Sunni Cook


Nearly 85% of local refugees are from war-torn Iraq, straining resources on schools and social services; local leaders call for major changes in treatment of refugees


"We can create a national model," -- Sunny Cooke, president, Grossmont College


November 12, 2009 (El Cajon) – Impacts of the Iraq War are hitting home in East County, where so many Iraqi refugees have settled that El Cajon's mayor has dubbed a section of his community "Little Baghdad."  From Oct. 1, 2008 to October 1, 2009, the U.S. admitted almost 75,000 refugees—including 18,333 from Iraq.*  Since October 2008, San Diego has been taking in 400 refugee families a month.  Nearly 85% are from Iraq.  Almost 75% of all area refugees have settled in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District (GCCCD), straining resources beyond capacity in social services, education, and healthcare.


“Social Services predicts that 200 to 300 new families will be entering East County each month for the next two or three years,” Mike Lewis, PhD, assistant superintendent of education for the Grossmont Union High School District said at a November 6 summit at Cuyamaca College titled Spotlight on Refugee Education and Employment.  Some have spent weeks or even years in refugee camps.  Many don’t speak English and have not been able to receive an education.  Many refugees are also physically maimed by war or suffer post-traumatic stress.  Often they receive misinformation and find steep barriers to getting the help that they need.

Error message

Support community news in the public interest! As nonprofit news, we rely on donations from the public to fund our reporting -- not special interests. Please donate to sustain East County Magazine's local reporting and/or wildfire alerts at to help us keep people safe and informed across our region.