Rep. Hultgren tours Yorkville company that hires refugees
In honor of World Refugee Day, Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, visited the Yorkville food production facility of Newly Weds Foods on June 19 to meet with several of the company’s employees who have come to the United States as refugees through World Relief DuPage/Aurora (WRDA), a refugee resettlement agency.
During his visit, Hultgren talked with former refugees who had fled violence and persecution in Bhutan, Burma (Myanmar) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and now live in Kane County. The five men arrived through WRDA after being screened and processed by the U.S. government through its humanitarian refugee resettlement program.
“10 years,” said one man from Burma when asked how long the process took for him and his family.The refugees – four of whom came to the U.S. with their wives and children – told the congressman about their home countries, as well as the security screening process through which each one had to pass before being approved to enter the U.S.
Hultgren addressed recent attempts at policy changes to refugee resettlement and broader immigration law, stressing the need to ensure our national security and the rule of law while maintaining our national values of welcoming immigrants looking for a place of refuge and a better life.
“[Immigration] is the story of America,” Hultgren said. “It’s the story of all of our families, whether they came within the last year or they came 100 years ago.”
When asked about the current political climate in Washington related to refugee and immigration issues, Hultgren stated that Congress is still navigating the reality of a new administration, but reiterated that there is support on both sides of the aisle for immigration policies that are both humanitarian and good for the country and its economy.
“There still are many people in Congress that want an immigration system that works,” Hultgren said. “A system that has a process that welcomes people who truly have no place to go – that is what America has always been about.”
Through a partnership with WRDA’s Employment Services program, Newly Weds Foods – a premier food processing and food service leader with 26 facilities around the world, including 13 here in the United States – has hired 16 refugees in its Yorkville facility in the last three years.
“Many of our employees are refugees like these and other immigrants, especially Latino immigrants,” said Mark Shircel, VP of human resources at Newly Weds. “The food service industry depends on the hard work of immigrants, because we can’t find enough American citizens to do this type of work.”
The former refugee employees expressed their gratitude to Congressman Hultgren for his support for the U.S.’s refugee program and for his work as co-chairman of the U.S. Congress’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which is charged with promoting, defending and advocating for international human rights in countries around the world, including many from which refugees are currently fleeing.
In 2000, the United Nations established June 20 as World Refugee Day, a time to remember the millions of people around the world who have been forced to flee their home countries because of conflict and persecution.
There are currently over 21 million refugees in the world, marking the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The United States was slated to receive 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017, but that number was cut by more than half to 50,000 under the new administration. In fiscal 2016, 263 refugees arrived in Kane County through WRDA’s Aurora location.
Hultgren thanked the five former refugees for their hard work contributing to the local economy and for their commitment to being part of the country. He also encouraged them to help dispel misinformation and fear that is being spread related to refugees and other immigrants.
“You all are the best story we can tell,” Hultgren said. “Numbers are important, but it’s really about each of your stories and your families. That was what my great-grandparents wanted. Sure, they wanted a better life for themselves, but really it was about the future generations and the difference it could make for them. That is the story that pushes back on all the lies and the fear.”
World Relief DuPage/Aurora is a faith-based relief and development organization committed to serving the most vulnerable through the local church. As a local arm of the international organization, WRDA focuses on serving the foreign-born by providing refugee resettlement services, education services and immigrant legal services. For more information, visit worldreliefdupageaurora.org.