Refugee Voices

CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS HOLDS FOREIGN SUBCOMMITTEE FIELD HEARING AFTER AFRICAN MIGRANT DIES IN OTAY DETENTION CENTER

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Dec. 1,  2019 (San Ysidro) “How is it that some of the poorest nations around the world can take in people in crisis?” questioned Rep. Karen Bass (D-37th) at a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Field Hearing held at the San Ysidro Public Library on Nov. 22. 

 

“What can we learn from these countries? How do international organizations like the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration and others monitor and advise on the surge in migrants, refugees and asylum seekers? What are the international protocols, norms, standards, and practices that should be followed?” she continued. “Basically, I want to know, what can we learn from other countries around the world. But mostly, I want to understand where the United States is with regard to these practices, norms and standards.”

IMMIGRANTS’ ADVOCATES CALM FEARS AFTER PUBLIC CHARGE RULES PUT ON HOLD

Suzanne Potter, California News Service
 
Photo: Immigrant children, creative commons image via S.A.
 
November 8, 2019 (Sacramento) - Immigrants' rights groups are working to calm fears in the migrant community - after a judge blocked President Donald Trump's changes to the public charge rules last month. 

450 RALLY AT DOWNTOWN EL CAJON PARK IN SOLIDARITY WITH PROTESTERS IN IRAQ

Dozens dead, estimates of injured range from 600 to nearly 1,200

Photo: Maryam Deuge and Mina Abdelahad want Iraq to have water, food, electricity, internet and jobs, and an end to widespread corruption

By Jonathan Goetz

October 4, 2019 (El Cajon) - “Over the last 24 hours all these people in Iraq are dying,” Mina Abdelahad told East County Magazine at an impromptu rally yesterday in downtown El Cajon following reports of brutal crackdowns on protesters in Baghdad.

Around 450 protesters gathered in El Cajon, home to tens of thousands of Iraqi immigrants and refugees. The local protesters stand in solidarity with demonstrators in Iraq and decried the violent crackdowns on protesters in Iraq that have injured between 600 and 1,200 people, killing 20 to 30 or more.

Abdelahad shows us graphic pictures on her phone: people carrying dead bodies, a child with a gunshot wound, and protesters weeping over a dead one-year-old girl. As of Thursday, Al-Jazeera put the death toll at 20, the Associated Press 33, CNN 22, Fox 31 and Reuters 27. 

BILL TO STOP LABOR TRAFFICKING OF IMMIGRANTS PASSES LEGISLATURE WITH BIPARTISAN SUPPORT, BUT TWO EAST COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES VOTE NO

East County News Service

September 15, 2019 (San Diego) – The California State Legislature today passed on a 61-9 vote Assembly Bill 589 authored by state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to make it illegal for an employer to confiscate a worker’s immigration documents as a way to force them into labor.

CHALDEAN-AMERICAN FESTIVAL SEPT. 28-29 OFFERS CULTURAL CELEBRATION FOR THE COMMUNITY

By Miriam Raftery
 
September 15, 2019 (El Cajon) -- The Chaldean community invites you, your family and friends to the 8th annual Chaldean-American festival September 28-29 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Hillsdale Middle School, located at 1309 Brabham St, El Cajon.

PASSAGES: WADIE P. DEDDEH, SENATOR AND STATESMAN 1920-2019

By Miriam Raftery 

Photo: SDSU Library

August 30, 2019 (San Diego) – Wadie P. Deddeh, former state Senator from San Diego the first Iraqi-American elected to public office in the United States, passed away on August 27, just days before his 99th birthday.  Hailed as a statesman and an American success story by leaders on both sides of the political aisle, Deddeh;s legacy includes authoring the 1972 bill that established the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) and inspiring generations of immigrants to attain the American dream.

