West Michigan businesses are responding to reports from the White House that the U.S. government is considering drastic cuts to the number of refugees who are allowed to enter the country.
The issue is expected to come to a head today when White House officials plan to meet to discuss the annual number of people fleeing war, persecution and famine who will be allowed entrance in the U.S. in the coming year.
The administration may cut current refugee admissions by half or more while reserving the remaining 10,000 to 15,000 spots for people from a handful of countries or special statuses, such as those who work alongside American troops, foreign diplomats or intelligence operatives abroad, according to reports. One proposed option would “zero out” refugee admission while leaving President Donald Trump the ability to admit some people in the event of an emergency.
A group of 36 West Michigan employers released a joint letter in support of refugee resettlement programs, citing the contributions refugees have made to the local workforce. The businesses are part of a network of roughly 500 employers who partner with Bethany Christian Services, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, to match refugees with jobs in the area.
“Stopping the resettlement of refugees would be an incredible loss to West Michigan communities,” Bethany’s President and CEO Chris Palusky said in a statement. “These are hardworking men and women with unique skills sought after by employers.”
Since 2009, local businesses have hired more than 5,000 refugees in partnership with Bethany, and they are asking to hire more, according to Palusky.
“Refugees work hard, start businesses and give back to their neighborhoods,” he said. “West Michigan has benefited greatly as a welcoming community for refugees.”
The refugees have helped fill gaps for many companies that have struggled to find workers over the past decade. With more jobs available than people in the labor force, employers have looked to creative partnerships with local colleges and nonprofits to fill the gaps.
“Grand Rapids has experienced tremendous economic growth over the past decade and embracing refugees has certainly played a role in the area’s development,” Andy Johnston, vice president of government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “By continuing to welcome refugees, our community can be further enriched by the unique culture, knowledge, and skills they bring to our businesses and neighborhoods. West Michigan employers want to continue hiring refugees.”
In the letter, businesses urge the administration to consider “the positive contributions refugees make in our communities” and the “views and experience” of employers. It was signed by:
Advance Packaging Corp.
Allow Therapy Partners
Belmont Engineered Plastics
Byrne Electrical Specialists
Coastal Careers Inc.
Creative Dining Services
Forge Industrial Staffing
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Hascall Steel Co.
Hope Network Industries
Meyers Cleaning Service Inc.
MNM Transport Services LLC
Notions Marketing Corp.
Orange Scooter Designs
Schupan & Sons Inc.
The DECC Company
West Michigan Beef Co. LLC