Monday, June 18, 2018

The Indiana Institute for Working Families supports all working families who are striving toward a better life for themselves and their children. Policy choices matter. The administration’s recently-enacted "zero tolerance" policy relating to immigration at the southern border is unacceptable and one that can be changed. Families belong together.

Policies are choices that reflect our values. At the Institute, we are centering families in many ways, from work on paid family and medical leave to advocacy on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) to promoting access to high-wage job training. We have contacted our lawmakers about this policy choice and we will continue to speak out publicly whenever families are harmed.


Wednesday, June 20th is World Refugee Day. It is a day to celebrate the strength and courage of the millions of men, women, and children who flee violence in search of safety. It is a day for governments to recognize their global responsibility in helping displaced people. Let us take this day to look at the positive impact refugees have on Indiana. 

Under U.S. law, a refugee is a person who demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular special group. Though US federal immigration policy is being discussed on cable news, in Congress and the White House, and around water coolers everywhere, refugees seem to be a population within this conversation who get lost among the headlines. In the midst of this conversation, the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) released a report on refugee resettlement, trying to answer the question, “What are the experiences of businesses that hire refugees?” 

FPI used interviews with employers of refugees in four different areas of the country that have differing economic and political situations as well as ranges of immigration experiences. They supplemented that data with American Community Survey (ACS) and Worldwide Refugee Processing System (WRAPS) data, and interviews with refugees, refugee resettlement staff, members of the community, and other service providers. For the most part, they found that the similarities, not the differences, between refugees and non-refugee employees are what employers focused on.

There were two main findings of the study:
1) Refugees tend to stay with the same employer for longer than other hires;
2) Once employers create a positive relationship with the first few refugees, it opens the door for the recruitment of others.

Employers found that there was a mutual adjustment period with refugees, but once those workers had adapted to the expectations and the work environment had adapted to the refugees, refugee employees had lower turnover in 73 percent of respondent cases. The positive reputations employers developed in refugee communities allowed them access to potential employees. Furthermore, when placement agencies saw that refugees were thriving at a company, they would send their clients there. “Once the firm has made whatever adjustment may be necessary and has proven to provide good opportunities for refugees, a channel opens up between the refugee community and the company that makes recruitment significantly easier” according to the FPI report.

According to Exodus Refugee Immigration, 50 percent of refugees resettled in Indianapolis are Chin, Karen, Karenni, and other ethnic minorities from Burma. The city also resettles Congolese and Syrian refugees, as well as small numbers of refugees of Iraqi, Eritrean, Somali, Bhutanese, Chinese, Afghani, Cuban, and other national descent. FPI reports that Indianapolis ranks in the top 30 metro areas for refugee placement over the past decade, although 2017 saw only 646 refugees resettled, a 69 percent decrease from the 2,100 refugees resettled in 2016. This decrease, seen after the current administration paused immigration and then lowered caps on refugees entering the US, is disappointing for those seeking asylum and Hoosier communities who benefit from the presence of diversity. 
Source: Fiscal Policy Institute analysis of WRAPS data

As the conversation around immigration and allowing refugees into the country and Indiana, in particular, continues, we should remember that beyond being humans in need, refugees are employees companies want and need. Both a city’s culture and economy can benefit from seeking refugee placements.

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