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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JUDGE ORDERS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO FULLY EXTEND CENSUS COUNTING TIME

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

Photo:  a sign encouraging residents to participate in the 2020 census hangs from the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

September 6, 2020 (San Diego) - Los Angeles and a coalition of other local governments and civil rights organizations have secured a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit against the Trump Administration over its decision to cut the timeline for the 2020 U.S. Census.


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ARAB AMERICANS ARE AN INVISIBLE ETHNIC GROUP WHEN IT COMES TO HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES

By Raed Al-Naser, MD

Dr. Al-Naser is President, San Diego Chapter, National Arab American Medical Association. He is also a pulmonary and critical care physician practicing in San Diego’s East County.

July 31, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Race and ethnicity are becoming forefront conversations in our media, academic debates, and daily life discussions here in the United States. Each of us has an identity that defines how we see ourselves and others. Arab Americans are a historically understudied minority group in the U.S. and their health needs and risks have been poorly documented. As a physician and healthcare provider who belongs to this group, I see that Arab American identity is largely absent from national and academic conversations about race and ethnicity especially when it comes to health care disparities. The emergence of COVID-19 as a pandemic and public health crisis has exposed this reality and made it more visible and undeniable. 


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SYRIAN FAMILY STRUGGLES TO COPE WITH COVID-19

By Kendra Sitton

Photo by Henri Migala:  Asim Al-Abdullah worries about his family’s future
 
July 30, 2020 (El Cajon) - Everyone faces different struggles during the pandemic, such as health, financial or isolation. For a Syrian family of seven living in El Cajon, their primary struggle is psychological. 

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SURVIVORS OF TORTURE VULNERABLE DURING PANDEMIC

 

By Kendra Sitton

 

July 21, 2020 (San Diego) - An estimated 35,000 torture survivors reside in San Diego County. Only one torture treatment agency is accredited to serve this vulnerable population in our county: Survivors of Torture, International. East County Magazine spoke with Survivors’ Community Relations Manager, Katrina Pimental, about their clients’ experiences during the pandemic. 

 

Many are facing job loss without access to government help. Mental health issues such as PTSD are triggered by lockdown measures which remind them of house arrest.  Many don’t qualify for CARES Act benefits and are struggling financially. Some have gone without food for days. Their asylum claims are in limbo. 

 

Our interview delved into these issues, as well as how the nonprofit is responding. 


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TRUMP DROPS THREAT TO DEPORT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS STUDYING ONLNE DURING PANDEMIC

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: International flags: Creative Commons via S.A.

July 17, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – After the state of California joined a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and others against the Trump administration, the White House has dropped its plan announced July 6 to deport international students not enrolled in in-person classes this fall. 

Instead, the government has reinstated a policy initiated at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, which allows foreign students to study online and remain in the U.S. on student visas under the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, the New York Times reports.


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LACK OF DATA COLLECTION BLOCKS EFFORTS TO ASSESS COVID-19 IMPACTS ON LOCAL MIDDLE EASTERN COMMUNITIES

Hear our  interview with Dr. Raed Al-Naser for KNSJ radio: click here.

By Briana Gomez

Photo, left: Doris Bittar

“Arab Americans are largely considered Caucasian, other, or unknown.  We are a disappeared minority, rendering us nearly invisible in the media and in medicine.” – Doris Bittar, President, Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee, San Diego chapter

June 25, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Minority communities across the US are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19. For example, nearly 67% of cases in San Diego are among Latinos and Hispanics, who comprise only 30% of the population, according to County Health Department  figures as of June 20.  But a lack of data on Arab and Middle Eastern Americans makes it impossible to accurately assess impacts of the pandemic on this population locally and nationally.

Audio: 


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PANDEMIC STEALS MOST FROM IMMIGRANT WORKING WOMEN

By Jackie Botts | CALmatters

CALmatters is an independent public interest journalism venture covering California state politics and government.

Photo:  Nearly one in three non-citizen working women in California have lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to the study by UC Merced researchers. Photo via iStock.

May 23, 2020 (San Diego) - Early estimates indicate that the coronavirus pandemic has stolen jobs from non-citizen workers — including immigrants who have green cards, work visas or are undocumented — in California at higher rates than citizens. And women have suffered greater job loss than men. 


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FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS RELEASE OF DOZENS OF MEDICALLY VULNERABLE PEOPLE AT OTAY MESA DETENTION CENTER

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo (Google): CoreCivic's Otay Mesa Detention Center
 
May 5, 2020 (San Diego) – Judge Dana Sabraw issued an order on April 30 directing the federal government to release more than 50 medically vulnerable individuals who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. According to the ICE website, at least 105 detainees at the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
 
Judge Sabraw wrote in his decision, “The Court HEREBY DECLARES that current conditions of confinement for Otay Mesa Medically Vulnerable subclass members held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center are unconstitutional under the Fifth Amendment because the conditions of their confinement place subclass members at substantial risk of serious illness or death.”