AFRICA WORLD DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL SEPT. 10-12 AT SDSU AND SDSU’S DOWNTOWN GALLERY

East County News Service
 
August 28, 2019 (San Diego) - The Africa World Documentary Film Festival (AWDFF) closes its 2019 season in its new home, San Diego. This year the traveling festival was screened in Nigeria, Ghana, Thailand, Pennsylvania, New York, South Africa and Trinidad.  It will be at San Diego State University’s Don Powell Theatre on September 10 & 11. Then on September 12, the festival will conclude at the SDSU School of Art Downtown Gallery.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SEEKS TO DEFY COURT SETTLEMENT, KEEP IMMIGRANT CHILDREN IN INDEFINITE DETENTION

Announcement called “cruel and frankly evil”; legal challenges expected

 

By Miriam Raftery

 

Photo: Overcrowding of families observed by Homeland Security Office of Inspector General on June 11, 2019 at Border Patrol’s Weslaco, TX, Station. Faces digitally obscured by OIG. 

 

August 21, 2019 (Washington D.C.) – In apparent defiance of a 2015 federal court settlement which limits detention of migrant children and their families to 20 days, the Trump administration has announced plans to adopt new regulations allowing longer detentions—potentially, indefinitely.

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: WARSAN ARTAN, YOUTH WILL ORGANIZER

By Miriam Raftery

Hear our interview at the audio link and scroll down for highlights.

July 28, 2019 (Lemon Grove) – East Count Magazine sat down last week for an interview with Warsan Artan.  Born in Nairobi, Kenya, after her parents fled civil war in Somalia, she came to Lemon Grove as a refugee at the age of 10. A decade later, she is the lead Youth Organizer at Youth Will, a nonprofit dedicated to making San Diego a world-class region for children and youth. Youth Will recently rolled out a Summer of Youth Power campaign with a series of events to help young people’s voices be heard.

Her goal to create a brand-new regional master plan for San Diego's children and youth. The organization also recently held the region’s first youth county budget forum with Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, created a youth bill of rights, hosted youth presidential debate watch parties, and more.

Audio: 

Interview with Warsan Artan, Youth Will organizer

CALIFORNIA HAS MORE IMMIGRANT-OWNED BUSINESSES THAN ANY OTHER STATE

East County News Service

 

July 17, 2019 (San Diego) -- Every year, thousands move to the U.S. in hopes of achieving the American Dream. To explore the state of entrepreneurship among immigrants living in the U.S., FundRocket analyzed data from the American Community Survey.  

REJECTING WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS AS 'CONTRIVED,' SUPREME COURT BLOCKS CENSUS CITIZENSHIP QUESTION...FOR NOW

"The Trump administration's attempt to politicize and manipulate this fundamental pillar of our democracy has failed."

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer

Reprinted with credit to CommonDreams.org under a Creative Commons License

June 27, 2019 (Washington, D.C.) - Civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates celebrated Thursday as the U.S. Supreme Court blocked—at least temporarily—the Trump administration from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, an effort critics had decried as a blatant attempt by Republicans to "weaponize" the national survey for political advantage.

NO NEW FLU CASES AMONG ASYLUM-SEEKING MIGRANTS IN SAN DIEGO

By Miriam Raftery
 
June 16, 2019 (San Diego) – The flu outbreak in San Diego among migrants seeking asylum appears to be waning.  No new flu cases were diagnosed among the 35 new migrants screened at the county shelter on Sunday, June 16th, says Michelle Mowad, communications specialist with the county.

HELPING WOMEN IN HONDURAS: SPEAKER TO ADDRESS LA MESA ROTARY JUNE 12 ON MICRO-LOAN SUCCESS STORIES

East County News Service

June 10, 2019 (La Mesa) – “We’ve recently read and heard about the number of Hondurans coming to the United States,” says Scott Elam with the La Mesa Rotary Club. “Join us for another perspective to learn about Honduran women who are making great strides to improve the lives of their families and villages through the benefits of micro-financing.”

FLU CASES AT MIGRANT CENTER INCREASE

 
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
May 26, 2019 (San Diego) – A total of 32 cases of influenza (flu) have been diagnosed among migrants at a San Diego shelter since May 19, when the federal government began air-lifting asylum seekers here from Texas. This includes 14 new cases since May 23, when the County initially announced the outbreak.

