MN resettlement worker headed for first-ever Refugee Congressby Laura Yuen, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A Columbia Heights woman will tell the United Nations' refugee agency in Washington this week that the economy is complicating the job hunt for many new arrivals in the United States.
"It's like putting someone in the middle of the sea and saying, 'You should swim in order to save yourself,'" Fatuma Elmi said. "It's expected, when they come here, within eight months, for them to be able to take care of themselves. I don't think that this eight months' cash assistance is enough."
Elmi was chosen to represent the concerns and experiences of Minnesota's refugees; she helps newcomers from all over the world find work and English classes through her job at Lutheran Social Services.
Elmi says refugees can receive modest cash support for the first several months of being in the U.S., as long as they attend intensive English training and apply for work. But she says her clients need more time to get settled in their new country. Many of them have lived for years in camps, and have little or no education, let alone English skills.
The first-ever Refugee Congress aims to hear directly from people who were uprooted for guidance on how to improve the resettlement process.
One of the outcomes of this week's event is to make recommendations to Congress on how to better protect refugees in this country.
Right now, with what's happening in the job market, who's hiring refugees?" Elmi said. "So we struggle, we struggle."