Refugees Work to Keep Area Thriving Businesses Set Pace with Fruitful Jobs

By Andino, Alliniece T. | The Florida Times Union, September 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Refugees Work to Keep Area Thriving Businesses Set Pace with Fruitful Jobs


Andino, Alliniece T., The Florida Times Union


Byline: Alliniece T. Andino, Times-Union staff writer

Each time Aiah Momorie pushed an inflated plastic bag into the water, he scanned for bubbles or other signs of leaks.

"I definitely am happy to be working," said Momorie, 23, who is a quality control inspector at Statcorp, a medical supply company in Jacksonville. "It's a great opportunity for me to get my life started."

Momorie is a refugee from Sierra Leone in Africa. He, like other refugees, was forced to leave his homeland because of war and persecution. Although immigrants come freely to the United States, both groups share a vision of better life in America.

Some believe refugees and immigrants take advantage of taxpayers to fulfill their dreams. But economists and employers say they take jobs at wages Americans won't and have some skills some Americans lack.

Once employed, refugees and immigrants build up the economy and standard of living for other Americans instead of bringing it down, economists say.

The idea of the immigrant and the refugee coming to America's shores in search of a better life is at the heart of Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday of September. The holiday was born in the late 1800s from the protests of organized labor unions, made up of immigrant men, women and children who toiled in factories for 10 or more hours a day.

Somehow the idea of hardworking immigrants evolved into the idea of freeloading refugees, which is often not the case, said Venda Bukac, who works at Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida resettling refugees.

An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 refugees live in the area.

"A majority of refugees are working in three months," she said. "Refugees are really strongly determined to start their new life in the United States, and they are willing to take every job that is available."

Lutheran Social Services resettles the largest number of refugees in Northeast Florida.

In the past decade, refugees and immigrants have taken over service-oriented jobs Americans don't want or don't have the skills to do, said Paul Mason, chairman of the University of North Florida's economics and geography department.

"They perceive that if they work hard, they can achieve and find that American dream," he said.

Americans benefit from their labor because the refugees spend money on goods and services that provide work for others, Mason said.

Henry Lim, who works for Lutheran Social Services, finds employment for refugees. …

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