First job fair for Afghan refugees in San Antonio has overwhelming response

Luxury hotel says they went to ‘untapped labor source’ for new hires

SAN ANTONIO – The sanctuary of Resurgent Church in the 8100 block of Fredericksburg Road was standing room only Tuesday, packed with at least 200 Afghan refugee men applying for jobs at the J.W. Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.

“This was the first time we had done a job fair,” said Jean Sherrill, assistant director of the Center for Refugee Services.

Sherrill said the only reason the center hosted the job fair was because the hotel was offering jobs, which mostly did not require English-speakers.

“They would provide the needed training either with pictures or translators,” Sherrill said.

She also said the hotel would help them with transportation and their immigration papers if needed.

“It shows that we’re here to help our fellow brothers and sisters that came from overseas due to the circumstances,” said Ahsan Rafique, the hotel’s restaurant manager.

They say the response was overwhelming.

A spokeswoman for the hotel said its recruiters had planned on being there a couple of hours to interview a couple of dozen applicants for 40-45 positions.

Instead, she said the hotel received 100 applications over four hours, which are currently under review.

The spokeswoman said the applicants should be notified by the end of the week whether they are still under consideration.

She said many of the positions have immediate openings.

If they were unable to attend the job fair, the spokeswoman said they can apply online at careers.marriott.com using keywords “JW Marriott San Antonio.”

Isabelle Berry, the hotel’s employment manager, said they decided to kick off their hiring season ahead of spring break by looking at an untapped source of labor.

“It’s kind of a win-win situation,” Berry said. “We’re able to help them in finding positions. And on the other hand, we can fill some of our positions.”

Berry said the hotel offers competitive salaries with full benefits.

Sherrill said most of the applicants have work authorizations as humanitarian parolees awaiting full refugee status.

Many of them were among the Afghan allies who helped the U.S. military but were unable to flee the country with their families, she said.

Sherrill said being gainfully employed and maintaining a good status while they’re here will help them bring their loved ones to the U.S.

Berry said the hotel’s recruiters Tuesday often heard the applicants say, “I’m here to work. I’m not afraid to work. Whatever it is that you have for me, I’ll take it.”

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.