Refugees Becoming Citizens
Hala Alhallaq of Iraq takes the Oath of Citizenship as she and 145 others become United States citizens during a naturalization ceremony at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Mass., July 4, 2016 Reuters

President Donald Trump’s administration was revising its temporary ban on refugees, White House adviser Stephen Miller said Wednesday. It will in large part be similar to the original ban, which was overturned by the judicial system in early February, Miller claimed. Trump has said that the ban was necessary for the security of the U.S.

More than half of Americans said they did not support Trump’s executive order temporarily banning refugees from entering the country. But Americans still had concerns about refugees and immigrants overall. Although some of those worries were about national security, others worried that foreign-born people will take American jobs.

Where exactly do refugees work once they come to the U.S.? It’s a simple question, but the answer has become more complex than one might expect. For one, there was no easy-to-find, publicly available dataset that tracked where refugees work. Some non-profit organizations attempted to collect that information, but even then, the available data depended on multiple factors: which non-profit is collecting the information, the state where refugees work and the industries in which they work, to name a few.

Economist Paul Hagstrom said in the New York Times that several refugees work in “starter jobs, working as greenhouses, kitchens or laundromats — jobs in which immigrants have worked for generations.

“It’s a well-worn path,” said Hagstrom, who’s a professor of economics at Hamilton College in upstate New York.

Despite a dearth of publicly available data, there were some pieces of information about refugee labor in the Office of Refugee Resettlement annual report to Congress.

Almost 62 percent of refugees participated in the labor force in 2015, according to the most recent report, which was published last month. The unemployment rate of refugees was 11.7 percent in 2015 — far more than the overall U.S. unemployment rate, which was 5 percent in December 2015.

In addition, there were nearly 2 million highly skilled, well-educated immigrants in the U.S. that were either underemployed (meaning, working in low-skill jobs) or unemployed, according to a December 2016 report from the Migration Policy Institute.

Finally, immigrant laborers have generally tended to go for different low-skill jobs than low-skill U.S. workers. Whereas the top three jobs for immigrants without high school diplomas were maids, housekeepers, cooks and agriculture workers, according to the Urban Institute, native-born workers without a high school diploma most commonly worked as cashiers, truck drivers and janitors.