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IRAQI REFUGEE IN EL CAJON NOW SAVES LIVES MAKING MASKS FOR MEDICAL WORKERS, ASYLUM-SEEKERS AND NAVAJO NATION

By Miriam Raftery
May 4, 2020 (El Cajon) –“Helping other people was the only way that I survived through different rises and wars I went through,” says Kilian Colin, an Iraqi refugee in El Cajon who says he went through lockdowns in Iraq and Syria.  A long-time civil rights and labor activist, he has now started a mask-making campaign that is protecting thousands of the most vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
His masks have been sent to protect healthcare workers in San Diego and in cities across the nation including had-hit New York City, as well as to farmers in the Midwest, farmworkers in Oregon, asylum seekers in Mexico, and tribal members of the Navajo Nation in Arizona.
 
How the effort began
 
“I was visiting Asia in January when the pandemic started,” says Colin, who began wearing masks in Vietnam and Taiwan.  Back home as a student at San Diego State University, he kept wearing a mask to avoid infecting others.  
 
But he recalls, “Both professors and students at SDSU were making fun of me…I had no option but to face some of those bullies and told them I was protecting them by wearing this mask, since I had no idea if I carried the virus with me home.” 
 
In mid-March, SDSU moved classes online. Without spending an hour daily commuting, Colin decided to make several masks instead and offer them online to whoever needed them, also replacing his own surgical masks that had been washed too many times to be protective.
 
“I looked online for patterns to make masks and I looked in my closet for clothes that I no longer use,” he tells East County Magazine in an exclusive interview. 

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FOOD INSECURITY, LACK OF RESOURCES TOP ISSUES FOR IMMIGRANTS DURING PANDEMIC

By Kendra Sitton for East County Magazine

Photo: Syrian refugee children in El Cajon, by Rachel Williams

April 22, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- While it may be true that a virus cannot discriminate, the structural inequalities already in place are exacerbated in a crisis. Groups already in a precarious position are more vulnerable than ever. Among these at-risk groups are immigrants and refugees. According to advocates working with immigrant and refugee communities, some of the top concerns they are hearing involve food insecurity and a lack of resources.


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RELIEF FUND FOR IMMIGRANT WORKERS ANNOUNCED: MONEY INCLUDES DONATIONS FROM PHILANTHROPISTS AND STATE EMERGENCY FUNDS

By Miriam Raftery

April 16, 2020 (Sacramento) – Many undocumented workers are risking their lives serving others during the coronavirus pandemic, with jobs in healthcare, as caregivers, in the food industry, and more. Others have lost jobs due to shutdowns, but are not eligible for stimulus funds.  So yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $125 million disaster relief program for undocumented immigrant worker to help their families. 


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ACLU DISMISSES LAWSUIT AFTER ICE RELEASES 4 IMMIGRANT DETAINEES VULNERABLE TO COVID-19

Otay Mesa ICE facility has at least 16 COVID-19 cases, highest of any  U.S. detention site

Story and photo by Miriam Raftery, East County Magazine

April 13, 2020 (San Diego) – After the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed lawsuits in 13 states demanding release of detained immigrants at high risk due to COVID-19, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent a letter to Congress on April 7 announcing it had identified 600 medically vulnerable detainees and to date, had released 160 of them.

Today, local ACLU representatives asked the court to dismiss a suit filed earlier this month on behalf of four medically vulnerable people detained at the ICE Otay Mesa Detention Center and Imperial Regional Detention Facility, after ICE released all four  plaintiffs.

“Our clients, Yusuf Ozdemir and Jane Doe, were released Thursday night; and Miguel Angel Benitez and Issis Yoselin Zelaya Sagastume were released Friday night,” states a press release issued today by  the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties, ACLU Foundation Immigrants' Rights Project, ACLU Foundation National Prison Project and ACLU Foundation Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & HIV Project.


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NEW FUND SUPPORTS SAN DIEGO’S IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES DURING CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

 

 

Source: San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium

March 30, 2020 (San Diego) -- The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), a project of Alliance San Diego, has launched the SDIRC Immigrant Relief Fund to provide grants of up to $500 to immigrant families in San Diego who have lost part or all of their income due to the coronavirus pandemic, or other disasters. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes county and statewide shelter-in-place orders, many workers in San Diego County have had their hours reduced, are temporarily not working, or have lost their jobs altogether. Some immigrant workers are not eligible for certain federal and state benefits such as unemployment and food stamps. 

The fund will launch with $10,000 thanks  to a generous donation from Oxfam America, a confederation of 19 independent charitable organizations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty, and a donation from SDIRC, a coalition of over 50 organizations serving the immigrant community. The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium is asking those who can to consider donating to the fund.

For more information on the fund, click here

To apply for the fund, click here

To donate to the fund, click here


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SAN DIEGO COUNTY REFUGEE FAMILIES EMERGENCY FUND SEEKS DONATIONS TO HELP LOCAL FAMILIES DURING COVID-19 CRISIS

East County News Service

Photo by Rachel Williams: Syrian refugee children in El Cajon

March 29, 2020 (San Diego) – Refugees are among the hardest hit among our local residents impacted by COVID-19 shutdown orders. These are immigrants legally admitted to the U.S. after suffering war, famine, or other life-threatening hardships, primarily from the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

To help these new Americans, Partnership for Advancement of New Americans, in partnership with other refugee assistance organizations, has launched the San Diego County Refugee Assistance Fund.  Every penny will be donated directly to help a local refugee family.

