Paul’s Perambulations

June 19, 2011

“Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” – NOT!

Filed under: Peace,Politics,Religion,Work — admin @ 10:25 pm

I have acquaintances who ask why the United States is accepting refugees from the Burma struggle, particularly when we are in a recession   Why do we give them our jobs? I explain that this is an act of mercy – many of them will likely die if we don’t do something now.  There is an age gap among these refugees – males in the 35 and up range are often missing. Many are dead (including our friend Meh Sha Lin’s father), and not by natural causes. Roosevelt said that he couldn’t accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 30’s because the people wouldn’t stand for it during the depression. Americans preferred that they stay in Germany and suffer/die from Nazi racism and persecution. Let’s hope “the people” (or at least some of them) have learned something from this.

Refugees usually arrive with no resources, no marketable  skills, and no contacts in this country. They receive basic financial support and services for six months. A fine gift?  Hardly. In fact many, including Fran, believe they many of these refugees would be better off staying in Thailand and exposing themselves to possible death there, in preference to exposing themselves to death, hunger and abuse in the United States.

They try to support themselves with jobs, and many find jobs. As Reagan once said while traveling with a group of news people “Look, who says there are no jobs” while pointing out a “Help Wanted” sign at a MacDonald’s. There are jobs, but Americans won’t take those jobs to support themselves, and so they go to refugees who have no other options.

Here are some typical jobs for refugees in the Philadelphia area:

  1. Seed packaging. A seed company employs workers who arrive by van to pack seeds. The amount of work is varies with the season.This work doubtless could be mechanized, but old-Philadelphia Burpee has kept traditional. In any case, machinery would require a large cash investment and Burpee would need to acquire a capacity adequate to meet peak demand. Instead, they have a large work force available, and if you don’t show up for work two days without a medical document verifying your incapacity, you don’t return at all. With a medical excuse, you might be able to return after a week, maybe not.
  2. Salad packaging. This work is done in a cold room kept at 33 degrees. Everyone wears coats and gloves while mixing and packing fresh salad ingredients.  You are on your feet, and you get cold. But that’s the job – take it or leave it.
  3. Chicken factory. You receive freshly-killed chickens on a moving conveyer belt.  You’ve got to cut things up efficiently and quickly. At times there is a dangerous mix of fecal material, antibiotics, and sharp instruments.

Do any Americans think their jobs are being taken by refugees? If so, you’d be first to be hired for any of the jobs mentioned above, but there don’t seem to be any Americans applying for these jobs or willing to expend the effort required to keep these jobs.

Some plum jobs are cleaning up and handling medical waste in hospitals. Those go to folks with some education and English-speaking abilities. Any Americans willing to do the work are invited to apply, and I’m sure they would be first hired.


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