Franklin County Offers Job Help To Immigrants

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A large number of immigrants and refugees in Central Ohio struggle to find work. Franklin County Commissioners approved additional job-help programs to accommodate the growing refugee population. A federal grant will help fund the $2.5 million programs. WOSU’s Marilyn Smith speaks with Lance Porter of the Franklin County Job and Family Services. Porter says job programs for immigrants and refugees is not new and this is the first time the program has received additional federal funding in five years.

PORTER: It would be for people that are applying for benefits. Anyone that is applying for benefits through county job and family services must take part in an employment or educational training program. Whether it be a refugee, or immigrant, or just a lifelong resident of Franklin County.

SMITH: So even though they may not be citizens of the country they still qualify for these benefits?

PORTER: Under Federal laws, yes.

SMITH: What would you say to people who might criticize a program such as this? Who say, ‘Hey there aren’t even programs like this for Americans who are out of work, and yet we seem to have money for people coming here from other countries.’

PORTER: I’d say that there are programs like that available for Americans that are out of work. As I just said a little bit ago, everyone that receives cash benefits from the county government is required to take part in employment and educational service programs. Now the program itself may not have anything as far as English as a Second Language, or some of the basic concepts that this would have, but they still would take part in programs that have been tailored to meet the needs specifically for the Franklin County community.

SMITH: There was a great hue and cry over Arizona’s recently passed immigration law, and there seems to be a backlash on both sides people who embrace that policy and people who reject it and think that it’s inhumane. Are you expecting any kind of response from the community-at-large on this particular program?

PORTER: This is nothing new. The program has been in existence for four or five years now. To some degree even before that, but it just recently received additional funding and it’s helping more of them because there’s more of a refugee and immigrant population that’s migrated to Franklin County. I think the bill in Arizona is targeting illegal immigrants and I believe this is going to be more for people who are here legally because they do have to show some verification here.