Refugee Voices

NEED HELP? RESOURCE GUIDE FOR REFUGEES

Find resources for refugees throughout San Diego County by clicking this link. Many services are available including help with resettlement, immigration, education, jobs, literacy, healthcare, and much more. 

You can also find an interactive map here.


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ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE CLASSES RESUME FOR IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES IN EL CAJON; MORE TEACHERS NEEDED

By Susan Taylor

January 15, 2023 (El Cajon) - “Now I Know my ABCs.”  So sang the five Afghani women in a recent English as a Second Language class in El Cajon at the Regional Center on East Main Street. On this, day the men from Afghanistan were absent, as often happens, since some have one or more jobs. Only two of the students in the class were from Mexico, a reflection of changing demographics.


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SEEKING ASYLUM AT THE BORDER? NOW THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  asylum seekers – cc by SA-NC via Bing

January 12, 2023 (San Diego) – U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has announced a new phone app called CBP One that migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border can use to schedule an appointment. Asylum-seekers currently in central or northern Mexico must enter a photo and biographical details to request an appointment at one of eight ports of entry in California, Arizona and Texas.


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HUNDREDS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS DUMPED AT LOCAL TRANSIT STOPS OVER HOLIDAYS

Supervisor Anderson to introduce measure to help those stranded, seek funds from FEMA – and asks public to sign petition in support

By Miriam Raftery

 

View video of interview with Sup. Joel Anderson

Hear audio of our interview aired on KNSJ Radio

 

December 31, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) – With extreme cold gripping much of the nation and shelters for asylum-seekers full, the federal government sent hundreds to San Diego County. Border Patrol agents dumped at least 880 asylum seekers off at transit stations, including 140 abandoned at the El Cajon Transit Center last weekend starting on Christmas Eve.

Audio: 


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SAN DIEGO'S MIGRANT SHELTER PROGRAM MARKS 100,000TH ASYLUM SEEKER

By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  two young men seeking asylum rest on cots while waiting to begin their journey to their sponsors. Photo by Chris Stone

December 21, 2022 (San Diego) - San Diego’s nationally influential migrant shelter crossed a milestone in November when its staff aided the 100,000th person seeking asylum locally.


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FEDERAL COURT STRIKES DOWN TITLE 42, RULING RESTORES ACCESS FOR MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS IN TIME FOR HOLIDAYS

Update November 16, 2022: The judge has granted an extension until Dec. 21 for this ruling to take effect, though if an appeal is filed, that deadline could be put on hold.

By Miriam Raftery

File photo: migrants in Mexico: CC by SA via Bing

November 15, 2022 (Washington D.C.) -- A federal court today struck down Title 42, which was used by the federal government to expel asylum seekers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ruling applies to families and single adults.


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10TH ANNUAL CHALDEAN FESTIVAL SEPT. 17-18 IN EL CAJON

East County News Service

September 5, 2022 (El Cajon) – The 10th annual Chaldean American Festival will feature carnival rides, games, live music by multiple entertainers, authentic Chaldean food, local vendors, a petting zoo, raffle and more.


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FAMILY WITH 7 CHILDREN TAKES IN ALL 9 SYRIAN REFUGEE CHILDREN WHO LOST MOTHER IN EL CAJON SHOOTING

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 4, 2022 (El Cajon) –  The El Cajon nonprofit License to Freedom has been counseling nine children in a Syrian refugee family traumatized first by war in their homeland, and now by the death of their mother, who was found shot in the family’s home. In an interview with East County Magazine originally aired on KNSJ radio,

Dilkhwaz Ahmed, founder of License to Freedom, provides an update on the children’s situation, also sharing information on the stresses facing refugee families. The  children’s father, Abdulhannan Abdurazaq Al Rawi, has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge.