COUNTY RESPONDS TO FLU OUTBREAK AT MIGRANT CENTER

 

 

San Diego County Public Health officials are responding to an influenza outbreak among asylum seekers recently flown to San Diego from Texas by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION FLIES MIGRANTS TO SAN DIEGO, AS THOUSANDS MORE WAIT IN MEXICO AND TEXAS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo by Chris Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Network

May 21, 2019 (San Diego)--With detention facilities in Texas overflowing with some 8,000 migrants seeking asylum in the U.S., the Trump administration has begun shipping migrants to San Diego.  Three flights a week, each carrying 120 to 135 migrants, will be arriving in San Diego, where they will be processed by U.S. Customs and Immigration officials. The first plane load has arrived, with flights slated to continue indefinitely.  

GROUPS PAN PRESIDENT TRUMP'S NEW IMMIGRATION PROPOSAL AS ELITIST

 

 

By Suzanne Potter, California Public News Service

May 17, 2019 (Sacramento) -- Immigrants' rights groups are speaking out against President Donald Trump's new immigration proposal - unveiled yesterday - saying it betrays American values and ignores the thorniest issues that have thus far held up a comprehensive immigration deal in Congress. 

VOLUNTEER TO TUTOR ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE

 

 

East County News Service

 

March 24, 2019 (San Diego) -- If you can speak English, you can make a difference in someone’s life. Laubach Literacy Council of San Diego County provides tutors for adult learners of English as a Second Language with tutoring locations countywide.

AS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS IT CAN’T REUNITE ALL SEPARATED FAMILIES, JUDGE WEIGHS ACTION; HOUSE DEMOCRATS PREPARE TO SUBPOENA RECORDS

By Miriam Raftery

Illustration by Duke Windsor*

February 24, 2019 (San Diego) – Following revelations that the Trump administration failed to inform a federal judge that it had begun separating migrant children from their parents back in 2017, a federal judge in San Diego sent strong signals Thursday that he is prepared to expand his June 2018 reunification order to mandate reunions of more families who came to the U.S. seeking freedom from persecution.

Judge Dana Sabraw’s original order required unification only of children who were in government custody at the time, taken from migrant parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. But on Thursday, Judge Sabraw made clear, “No one but a few in the government knew that these separations had been going on nine or 10 months before, and that hundreds if not thousands were” being separated. He added, “The court didn’t know that and plaintiff didn’t know that, and I don’t think government counsel knew that.”

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: HUMANITARIANS AL SANATI AND RAMIRO SANDOVAL SPEAK OUT ON EFFORTS TO HELP REFUGEES AND REBUILD IRAQ

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Al Sanati and Ramiro Sandoval

Cllick this audio link to hear our interview, or scroll down to read highlights.

February 23, 2019 (El Cajon) — Al Sanati, director of the War Refugees Group, and Ramiro Sandoval with Hermanos Unidos Sin Fronteras (Brothers United Without Borders) were our guests on our East Count Magazine Radio Show on KNSJ recently.

These humanitarian leaders are fighting for justice and filing suit to win financial reparations from the Iraqi government for1.2 million Iraqi refugees around the world, including over 80,000 in East County. They have also met with top dignitaries in Iraq in an effort to help the nation’s new government rebuild Iraq.

Audio: 

Interview with Al Sanati and Ramiro Sandoval

SDSU LIBRARY ARCHIVE DETAILS DETAINEES' PATH TO SEEKING ASYLUM, CONDITIONS INSIDE DETENTION

 

 

A new archive of hundreds of letters between a group of volunteers and asylum seekers along the U.S.-Mexico border has been developed and is being digitized at the SDSU Library.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes

February 13, 2019 (San Diego) - What began as a casual gathering of friends has become a first-of-its-kind living archive of handwritten letters shared by hundreds of asylum seekers detained along the U.S.-Mexico border. Those letters, in the collective correspondence, provide a detailed description of each person’s path to pursuing asylum, and the conditions inside detention centers. 

SUPERVISORS VOTE TO SUE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OVER DUMPING ASYLUM SEEKERS LOCALLY

 
 
By Miriam Raftery
 
February 13, 2019 (San Diego) — San Diego’s County Supervisors voted 4-1 in closed session on Tuesday to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its treatment of families seeking asylum in the U.S. The federal government has been dumping migrants including parents with children on the streets of San Diego with no resources to help them while they await asylum hearings to which they are entitled under international law.

