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Rust Belt Towns Thrive Amid Influx of Refugees

Rust Belt Towns Thrive Amid Influx of Refugees Read Transcript


CAITLIN BURKE: Utica, New York calls itself

a city that loves refugees.

There's a humanitarian aspect to that, of course.

But there's also the economics.

Upstate cities in New York in the '50s, they were robust,

a lot of things going on.

And then as you progressed, whether it

be the knitting mills, whether it be the iron mills,

whatever, migrated into either going south, or as we know now,

it's global.

And they're actually out of the country.

Those jobs left, and so did some of our population.

After decades of decline, this Rust Belt town is growing,

fueled by an influx of highly-motivated labor.

Without refugees and immigrants,

without an increase in population,

there is no recovery.

CAITLIN BURKE: Shelly Callahan is the executive director

of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees in Utica.

Their main mission is resettlement.

SHELLY: It's a very American program in the sense

that it is a pull yourself up by your bootstraps sort

of a program.

Get a, job hit the ground running.

Even if you don't know any English,

we've found workarounds for that with employers.

But refugees come here owing their airfare

back the federal government, and that bill comes due six months

post-arrival.

CAITLIN BURKE: Ali Al-Hashimi came to the US

as an Iraqi refugee, and eventually settled in Utica.

In my country, I owned my business.

But because of the war and everything,

the business is closed.

And still the building there, the dust sit in it,

and not open.

CAITLIN BURKE: Al-Hashimi took some classes,

and got a job quickly.

But after only a few weeks, he realized

he'd rather use his skills as an entrepreneur

to open a new restaurant in Utica.

ALI: I tried to find catchy names,

so I called it Hummus and Tabbouleh.

A lot of people don't know what's hummus.

They know what's tabbouleh, but they don't

know where it's coming from.

So hummus tabbouleh is Middle East food.

CAITLIN BURKE: About an hour west, in Syracuse, New York,

a new restaurant and training program, called With Love,

teaches refugees, immigrants, and low-income students

the skills needed to launch their own food businesses.

Adam Sudmann is the program manager,

and came up with the concept.

We're a restaurant, but we're also a school.

Every six months, the type of cuisine changes.

Today, it's Pakistani fare.

In the next few months, who knows?

Folks are coming from different parts of the world,

and they sometimes cook beautiful things.

And connect with what they love about their culture, as opposed

to what you see on the TV.

All those things that are hidden from the cameras,

all those lovely things about culture and family

and hospitality, through food.

CAITLIN BURKE: The students working

at With Love turn over every three to nine months.

On the front-end, With Love employs

an entrepreneur-in-residence.

That student is the one who comes up with the menu,

and who really runs the business side of things.

Learning everything from working the line back in the kitchen

to negotiating rent.

So the end goal, ideally, is for that person

to go and open their own place in the neighborhood.

CAITLIN BURKE: Sarah Robin is the current

entrepreneur-in-residence.

She fled Lahore, Pakistan after being persecuted

for becoming a Christian.

My family and the culture and everybody wanted to kill me.

And I have been poisoned once.

I have been hit many times from my family members.

No matter what happened, God was always with me.

He saved my life.

CAITLIN BURKE: Robin says God opened doors for her

to come to the US, and is still opening doors as she

works to be successful here.

I never thought when I was in my country

that one day I will open up my own restaurant,

I would work here.

But as I came here as a refugee, I

thought that I need to learn a really great skill for my life.

And I love to cook, so I'm so blessed

that I'm in this program.

CAITLIN BURKE: Robin has already started

the process of opening her own restaurant,

working with Sudmann to find a location,

and talking with investors about her vision.

I want to bring a Pakistani vibe in this country,

and the concept of the food will be a street food.

CAITLIN BURKE: As more refugee entrepreneurs, like Robin,

are trained and given the tools to start their own restaurants,

food trucks, or catering businesses,

Sudmann hopes people will be drawn

to invest their time and money in the urban core of Syracuse.

Rather than all those professionals living out there

and not coming into the core, you

set to bring in some of those funds,

and some of that life and energy into the city.

CAITLIN BURKE: Two Rust Belt cities, thousands of refugees,

who with just a small amount of support,

are eager to become contributing members of their communities.

Caitlin Burke, CBN News, Utica, New York.

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