Thursday, President Obama issued a “call to action” for corporate America to hire more foreign refugees, but one prominent company was already ahead of the curve.
Chobani, owned by a Turkish Muslim immigrant, has filled 30 percent of its 600 positions at the world’s largest Yogurt plant in Twin Falls, Idaho, with refugees resettled in America through a U.S. State Department program carried out in cooperation with the United Nations.
This comes at a time when Twin Falls is caught in a firestorm of controversy around an alleged sexual assault of a 5-year-old special-needs girl by refugee boys from Sudan and Iraq. The city’s mayor, Shawn Barigar, called for calm in the community and lectured his residents at a Monday city council meeting that they should not spread a “false narrative” about the case that he accused Internet bloggers and others of creating.
WND has learned that Barigar was instrumental in recruiting Chobani to Twin Falls in 2011, and he now plays a dual role of elected official and president/CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce.
Ann Corcoran, author of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog, said the potential conflict of interest ins disturbing and should be questioned by Twin Falls residents.
“Twin Falls is really a microcosm of what we find going on in so many of the refugee communities across the U.S., where you have people moving in and out of government and the Chamber of Commerce with a vested interest in making sure a meatpacking plant or some other industry has continuous access to refugee labor,” said Corcoran. “Only in this case we have a blatant example of conflicts of interest by an elected official who is also the head of the Chamber enticing companies to come in and make use of the steady influx of cheap, overseas labor.
“These are jobs that Americans would be happy to fill but they are forced to compete now with someone from Sudan or Iraq who is used to working for a dollar a week.”
The local Muslim community in Twin Falls grew out of its mosque and built a new, much larger one last year.
Twin Falls resident Vicky Davis commented in a blog post that Mayor Brigar recently went to a “Refugee Welcoming” meeting sponsored by the pro-immigrant Partnership for a New American Economy, but it was unclear which “hat” he was wearing at this meeting.
“Barigar is both the president of the Chamber of Commerce in Twin Falls as well as the mayor,” Davis wrote. “It’s not clear in what capacity he attended the Refugee Welcoming group’s meeting. The city should buy him two hats – one for each of his two faces so we can identify who he is representing at any given moment.”
Meanwhile, the criminal case against the three migrant boys in Twin Falls has been sealed by a judge.
Local resident Eric Odell spoke at the city council’s June 20 meeting and said he had many Muslim refugees working under him when he was a shift leader at the Chobani plant in Twin Falls, and that while most of them were great people, “a few were evil or frightening,” the Times-News reported.