues we discuss in our work. Topics you’ll recognize include foreign credential recognition, professional re-certification, adapting to new work place culture and long term support for language acquisition.

It’s worth a read, although some of the innovations it references are not completely replicable in the U.S. refugee resettlement context.

Here are four more innovations related to workforce skills and employment solutions we’ve spotted in the mix.  Many of them are initiated and led by the private sector.

  1. e5Bakehouse (Britain), a small bakery and coffee shop partners with a local nonprofit to employ refugee women in a fresh bread subscription delivery service, offering them marketable skills, income and inspiration for future career opportunities.
  2. Two aspiring online Universities in Germany, Wings and Kiron target refugee access to post-secondary education and language studies.
  3. (The Netherlands) offers coordination for home sharing options modeled after Airbnb.
  4. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will work with UNHCR to increase internet access in refugee camps.



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