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Refugees are captive and cheap labor for large corporations

Posted by Ann Corcoran on October 19, 2012

How many times over the years have we reported this hard truth—refugees are being used.

Here is the latest story from The Oregonian about the difficult lives led by African refugees resettled in Boise, Idaho by the International Rescue Committee (one of the top nine federal refugee contractors)  (Hat tip: Friends of Refugees)

What would mega-corporations do if the refugees weren’t here and desperate?  They would have to pay a decent wage to Americans and maintain decent work conditions.  So, I suppose one could say that the IRC and Grover Norquist (say what!) are working hand in hand to keep the cheap immigrant labor flowing.

I bet if you did some digging you would find that the owners of this factory farm are connected to the IRC in some monetary or political way.   [And a whole separate issue is the question of how a real family farm can survive when they have to compete with a factory farm using cheap immigrant labor, and why would the IRC be helping kill the small farm?]

The Oregonian:

Expectations? The Africans have little in the way of expectations. They left those behind when they fled Eritrea, Congo or the Sudan, and the emotional baggage never caught up to them in the refugee camps of Ethiopia or Rwanda.

They waited in those camps for years. “There was a lot of suicide because things are so hard,” says Birhane Hailu, 33. “You can’t work. No jobs. No school.” And when the spark from a cigarette or a lightning strike sends fire raging through the shacks? “No water.”

When they are finally pulled from the wasteland by the International Rescue Committee, when they are ticketed for resettlement in America, you can understand the dizzying temptation to dream big.

“Most of us think we’re going to see a miracle,” Thierry Gasasu admits. “Paradise.

“And then we get to Boise.”


Wolday and Hailu are two of the stalwarts among the 30-some refugees who work at the dairy and bunk at the Maple Crest Apartments in Boardman. As Wolday prepared dinner in early October — beef, onions and peppers on Injera bread — Hailu framed the daily routine:

“We only have time,” he said, “to go to work and sleep.”


Threemile Canyon Farms is owned by the R.D. Offutt Company, based in Fargo, N.D. Parked on 93,000 acres in the Columbia River basin, the farm produces 200,000 tons of potatoes annually. Its dairy operation features 16,000 milking cows, or one-seventh of the cows in Oregon.


In 2011, the IRC found new homes for 224 transplants in Boise. Many of the household heads took jobs as dishwashers, barbers, janitors and motel housekeepers.

The strongest and the most desperate volunteered for Boardman and the dairy.

Read it all.

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