Why do many highly educated immigrants face underemployment?
By Ibrahim Hirsi, MinnPost
Earlier this month, Zewdu Negash sat in the lobby of a Minneapolis homeless shelter with a pile of credentials detailing a two-decade experience as a legal professional in Ethiopia.
The résumés showed that Negash has indeed been a well-established legal expert: a prosecutor for the Ethiopian government, an attorney with several private institutions, a judge in Addis Ababa and a 1994 graduate of the Kiev State University in Ukraine, where he earned an international public law degree.
When Negash moved to Minnesota in February, however, he could only secure a food-packing job at LSG Sky Chefs, earning $9 an hour to sustain his family, which has been living in the Sharing and Caring Hands homeless shelter in north Minneapolis.
“I have to work for my family,” he said softly, as his 6-month-old twin sons and 3-year-old daughter tightly clung to him. “I am supposed to leave this shelter in a few months and find my own place.”
For more than seven months now, Negash, 45, has been calling and sending emails to local governmental and nonprofit legal organizations seeking employment — to no avail.
Negash is hardly alone in his struggle to find employment in his chosen profession. More than 1.3 million U.S. immigrants who attained higher degrees from universities in their native countries are unemployed or underemployed, often working as cab drivers, cleaners or security guards, according to a report by the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C.
Ibrahim Hirsi reports on immigrant communities, social issues, marginalized groups and people who work on making a difference in the lives of others. A graduate from the University of Minnesota, he interned for Newsday and has written for multiple publications in Minnesota.
Follow Ibrahim Hirsi on Twitter: @IHirsi.
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