“It’s so hard,” Ahmed says, when asked how the children, ages 2-17, are doing. “In a situation like that, the community gets together.” She says other Syrian refugees in the community worked to help the children, as did people in the Sudanese community, since the babysitter is from Sudan. “One of their close friends, a family from Syria, decided to take the kids, and they have seven kids,” Ahmed said.  “The wife was best friends with the mom…it’s heartbreaking.”

Audio: 


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SUPERVISORS HEAR UPDATE ON NEW DEPARTMENT’S PROGRESS HELPING HOMELESS PEOPLE, IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

East County News Service; San Diego County Communications Office contributed to this report

August 30, 2022 (San Diego) -- A new County department reported Tuesday that in its first year, it secured $30 million to address homelessness, provided housing options for over 4,400 people, held or participated in hundreds of community events to create equitable communities and worked to support immigrants and refugees.


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"REMAIN IN MEXICO” PROGRAM CAN END, SUPREME COURT RULES, BUT MIGRANTS MAY STILL BE BARRED ENTRY, FOR NOW

By Miriam Raftery

Photo:  migrant camp in Mexico; CC via Bing

July 2, 2022 (Washington D.C.) – The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week to allow the Biden administration to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy imposed by Trump, a program officially known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. That policy forced most migrants to stay in Mexico instead of being either detained in the U.S. or released here while awaiting immigration hearings. But hurdles remain before most migrants can be granted entry into the U.S.


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ON WORLD REFUGEE DAY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE CALLS ON COMMUNITIES AND NATIONS TO HELP REFUGEES

Want to help?  View resource guide to assist refugees in San Diego County

By Miriam Raftery

June 26, 2022 (San Diego) – In honor of World Refugee Day on June 20, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken released a video announcing expanded help to resettle refugees in the U.S. He also called on nations around the world as well as people and organizations across the U.S. to come together to assist those fleeing violence and oppression.


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SAVE UKRAINIAN CHILDREN WORLDWIDE ACTION DAY: RALLY TONIGHT IN BALBOA PARK

East County News Service

June 4, 2022 (San Diego) – The House of Ukraine invites the public to join in a #SaveUkrainianChildren peaceful rally tonight at 5 p.m. followed by a candlelight vigil at 7 p.m. as part of a worldwide effort to help Ukrainian children amid the Russian invasion.


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UKRAINIAN REFUGEE REUNITES WITH DOG AT SAN DIEGO HUMANE SOCIETY AFTER QUARANTINE

Photo credit: San Diego Humane Society
 
May 29, 2022 (San Diego) -- A Ukrainian refugee who separated from her beloved Pomeranian at the U.S.-Mexico border in order for the dog to complete a required 28-day rabies quarantine, has been reunited with her dog at the San Diego Humane Society on Sunday, May 29, 2022.

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UKRAINIANS RECEIVE FREE LEGAL HELP TO APPLY FOR U.S. IMMIGRATION STATUS

Pro bono lawyers from 130 major law firms and companies are volunteering to help Ukrainians in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
 
East County News Service
 
May 12, 2022 (Washington D.C.) -- Lawyers for Good Government (L4GG), Kirkland & Ellis LLP, and a broad coalition of 130 law firms and companies have partnered to launch the TPS Pro Bono Project for Ukraine, a nationwide pro bono remote legal clinic to provide legal services for Ukrainian nationals in the U.S. to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

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GROSSMONT COLLEGE TO HOST REFUGEE JOB FAIR FEATURING NEARLY TWO DOZEN EMPLOYERS

Source:  Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

May 4, 2022 (El Cajon) - Grossmont College will host an inaugural Refugee Job Fair on May 10 with more than two dozen employers from a wide range of industries. The event is designed to benefit a growing number of refugees settling in the region, and is open to all.


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MIGRANT EXPULSIONS UNDER TITLE 42 COVID RESTRICTIONS TO END MAY 23 AS HEALTH CRISIS EASES

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Border fence, cc by ND

Update April 23, 2022: A federal judge has temporarily blocked the lifting of Title 42 restrictions.

