Just as Latino immigrants were thought to have the strongest hold on service-sector jobs in Utah, a new kind of immigrant may be taking over these low-skilled occupations.
The competition for service-sector jobs is growing, as the Latino immigrants currently holding these jobs are coming up against international refugees in the battle for the same positions.
It is estimated that about 1,100 refugees will arrive in Utah throughout the year, joining the 25,000 once-refugees already in Salt Lake County. The
The Latino immigrants currently in Utah are not just worried about the increased number of bodies competing for jobs, but also how their immigration status will look compared to refugees’.
Tony Yapias, director of immigrant activist group Proyecto Latino de Utah, told Deseret News that housekeeping workers in hotels say they are receiving letters from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requesting additional documentation regarding their residency status. The workers are afraid they will not be able to meet the requirements needed under the federal E-Verify program, and will lose their jobs to refugees with proper documentation.
“They have papers. They have Medicaid and everything else,” Yapias said of those in the refugee community. He added that the only government involvement the Latino immigrants have is with ICE, but that is seen as more of a danger than a source of help. “The only resource (the Latino) has is contact with a friend or a family member.”
Gerald Brown, state coordinator for refugee resettlement with the Department of Workforce Services, stated that while both groups are immigrants, they are not on equal footing. And while Latino immigrants are worried about losing their jobs, some refugees are equally as worried about the possible animosity created when and if they take said jobs.
“It’s very uncomfortable to work for refugees and know that sometimes they displace these folks,” Brown said. “But I’m also not in a position to pass up jobs that are available.”