POSTED: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 - 10:06pm
UPDATED: Thursday, February 3, 2011 - 2:13pm
EAST TEXAS-- Beh Reh lived in a Burmese refugee camp in Thailand for nine years. For those nine years, he could not leave the camp that was only a few square miles, and he says some of his friends have never even seen outside the camp. "There are Burma soldiers on one side and Thai soldiers on the other, so [we were] just stuck in the refugee camp."
When his family was the first in his Karenni ethnic group to be called to the U.S., the move was a shock. "Everything's new ...you know? Exciting and new. Everything's messed up. Sometimes I wanted to go crazy," says Beh Reh.
Now, four and a half years later, he's helping the city of Nacogdoches get ready for Burmese refugees like himself since Pilgrim's Pride is hiring more than two hundred of them to debone chickens. Beh Reh says, "They are new here so they might get lost, and they might need help on where to get assistance like finding a hospital clinic or a school."
The refugees are coming a few at a time from Houston where they have been living for at least six months. John Thomasson with Pilgrim's Pride says, "These are people that are already here in the U.S. They're legal refugees with a right to work here." He says studies show refugees do well in the poultry industry, and after Pilgrim's Pride couldn't fill hundreds of positions they had to get creative. "We're proud of our workers. We have great benefits, and we have industry standard wages. The workers that are going to be coming to work for us are just like...me," he says.
The refugee workers will be bringing their families-- including the kids. Nacogdoches school officials tell us when the kids get there, they will put them in an old gymnasium for a while and teach them basic English. Once they learn English, they will go into regular classrooms. They say they will have to sort them by ability instead of age.
Beh Reh--who has been speaking with the refugees in Houston-- says the refugees are ready to work hard, but it may not be an easy transition--especially since most of them do not know English.