Neighborhood Company Rallies Businesses to Back Refugees

A Portland effort to rally businesses in support of refugees started in the Eliot neighborhood. We Hire Refugees was launched by Indow on N. Interstate Avenue in partnership with the nonprofit Immigrant Refugee Community Organization. The initiative is designed to rally businesses of all sizes to declare that refugees make our communities and businesses stronger. More than 45 businesses have signed including New Seasons, Ziba Design, Zapproved, Neil Kelly and IdeaLegal.

If a business isn’t in a position to hire refugees, it can still sign the declaration and use the We Support Refugees or We Welcome Refugees badges.

Sam Pardue, CEO at Indow, began working on the initiative last spring with IRCO when he became worried about the negative political rhetoric around refugees. Indow employs four refugees, three from Burma and one from Iraq. They are some of the most hardworking people at the company, Pardue said.

“What I was hearing didn’t describe the people I have the honor of working with every day. I hated seeing them feel scared.”

President Trump issued an executive order Jan. 27 that barred people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days, banned refugees for 120 days and called for indefinitely stopping Syrian refugees from entering. Immediately after that, Pardue put his company in overdrive to roll out the initiative and rally the business community to support refugees and educate the public.

When refugees are granted entry, they have gone through extensive background checks and are here legally and are fully authorized to work. But that doesn’t make it easy for refugees to find jobs, the cornerstone of a stable life in the U.S.

The We Hire Refugees initiative reads in part:

“We, the undersigned, believe hiring refugees makes our communities stronger and our companies more competitive. We know refugees are often highly skilled and have strong work ethics, in keeping with a nation built by hardworking immigrants. We know refugees often become valuable and loyal team members. They become one of us.”

Indow makes custom interior thermal window inserts to create a more energy efficient built environment to fight climate change. Climate change induced drought contributed to the Syrian conflict and its refugee crisis. “Over time, rising seas and increased drought will displace more people and so it’s incumbent on the world to be open to helping and welcoming refugees,” said Pardue.

By Carrie Sturrock