Who We Are
The Refugee Employment Partnership (REP) is a group of volunteers focused on helping recently arrived refugees and asylees find suitable employment opportunities as they seek to establish new lives in the New York metropolitan area. The clients we assist all have full legal status to live and work in the US, with no sponsorship or other immigration assistance needed from their prospective employers.
REP was formed in 2017 by members of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun and is now co-sponsored by Rutgers Presbyterian Church and includes other members of the local community. Our volunteers work in finance, law, media, health care, real estate, education and non-profits. We have recently added a full-time Program Administrator, who works closely with our employer and NGO partners, volunteers and clients to support all aspects of our program.
What We Do
Under the current system of refugee resettlement, the federal government works with a network of NGOs who are directly responsible for resettling each refugee – this includes helping them find access to housing, employment, medical care, schooling, English instruction, and otherwise establish local connections and begin to integrate into the community. These NGO’s often enlist local community groups to help them with these efforts.
Speaking with the refugee resettlement organizations and other social service organizations supporting this population, we discovered that one of their greatest needs is helping recent refugees find suitable and attractive employment. These organizations face staffing and funding constraints, particularly in the current political environment, and despite the dedication of their personnel, often lack the resources, connections and business expertise to build a network of interested employers, to take the time to understand their needs, and to help match candidates with potential opportunities.
At the same time, many companies and institutions are eager to gain access to this valuable employee pool. They may also believe helping refugees builds company morale and is an important social good, strengthening our workforces and communities. Our Partnership serves as a bridge between qualified candidates and the companies and institutions that would welcome them as employees.
We work closely with an expanding number of these refugee organizations, currently HIAS, Church World Service, The Riverside Language Program, The Refugee and Immigrant Fund (RIF) and Catholic Charities, to connect us with suitable individual clients. At the outset, we meet with each client to assess their skills and capabilities, including their facility with written and spoken English. We then help them to define their employment goals and to develop their resumes and interviewing skills. At that point we work to match a particular refugee’s skills with employment opportunities the team has identified or further develops. We provide one-on-one mentoring between volunteers and clients throughout the job search process, including interview preparation and follow-up, advice on proper workplace demeanor and dress, and check-ins after a successful placement to ensure that things are going smoothly and to help with any issues that may arise.
The other side of our work is building and developing a network of companies that are interested in considering our clients for possible employment. We seek companies with operations in the greater New York area which have potential openings for entry-level positions, from unskilled to skilled. We work closely with our employer partners to understand their needs, and to introduce them to candidates who are pre-screened and likely to be a good fit. We are available to speak with employers during the process of evaluating a new employee and then integrating them into the workplace. The employers we have worked with have been very pleased with the results of our placements and have found our clients to be valued additions to their workforce and community.
Who Our Clients Are
Our clients have a range of English language skills and work experience. Some speak English quite well, having been raised speaking English or studied at home extensively; some have even been translators for the United States military. Others have been learning only since their arrival, achieving varying degrees of proficiency. Some have professional backgrounds including accounting, engineering, or other highly marketable skills. Others are fairly low-skilled but are eager to learn and ready to work very hard. We work closely with each client to assess their strengths and abilities so we can match them with appropriate job opportunities that will set them up for success and best meet the employer’s needs.
To date, we have placed clients from 17 different countries primarily from three broad regions – the Middle East/South Asia, Western/Central Africa and the former Soviet Union. Our clients typically demonstrate a terrific work ethic. They are eager to contribute to their new country and to begin supporting their families and integrate into the community. Many have been forced to leave loved ones behind and are striving to establish themselves in order to be able to have their family join them.
To address a common question, all of our candidates have the full authorization to live and work in the United States legally. They generally fall into one of four categories: refugees, SIV’s, asylees, or asylum seekers:
Refugees have typically fled their countries of origin under extreme circumstances, and have arrived in a second country seeking asylum (rather than arriving directly in the United States). Once an applicant has been referred to the US through the international refugee process, they undergo a detailed vetting process before they are assigned to a specific city and agency for resettlement.
Recipients of a Special Immigration Visa (SIV) are individuals who are at risk in their country of origin because they worked directly to assist the U.S. military or government in Iraq or Afghanistan. They go through a vetting process similar to refugees prior to coming to the US.
Asylees have arrived directly on United States soil after fleeing their countries of origin. Asylees apply for permission to live and work in the United States under a different judicial and review process than refugees, as they are already in the United States rather than being transferred from another country. Once approved, asylees have an equivalent status as refugees and SIV’s.
Asylum Seekers have applied for asylum and their application is pending for administrative or judicial review, which can take many years. Once their application has been pending for over six months, they are also formally granted the right to work in the US during the pendency of their asylum process.
Although the current administration has taken steps to limit the number of individuals who may enter the United States under these circumstances, many people are still arriving who need our help. In some cases our clients are individuals who took subsistence jobs when they first arrived in the US and are now seeking new or better employment opportunities that take better advantage of their capabilities.
What You Can Do
We are seeking companies and institutions that can offer entry-level or other opportunities for our highly-motivated clients and are open to working with us to help these recent immigrants make a solid start and meaningful contribution in their new country. We would be pleased to meet with you to discuss our program and our clients and explore potential opportunities that your organization may be able to offer.
REP Founder & Executive Director
Managing Director, Allen & Company LLC