Local employers encourage refugee hiring
June 15, 2010
Puspa Bastola, a 19-year-old refugee from Nepal, moved to Salt Lake City
three months ago. She came with her husband and son, leaving the rest of her
Bastola says she left Nepal due to the lack of jobs, money and
opportunity. About a month ago, she found work on the housekeeping staff at
The Canyons. Life in the U.S. is easier in some ways and harder in others,
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she says. Still, she is "very, very happy" and plans to stay in Utah
Bastola is one of about 30,000 refugees living in Utah. While she and
countless others have escaped dire situations in their home countries, the
quest to build a life in an unfamiliar land is not easy.
The state of Utah accepts up to 1,000 refugees each year. According to
the Utah Refugee Coalition, a refugee is legally defined as a person who is
outside his or her country of nationality and is unable to return due to a
well-founded fear of persecution.
Refugees in Utah are resettled by the International Rescue Committee
(IRC) and Catholic Community Services (CCS). Other agencies, including the
Department of Workforce Services and the Asian Association of Utah, assist
refugees in securing housing, documentation, transportation and employment.
Federal and state agencies support the resettlement of refugees. Those
who enter the country are automatically put on welfare until they find
employment and are granted social security cards, state IDs, and permits
that allow them to start working right away.
However, there is a desperate need for employment options among the
thousands of refugees living in Utah who have great difficulty finding jobs,
in part due to the economy and in part due to lack of knowledge about their
presence and availability to work.
World Refugee Education Week is being observed in Utah this week, with a
World Refugee Day Celebration on Saturday, June 19, from noon until 8 p.m.
at South Salt Lake’s Granite High School campus.
On Tuesday evening, representatives from the Park City hotel industry
were scheduled to attend a special seminar at Westminster College entitled
"Why Hire a Refugee?"
Suzanne Wild, the director of services at the Marriott Summit Watch in
Park City, and Bruno Schwartz, the international program manager at The
Canyons, attended the round table discussion to provide insight into the
benefits of hiring refugees.
Wild has been coordinating a refugee hiring program at the Marriott
Summit Watch for the past two years. She currently has about 20 refugees on
the payroll, and some have been with the company for many months.
Although the language barrier can be a challenge, Wild says she has only
positive things to say about the employees. "It is a charitable thing to do,
but it’s also a good business decision," she says. "I think a lot of resorts
in Park City don’t know about the [refugee] labor pool."
Hiring refugees has been especially helpful during warmer months, when
Park City draws many fewer seasonal and international workers, Wild says.
"If you’re busy like we are in the summer, this might be something to
Schwartz learned about the state’s refugee resettlement programs a few
months ago at a meeting at the governor’s office to discuss the
international community in Utah. He brought up the difficulties of hiring
international staff at The Canyons and Jennifer Andelin, an international
and immigration specialist at the office of Congressman Jason Chaffetz,
offered to help him find refugees to fill open positions.
The Canyons has since hired about 15 refugees for the summer season. The
employees are from countries including Burma, Bhutan, Iran, Nepal and
"They are extremely hardworking," Schwartz says. "All they want to do is
find a job, become part of the community and support their families. We’re
definitely going to look at hiring more for the winter season."
Schwartz also wants to help spread the word about refugee employment. He
has offered to serve as a hospitality representative of sorts, contacting
other hotels and resorts to encourage them to hire refugees.
"We can all benefit from hiring refugees," he says. "You’re filling your
positions, but you’re also helping the government by taking them off welfare
and helping the refugees find a place in the community."
For more information about refugee services and World Refugee Education
Week events, visit http://www.refugee.utah. gov. An employer hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-255-8155.