You can donate here:  https://www.panasd.org/covidfund?fbclid=IwAR0sorX-O-fc-5H3hDa6fvN9TbmJqJ1fCEE3gPWR3_GRfDhyPl4mC8uB3-s

Their goal is to raise $100,000 so that they can support 100 families with grants of $1,000 each. In the first three days, over $80,000 has been raised.

According to their website:

"COVID-19 presents tremendous challenges for already struggling refugee families.

"The majority of San Diego’s refugee workers are in the restaurant, hotel, and transportation industries hardest hit by the pandemic. Even with the City of San Diego taking action to halt evictions, foreclosures, and utility shut-offs, people already struggling to make ends meet are now managing reduced work hours or furloughs, school closures, childcare challenges, and food scarcity. Community members have lost their jobs, drivers are facing major disruption with Uber and Lyft, and families have children that need to complete school assignments online, but don't have internet connectivity at home.


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SENATOR BRIAN JONES JOINT AUTHORS MEASURE TO EXEMPT INTERPRETERS & TRANSLATORS FROM AB 5

“Arbitrary” legislation last year undermines entire industry that helps people with hearing, language challenges, Jones says
 
East County News Service
Photo: CC by ND – via Bing
 
February 20, 2020 (Sacramento) - State Senator Brian Jones (R-Santee) announced today he is joint-authoring Senate Bill 875 along with Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield).  SB 875 will exempt interpreters and translators from Assembly Bill 5, which went into effect on January 1 of this year.

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SUPERVISORS UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORT CONTINUING TO ACCEPT REFUGEES AND FEDERAL FUNDING

By Miriam Raftery

January 15, 2020 (San Diego) – An executive order issued in September by President Donald Trump requires approval from states, counties and cities to continue to accept refugees and federal funds to help these newcomers coming to America, fleeing war, persecution, natural disasters or violence in their homelands.

San Diego has been an official federal refugee resettlement site since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The city is now one  of the largest resettlement sites in the nation, taking in over 24,000 refugees in the past decade including many families with children. The region receives $7.6 million a year in federal funding to help refugees, including $4 million to the County’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Four of the nine national refugee resettlement agencies are located in San Diego County providing help for the newcomers to become productive members of society.  The support includes medical care, English language skills, help with housing, job training, small business development and aid to school districts with large refugee student populations, including districts in East County.

All of that could have screeched to a halt, if Supervisors had voted against a proposal to approve continuing refugee resettlement in our region and acceptance of future federal funds for that purpose.


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FROM IRAQ TO AMERICA FOR SUCCESS AND FREEDOM

 

Only in America: An Immigrant’s Success Story, by Wadie P. Deddeh, as told to Linda E. Sheridan (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, IN, 2019, 138 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

January 11, 2020 (San Diego) - The late Wadie P. Deddeh, as told to Linda E. Sheridan, has written an insightful book that speaks to what America is all about; Only in America: An Immigrant’s Success Story.

Every book and story has to have a beginning and ending, and in the words of the author(s) of this book it states: “As I talk about being born and growing up in Iraq, I think it is important to describe and distinguish who the Chaldean people are and what challenges they have encountered. Chaldeans are an ethnic minority of Iraqi Catholics and one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. Their native language is Aramaic. Throughout the centuries, Chaldeans faced varying levels of discrimination and persecution, and were compelled to travel to other parts of the world, where they established new communities.”


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BORDER PATROL LAUNCHES PILOT PROGRAM TO COLLECT DNA SAMPLES FROM MIGRANTS

East County News Service

January 8, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol has initiated a 90-day pilot program starting yesterday to assess the impact of proposed regulatory changes that would require collection of DNA samples from many individuals in CBP custody, including minors.  The pilot program will be limited to the Detroit area and the Eagle Pass port of entry in Texas. 

DNA will be collected from people ages 14-79 who are apprehended and processed in Detroit.  At the Texas location, the DNA collection will be done on individuals who seek admission to the U.S. and are subject to further detention or proceedings.

According to CBS News  the action is the first phase of a sweeping five-part, three year Department of Homeland Security initiative “to obtain DNA profiles from virtually all migrants in U.S. custody, whether or not they've committed crimes.”


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FEDERAL ANTI-IMMIGRATION POLICY HURTING CHILDREN, REPORT SAYS

By Suzanne Potter, California News Service

December 10, 2019 (San Diego) -- In California, 1.3 million children younger than age five may lose out on essential services because of a hostile immigration climate, according to a new report.

Researchers from two children's advocacy groups found that the Trump administration's anti-immigrant policies and heightened law enforcement have had major impacts on children up to age five.


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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.”


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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. 

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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. 


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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.


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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.

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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 and 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.


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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.

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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.


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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

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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.  


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