By Leah S. Dunaief
Here is a possible answer to a couple of current questions. How to deal with the thousands of Afghans we have brought to our country ahead of the Taliban takeover and also those refugees from Central and South America who have massed at our border? That is one question. Another is how to respond to the ever-widening gap between the rising need for home health care workers and hospital aides, and the aging of the current United States population who will need such services? And there are other such industries that urgently need workers, where there are not enough Americans to fill them.
Some of the immigrants may be well-educated or have needed skills. Those can probably be settled readily into American locations after they have been vetted and vaccinated. For those without obvious skills, the government will need to offer training, including English classes. The newcomers could be given a choice of what work they would want to do. Some may be or would like to be farmers, and we certainly need more workers in agriculture. Some may already be carpenters or landscapers or roofers or mechanics. If they can drive, we might be able to prepare them to drive trucks or buses, jobs that are going begging today. Perhaps they could help moving companies, which are understaffed and leaving customers stranded in their new homes waiting for their furniture to arrive. Some could help veterinarians, who are hugely overworked now by the many new pet owners who wanted companionship during the pandemic and acquired dogs, cats and other domestic creatures.
Child care is a field that needs more workers. Mental health practitioners, overwhelmed by those experiencing anxiety, depression and stress could certainly use non-managerial help. So could both be teaching and non-teaching educational services, and sawmills turning out lumber for new construction and renovation, and textile mills trying to meet the sudden demand for back-to-school and back-to-work clothing places to welcome help. We have a desperate shortage of nurses in our country, both PNs and RNs. Hospitals, now newly reduced in their staffing because of the vaccine mandates, probably need help with basic services.
All of these positions, of course, would need varying degrees of training, and that in turn would offer new teaching jobs to the currently unemployed. Such programs would be no small task to organize, but it was doable during the Great Depression almost a century ago, and we can surely again put people to work where they are needed. Some of the jobs would be easier to prepare for than others. All could improve our economy, especially in areas with stagnant growth, and perhaps meet urgent needs.
I wonder if the federal government is thinking strategically when they place thousands of refugees in select communities. Currently, some 37,000 Afghans are at military installations in 10 states while other evacuees remain at overseas bases waiting to be processed, according to Nayla Rush, writing for the Center for Immigration Studies on Sept. 23. In total, the Biden administration has reported that over 100,000 Afghans were evacuated.
The top ten states receiving the newcomers, according to the Center, are California (5255), Texas (4481), Oklahoma (1800), Washington (1679), Arizona (1610), Maryland (1348), Michigan (1280), Missouri (1200), North Carolina (1169) and Virginia (1166). To coordinate this mammoth resettlement, President Joe Biden (D) appointed former Delaware Governor Jack Markell. He is also the former chairman of the National Governors Association and has held top positions in the private sector.
“Nine religious or community-based organizations have contracts with the Department of State to resettle refugees inside the United States,” according to the Center, and they have final say on the distribution. These agencies, in turn, maintain nationwide networks of local affiliates to provide the necessary services. State and local officials are not involved and have no control over the program. Refugees are not resettled in states that do not have any local affiliates, which explains why some areas are skipped.
Our country has a need of workers. Potential workers are entering the United States in significant numbers. Together that creates opportunity. We need some thoughtful and skilled management here.