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Refugees seeking jobs in the Alamo City, what factors are holding them back

More than 5,000 refugees could be making Texas their new home in fiscal year 2017

SAN ANTONIO - More than 5,000 refugees could be making Texas their new home in fiscal year 2017.

It's all part of a proposed Department of State Reception and Placement Program plan. However, something is also holding refugees back from being fully accepted in the San Antonio workforce.

According to the Center for Refugees in San Antonio, a majority of them come here with degrees to get a good paying job. Nevertheless, since their work experience is not U.S. related, it could take months just for them to land an interview.

Amy Ngaima is one example. She spends hours on the computer filling out job applications because she wants to be a nurse.

"I just love to work with the people," she says.

She moved to the Alamo City from West Africa with her family in order to start over.

"My mother was doing everything by herself. We didn't have a dad."

She says her family was struggling to get the basics and to stay alive.

"Food, and we didn't go to school. There was fighting some people killing each other," says Ngaima.

However, Ngaima isn't alone. More than 3,000 refugees legally live in San Antonio. Many coming from war torn countries, some as young as just eight years old.

Now, you can see them walking in and out of the not-for-profit Center for Refugee Services for food assistance, counseling, English classes, and resume help.

"We have a staff of 45 people and we are all volunteers. Every dollar that comes to us helps us keep our doors open," says Margaret Costantino, Executive Director for the center.

Islam Nabi is another refugee who moved here, he came here from Afghanistan.

"We are safe here. We got more jobs and work," says Nabi.

He says it was not easy picking up the pieces.

"Actually I was born in war and raised in war."

Nabi was working as a combat interpreter there. Now he is a cashier waiting for opportunity.

"It doesn't matter what kind of job, anything," he says.

Councilman for District 8, Ron Nirenberg has showed continued support for refugee resettlement in San Antonio.

"These folks are some of the most enthusiastic members of our community."

Costantino adds the refugees come with various types of degrees, ready to get to work.

"Many of the people that come from the Middle East for example are engineers, medical doctors, and college professors. But they don't have licensing in our country."

It can be frustrating for refugees like Syaeed Alzuhairi, since he has two science degrees from Iraq.

"(I was) a chemical engineer in my country and now I am just a truck driver," says Alzuhairi.

However, the local refugee center is not losing hope for them.

"I would like companies to take a chance on some of these people," adds Costantino.

At the end of the day, it is a waiting game.

"Over time though, they can go back to school or they can work toward certification and licensing in their field," says Costantino.

Regardless of the struggles, refugees like Ngaima, are simply grateful to start over in a safe environment.

"I have to put everything aside to help my family to work, so we can have a better life."

Texas has objected to the proposal of getting more refugees in fiscal year 2017 and that the state would only accept the same amount that were placed in 2016.

To learn more about this proposal, you can read about it through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission's website. To go the main page, click here.

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