HOUSTON - With hundreds of thousands of people pouring into the city, that means more jobs being created. Dozens of those jobs are being filled by refugees from Iraq, Iran, Cuba and many more.
Two contractors have partnered with Houston’s five refugee resettlement agencies to hire workers to fill jobs related to catering, cleaning, security and set-up and teardown of events and parties. One of those agencies is Refugee Services of Texas.
"Honestly, the first question they ask is, 'What is the Super Bowl?''” said Mohamed Mukhtar, Employment Case Manager with Refugee Services of Texas. “We try to compare it to the World Cup."
It's a culture shock Mukhtar understands well. He arrived to the United States in 1999 as a refugee from Somalia. Now’s he’s helping new refugees fill jobs popping up around the Big Game.
"It's gonna open their eyes up and see this excitement happen in this city,” Mukhtar said. “If I was a refugee, I would want to be resettled in this city right now more than anyone else.”
"We have sent people to interviews, and almost have of the people we've sent got jobs for the Super Bowl,” said Basel Mousslly, the agency’s Resettlement Program Supervisor, a former humanitarian worker from Aleppo, Syria, who fled the civil war three years earlier.
Mousslly says even if the work is temporary, the benefits will continue long after the Super Bowl leaves town.
"It gives them reference in the future,” Mousslly said. “It gives them something to write on their resume that they start working here in the U.S."
Some of the excitement surrounding the Super Bowl has been interrupted by anger and anxiety over President Trump’s executive order that suspended all refugee admissions into the U.S. for 120 days and indefinitely barred Syrian refugees.
While the measure hits close to home for many of the agency’s clients, the former refugees say they’ve been amazed by the support they’ve seen in Houston and hope Super Bowl week will be a chance not just to find work but also find common ground.
"We're the land of the brave, not the land of the fearful,” Mukhtar said. "Hopefully (visitors will) get to know people one on one, rather than just judging them from the screens that they see them on."
Mukhtar says the agency is still helping employ refugees to help with the Super Bowl after-parties and cleanup once the game leaves town.
(© 2017 KHOU)