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Refugee in Colorado faces difficulty finding jobs to match qualifications

Mirwais Baheej, M.D., worked as a governmental official in Afghanistan.

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — Afghan refugees who have resettled in Colorado are working to make their presence known in the job market. As they search for a stable income, refugees are often finding they cannot find positions that match their qualifications. 

Dr. Mirwais Baheej and his family are learning those difficulties firsthand. The family of five has resettled in Broomfield. Their three children are attending school, and Baheej is still searching for a steady position. 

Before moving to Colorado, Baheej worked on the executive level of the Afghan government. He obtained his medical degree from a university in Kabul and later obtained a masters from an Australian university. He was director of the agency equivalent to the IRS in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban takeover.  

"I enjoyed the jobs I had. Working in government was my passion," Baheej said. 

As an executive official in the government, Baheej and his family became a target. He and his wife Meetra made the decision to flee.

"It is hard to decide and leave your country -- the place where you are born, grew up. Your family, friends and everything is familiar to you," Baheej said.

Since his arrival in the U.S., he has gained parole status and is authorized to work for two years in the United States. However, gaining employment to match his qualifications has been difficult. 

"One thing that the employers hesitate is that they will see your resume and they will look at and the only thing they will think, and I have felt this, is that this candidate does not have U.S. experience of job," Baheej said. 

In one instance during his job search, he was asked if he was a citizen or was considered a permanent resident with a green card. He explained that he was neither and instead was a parolee with permission from the government to work. The company replied staff members would discuss his status with their legal department. Shortly thereafter, Baheej was turned away as a candidate. 

He continues to work with a job center in Broomfield and with the Emily Griffith Technical College to gain meaningful employment. In his job search, it's become clear that some employers give preference to people with U.S.-based qualifications. 

"Some preferences need to be given because those who come from a different system, from a different community, and those that dare to apply for a job, they need to be encouraged," Baheej said.

Baheej said he knows refugees can bring a lot to the job market for employers that give them a chance. 

"There are a lot of opportunities for refugees because they are bringing a lot of qualities. They can add value to the work because they are different," Baheej said. "This is the beauty of diversity if employers know this."

Another obstacle apart from the job search is securing transportation. Baheej is currently fundraising for a vehicle with help from Heidi Henkel with the Broomfield Resettlement Task Force. His GoFundMe is available here

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