Monday, August 4, 2008

The Changing Face of American Immigrants

The faces of American Immigrants are changing. This year, thousands of refugees are being flown in from Somalia (from NY Times report). They have been flown to 22 cities across the United States, the first wave of one of the government's largest recent refugee resettlement efforts. By the end of next year, officials plan to resettle nearly 13,000 Bantu, who were enslaved and persecuted for generations in Somalia until civil war scattered them to desolate and violent refugee camps in Kenya in the early 1990's.
Over the past decade, State Department officials have increasingly shifted their focus toward Africa as wars there have displaced millions of people. The end of the cold war has resulted in a sharp decline in refugees from the former Soviet Union and Vietnam. Today, Africans are among those filling the gap.
It is well known the Somalian refugees come from desolate circumstances and are rejoicing in the escape from their homelands. Mr. Yarrow, one new Somalian Immigrant said: ''I want to work. I want to learn English. I want to leave all my problems behind in Kenya.'' His enthusiasm is clear, but challenges await him. The Bantu here are practicing Muslims in a country that has become increasingly ambivalent about Arab and Islamic immigrants. Mr. Yarrow and his family do not speak English and cannot read or write in their own language. They are farmers looking for jobs anywhere they can find them.
Some Somalians found work in Meat Packing plants. Two recent articles indicate they found work at Tyson Foods in Tennessee and at Agriprocessors in Postville.
AP Reports: SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. - Workers at the Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Shelbyville will no longer have a paid day off on Labor Day but will instead be given the Muslim holiday Eid al-Fitr as a holiday. According to a news release from the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a new five-year contract at the plant included the change to accommodate the hundreds of Somali Muslims who work at the plant .
Eid al-Fitr — which falls on Oct. 1 this year — marks the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.Union leaders say implementing the holiday was important for the nearly 700 Muslims, many of them Somalis, who work at the plant that employs a total of 1,200 people. The Shelbyville Times-Gazette newspaper quotes union spokesman Randy Hadley as saying the negotiating team felt this change was "extremely crucial, since this holiday is as important to Muslims as Christmas is to Christians."
The newspaper also quotes the union as saying two prayer rooms have been created at the Shelbyville Tyson Foods' plant " to allow Muslim workers to pray twice a day and return to work without leaving the plant."
Des Moines Register reports: Postville, Ia. – African immigrants are adding to Postville’s multi-cultural story, but their chapter could wind up being short. Scores of people from Somalia have arrived here in recent weeks to work at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant. Most of them are young men who are filling jobs previously held by hundreds of Guatemalan and Mexican workers seized in an immigration raid May 12. Several of the Somalians said they came to the United States legally as refugees from the chaos and death that civil war brought to their east-African homeland. They said many of them were living in the Minneapolis area when labor-recruiting firms or word-of-mouth recommendations drew them to Postville. Several expressed displeasure with what they found here, and predicted they and most of their countrymen would leave.


ultima said...

"Today, Africans are among those filling the gap."

What gap? There isn't any gap? We will rue the day we admitted more Muslims. It won't be today but it will be some time in the distant future when the mullahs begin to dictate how we live.

Dee said...

Ulty, ALL of the Meatpacking plants are doing this. I showed you Agriprocessors and Tyson. Here is an article about Swift. Read the last paragraph. Remember, the Meat Packers worked with ICE in coordinating the Raids. Then they back filled with Somali Workers.

By DAVID McLEMORE for The Dallas Morning News, 4/19/08

Sixteen months ago, federal agents swept into the Panhandle town of Cactus, Texas, in Moore County as part of a massive raid of Swift & Co. beef processing plants across the country. They arrested 297 workers on immigration violations and sent hundreds more fleeing the community for fear of more raids.

Days after immigration sweeps this week at poultry processing plants in five states, Dumas City Manger Vince DiPiazza has advice for communities reeling from the effects of such raids: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

"Things were a little rocky in the short-term, but the upheaval of the raids hasn't hurt us financially," Mr. DiPiazza said. "Swift aggressively brought in new workers and had the plant working to capacity within months."

But with the new workers has come a fresh set of challenges.

Swift's new owners, a Brazilian firm, recruited a different set of foreign workers to fill the gaps left by the Mexican and Central American workers caught up in the ICE raid in December 2006. This time, they hired refugees brought into the U.S. on a special visa.

Influx of refugees

Since January, roughly 400 members of the Karen and Chin ethnic groups from Burma have moved into Moore County from Houston and other cities, drawn by the $12-an-hour jobs. A similar number of Somali refugees living in Amarillo also work at the Cactus plant.

dianne said...

Hey, they're legally here. In Wisconsin there are thousands of Mungs from Cambodia and we also had the Cubans but they largely disappeared. Almost all of them were on government assistance for years, courtesy of the US taxpayer. I don't believe we can expect them to give up their religion, holidays or traditions but we sure as heck don't have to give up ours to accomodate them.

When the waves of immigrants arrived at the turn of the last century, they didn't give up their religion, traditions, etc. but they also didn't get welfare, food stamps, or any other benefits. And, they assimilated because they had to. They weren't given any special treatment when it came to English only school curriculums, voting ballots, etc. They weren't given Section this and Section that housing. Nobody was.

Today coming to American means getting a free ride, courtesy of you and me, and we tolerate that, but we will draw the line when it comes to cab drivers who refuse to carry passengers with liquor bottles or seeing eye dogs because it affronts "their" religion. What Tyson and the union is doing is pushing the envelope and there will be a backlash.

Dee said...

I am curious as to how the Meat Packing companies are getting so many Somalian applicants and why. From the article, most of the Somalians came in over the past year. The Tyson, Swift and Pilgrims Pride sweeps were this past year. It looks like Tyson ramped up pretty quickly with Somalians. I wonder if there is some connection. Maybe a conversation like this between DHS and the Meatpackers:

DHS: We are getting ready to do sweeps to appease the political right (ANTIs).

Meatpackers: But what am I going to do to staff my place? I dont want to raise wages or improve safety standards. Regular Americans wont do this work under these conditions. You are going to put me out of business.

DHS: Dont worry. We have a large group of Somalians coming in as Refugees. They will be looking for work.

Meatpacker: Great. How do I get them here.

DHS: Send your recruiters over to (22 designated cities). We will hook you up!

Dee said...

Agriprocessors working conditions must be absolutely horrendous! They did recruit Somalians, but they did not stay long. The conditions were too bad!

patriot said...

Some very good points were made by both ultima and dianne. We have to be very careful about admitting large numbers of people into our country whose culture is not compatable with ours.

patriot said...

We should never allow in large numbers of people into our country whose cultures are incompatable to ours. Ultima and dianne have made many good points in here.

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