April 9, 2022 (San Diego) – At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, the Trump administration began expelling migrants without access to asylum hearings under Title 42.  Now, after lifting of most other pandemic mandates, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control director has announced that suspending migrants’ rights is “no longer necessary” after “considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19, such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics,” the CDC announced in a statement.


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GROSSMONT, CUYAMACA COLLEGES HOLDING EVENTS RECOGNIZING ARAB, MIDDLE EASTERN CULTURES

Source:  Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

April 4, 2022 (El Cajon) - April is widely recognized as National Arab American Heritage Month and both Grossmont and Cuyamaca colleges will celebrate the cultures, contributions, history, and resilience of Arab and Middle Eastern communities. 


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REGION READIES TO WELCOME UKRAINIAN REFUGEES AND SEEK FEDERAL AID

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland; Creative Commons image via Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs

March 29, 2022 (San Diego) – San Diego County Supervisors have issued statements preparing to welcome Ukrainian refugees, following President Joe Biden’s announcement that the U.S. will admit up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine displaced by the Russian invasion. 

Nathan Fletcher, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, issued a statement which reads in part, “Our county has time and again stepped up to help refugees and this time is no different. Together with Los Angeles and Sacramento, we are the largest metropolitan regions in California expected to accept these refugees.”

Fletcher added that the County has also begun helping Ukrainian refugees at the U.S.-Mexico border.


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AFGHAN AMERICAN GROUPS STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH CAMEROONIANS AND OTHER BLACK IMMIGRANTS AFTER TPS DESIGNATION FOR AFGHANISTAN

East County News Service

March 21, 2022 (San Diego) – Following the Biden administration’s designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Afghan refugees last week, the San Diego-based Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) and other immigrant groups are calling for similar protections to be provided for Black immigrants, including refugees from Cameroon.


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EAST COUNTY FILMMAKERS AMONG FINALISTS IN MIGRANT VOICES COMPETITION AT SAN DIEGO LATINO FILM FESTIVAL

By Matthew Manosh

Photos:  finalists Diego Lynch, Mimi Pollack and Bettina Hanna created films set in San Diego’s East County.

March 21, 2022 (San Diego) – Migrant stories from around the world were poignantly displayed at the San Diego Latino Film Festival on March 15, when finalists in the fourth annual Migrant Voices Today Challenge were presented. The finalists included East County producers and directors as well as stories set in East County.


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BIDEN ADMINISTRATION SEEKS COST-SAVING ALTERNATIVES TO DETAINING SOME MIGRANTS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Creative Commons image by SA-NC via Bing

March 14, 2022 (San Diego) – The Biden administration has announced a 120-day pilot program in Houston and Baltimore to test placing migrants into house arrest as an alternative to detention facilities while they await immigration hearings. The home curfew program would cost only $6 to $8 a day per person, far less than the $142 per day for detention in a facility, Reuters reports.


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UKRAINIAN-AMERICANS HOLD VIGILS IN SANTEE AND SAN DIEGO

By Matthew Manosh

Scroll down to links to videos from vigils

March 1, 2022 (San Diego’s East County) -- Local Ukrainian-Americans gathered in demonstrations these past few days in solidarity with their nation, which is under attack from Russian forces. Thursday night,  a prayer vigil was held in Santee on a vacant lot, where there are plans to build a Ukrainian Catholic Church. Father Yurii Sas of St. John the Baptizer Catholic Church in San Diego led his congregation in prayer and song, asking for God to protect his people in the Ukraine:


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AMERICANS HELPING AFGHAN REFUGEES

By Mimi Pollack, San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

February 26, 2022 (La Mesa) - Afghan and American cultures are different in many ways, for example, in lifestyle and style of communication. It is always a learning experience when two cultures meet, but learning is good as it can broaden your life.