SUPERVISORS APPROVE MIGRANT SHELTER THROUGH DECEMBER

 

 

East County Supervisors Jacob and Desmond split on vote

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Courthouse building, courtesy of San Diego County

January 30, 2019 (San Diego) -- A temporary shelter for migrants will be set up in downtown San Diego at the old county courthouse slated for demolition – not at Camp Barrett, a former youth detention center in East County that was among several sites considered.

By a four to one vote, Supervisors voted to allow Jewish Family Services to lease the courthouse building for one dollar through December 31st.  The nonprofit group will reimburse the county for costs to open the migrant shelter and maintain the property near Balba Park on Sixth Avenue, and advised Supervisors that it has already secured funds.

FREEWAY SIGNS WELCOME I-15 DRIVERS TO LITTLE SAIGON DISTRICT IN CITY HEIGHTS

 

 

New freeway exit signs to be installed at El Cajon Boulevard on February 1

Source: Little Saigon Foundation

January 27, 2019 (City Heights) --Starting in February, commuters on I-15 will notice new freeway exit signs directing them to exit El Cajon Boulevard to reach the Little Saigon District in City Heights, San Diego. Caltrans confirmed that the signs will be set up at the transit station on El Cajon Boulevard over the I-15 North and South exits on February 1. An unveiling ceremony will be held on that day at 10 a.m. with guests including City Council President Georgette Gomez and Assemblymember Todd Gloria.

SUPERVISORS VOTE TO HELP FIND TEMPORARY SHELTER FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

 

By Chris Jennewein

Reprinted with permission from Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Jewish Family Service CEO Michael Hopkins speaks to the press after the Board of Supervisors vote. Photo by Chris Jennewein

January 8, 2019 (San Diego) - The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to help a coalition of local nonprofit groups assist asylum seekers by providing temporary shelter on county property.

“Now it falls to us to say, as leaders, what can we do? We have the obligation to help,” said newly elected Supervisor Nathan Fletcher at his first board meeting.

TRIUMPH OUT OF TUMULT: IRAQI HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST NITAL MESHKOOR

 

Her journey as a refugee led her to Syria, Kuwait, Jordan and Russia. Now an El Cajon resident, she has worked as a scientist, realtor, poet, and humanitarian.

By Briana Gomez

Photo, left: Nital Meshkoor in Iraq, approximatey 20 years ago

January 5, 2019 (El Cajon) -- Nital Meshkoor settled in El Cajon in 1998 following her escape from the first Iraq war, a journey that cost her many years of hardship, but her actions in the community have set her apart as a human rights activist and role model for refugees to come.

CITY, COUNTY OFFICIALS ARE MAKING MOVES TO SHELTER ASYLUM-SEEKERS

 

City officials plan to explore housing migrants seeking asylum at a shuttered juvenile facility in Alpine and county officials will explore options next week. An especially chaotic holiday season highlighted the need for more resources, shelter space and coordination to serve the thousands of asylum-seeking families federal officials are releasing in San Diego.

By Maya Srikrishnan and Lisa Halverstadt, Voice of San Diego

January 4, 2019 (San Diego) -- After waiting a month and seven days in Tijuana to seek asylum on the other side of the border, Leonardo Garcia and his family ended up outside a San Ysidro McDonald’s after dark.

IRAQ AND SYRIA GENOCIDE RELIEF BILL SIGNED INTO LAW IN DECEMBER

By Miriam Raftery

January 4, 2019 (Washington D.C.) – One of the last acts of the outgoing Congress in 2018 was passage of H.R. 390, the Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act. The measure passed the House and Senate by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President Donald Trump on December 11, 2018.

The new law could impact familes, friends and loved ones of tens of thousands of Iraqi and Syrian immigrants and refugees who now call San Diego's East County home.

The action came shortly before President Trump ordered a pull-out of troops from Syria, against the advice of his generals and top security advisors. It is unclear how the troop withdrawal may impact implementation of the bill’s provisions.

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