Opinion: American companies hire refugees. More should follow suit

“They were shooting at us from behind… telling us to stop. But we didn’t stop,” Kabir told us. He and his family were among the lucky ones – four of the more than 76,000 Afghans evacuated to the United States since the fall of Kabul last year.

Resettlement agencies have gone to great lengths to help Afghans like Kabir and his family find housing, enroll their children in school and provide English language instruction. They have been joined by local churches, community groups and families from Texas to California to Virginia who are inspiring their new neighbors.

But the most important step on the refugee journey is finding a job, and yet many of them still struggle to do so. They may lack English; have a resume with work experience, certifications or company names that are unfamiliar to the hiring staff; or face traffic problems due to not having a driver’s license. Companies must take a step forward to lower barriers for Afghans (and other refugees) to work, both to provide decent jobs and move up the ladder from entry-level jobs to jobs that reflect their experience and qualifications.

Ultimately, refugees want help, not charity. Ensuring decent work is the moment when refugees find dignity in providing for themselves and their families, and when they can begin to take root in their new community.

Fortunately, the situation has improved since the beginning of this year, and companies have made a concerted effort to hire refugees. AT Tentglobal non-profit dedicated to integrating refugees into the economy and their new communities, we have hired over 100 major companies to remove barriers to refugees trying to enter the US workforce. pfizer created a dedicated portal for refugees of all backgrounds to make sure they don’t miss resumes from qualified candidates. Tyson Foods has hired Dari and Pashto translators at selected sites to assist Afghan refugees. And Oneida Nation Enterprises has arranged buses for Afghans without transportation so they can get to and from work.

Through such efforts, many thousands of Afghans, including Kabir, have found decent jobs in the United States. On April 11, he began working as a purchasing assistant at Pfizer. This is a new start for Kabir. As he put it, “Now I’m rebuilding my life from the ground up.”

While the tight job market has helped employers open up alternative sources of talent, many corporate executives say they have also been in awe of the refugees’ courage and resilience. Companies have also seen first hand that hiring refugees makes good business sense. The data show that refugees stay in companies longer, companies that hire refugees are more attractive employers across the board and that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that employ refugees.

We estimate that a year later, more than half of Afghan job seekers have found work; but that means there is still a lot of work to be done. Many more companies must make arrangements to hire Afghan refugees, making modest investments to overcome language, transportation and other barriers. And while entry-level jobs in sectors such as hospitality, food service, and retail are absolutely necessary to enable refugees to earn a living, improve their English, and learn the social skills of navigating the American workplace, these jobs should be a start. not the end point of their professional path. Through mentorship, training and career opportunities, companies must do more to help Afghans grow into jobs that make the most of their skills.

Congress also has a huge role to play. Should be urgently Afghanistan Settlement Law, which would provide Afghan evacuees with a streamlined path to permanent status in the United States. Without this law, many Afghans will have to apply for asylum on an individual basis – a difficult task, given that many of them had to destroy the very documentation which could prove their claims. Moreover, with shelter backlog of the nearly 700,000 cases, thousands of Afghans could find themselves in prolonged uncertainty for years to come, jeopardizing their ability to continue legitimate work.

Despite everything that has happened, Kabir thanks fate for bringing him to America. We cannot fail him.

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