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FIRE DESTROYS REFUGEE’S RESTAURANT, 3 OTHER BUSINESSES IN EL CAJON

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Kabul Star Restaurant, one of four businesses destroyed by the blaze

January 11, 2022 (El Cajon) – A fire destroyed four businesses in the Broadway Plaza Shopping Center in El Cajon  on January 5.  Two beauty shops, a smoke shop and an Afghan restaurant were destroyed.

A GoFundMe site has been set up to assist Karim Wafa, owner of the Kabul  Star restaurant, and his family including four young children after the fire turned their dreams into ashes.


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STATE DEPARTMENT TO PILOT NEW PROGRAM FOR REFUGEES TO ATTEND COLLEGE

By Suzanne Potter, California News Service

Photo: Ding Manyang, South Sudanese refugee studying at George Washington University, via Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration

January 5, 2022 (Sacramento) -- By next fall, refugee students may be able to apply to attend American colleges and universities. The State Department said it plans to pilot a new category for refugee admissions, known as P4.


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CHALDEAN COMMUNITY SPEAKS OUT AGAINST PROPOSED COUNTY REDISTRICTING IN EL CAJON

Story and photos by Elijah McKee

 

December 8, 2021 (El Cajon) — “Our community is under threat again. This time, it's right here in the United States,” said Vince Kattoula, a Chaldean activist, at the Keep East County United rally and press conference on Tuesday.


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LEGAL ADVOCATES FILE COMPLAINT, CALL FOR INVESTIGATON INTO BORDER PATROL’S INACTION ON HUMANITARIAN PAROLE REQUESTS

East County News Service

November 12, 2021 (San Diego) – A coalition of legal groups representing asylum seekers say that dozens of requests for urgent humanitarian parole have been ignored for weeks while others have been denied without adequate explanation.  The applicants include individuals and families with life-threatening medical conditions.


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VOLUNTEERS AND AGENCIES WELCOME AFGHAN REFUGEES IN EL CAJON, BUT MORE HELP IS URGENTLY NEEDED

By Elijah McKee

Photo, left: Jill Galante and Peggy Han, volunteers with El Cajon Helping Refugees

November 10, 2021 (El Cajon) — “We regularly, four or five times a day, get messages saying ‘Please, my family is so hungry. Please can you visit,’” said Jill Galante as she scanned the newly assembled single bedroom, now ready for four people.

After just one hour of flurried food stocking, donated furniture assembling and bathroom scrubbing, Galante and a group of volunteers from Helping El Cajon Refugees effectively transformed the bare El Cajon apartment into a welcoming place for Sara, her husband who worked with the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, and their daughters: four-month-old Sana and three-year-old Asra. “We try to make it look like a home,” said Galante.


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LOCAL ARAB GROUP CALLS ON SUPERVISOR ANDERSON TO APOLOGIZE FOR REMARKS LINKING CAIR TO TERRORISM

By Miriam Raftery

October 22, 2021 (San Diego) – The American Arab Anti-Discrimination (ADC) Committee’s San Diego Chapter has issued a press release denouncing Supervisor Joel Anderson for his statement linking the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to terrorism.

During an Oct. 7 hearing on his proposal to fund Afghan refugee resettlement costs from frozen Taliban assets and to develop a comprehensive county response plan to assist the refugees, Anderson sought to block CAIR from receiving any county funds.  “Any organization that has any affiliation with terrorism in the Middle East could have to be excluded and CAIR would be part of that group,” he said. View video


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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ENDS CASE QUOTAS FOR IMMIGRATION JUDGES IMPOSED BY TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: immigration court, Creative Commons image by NC-ND

October 21, 2021 (San Diego) – The U.S. Justice Department, under the Biden administration, has ended case quotas for immigration judges imposed during the Trump administration, CNN reports. 

The Trump-era performance metrics had required judges to complete 700 cases a year to receive a satisfactory rating, among other benchmarks. But that policy led to complaints from judges who argued that the quotas valued haste over due process.  


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