By Program Intern, Andrew Steck
On September 20, the San Diego Diplomacy Council welcomed five International Visitor Leadership Program visitors from Europe for a Regional Project exploring Refugee and Migration Issues. The delegates visited Washington, D.C., Des Moines, Iowa, El Paso, Texas and San Diego, California to explore:
- Governmental resettlement and integration policies and programs
- Interagency efforts and programs in the U.S. to support migration of refugees and asylum seekers
- Processing and resettling efforts and standard practices
- Avenues to combat discrimination and integrate immigrant and minority communities
While in San Diego, the delegates met with a variety of organizations to discuss practices of accepting and assimilating migrants and refugees who enter in to the US —including Via International, Lexington Elementary in the Cajon Valley Union School District, and La Maestra Community Health.
Roundtable Meeting with Refugee and Migration Experts
During their visit, SDDC staff, San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Office of Refugee Coordination, the International Rescue Committee, and the five fellows conducted a roundtable discussion on their experiences resettling and servicing migrants and refugees in San Diego County, having dialogue and comparing practices between the regions. We were joined by ORC Director Lucero Chavez-Basilio, and Administrative Analyst Lenda Hanna, and IRC Senior Workforce Training Supervisor, Adeem Ismaeil.
HHSA, IRC, and the fellows noted the increased influx of Ukrainian and Afghani refugees into their regions in the last 12 months as a result of violence in their countries. As a bi-national city, San Diego, like Europe, often experiences migration trends including refugees seeking asylum from conflict regions. HHSA and IRC also noted border practice discrimination against migrants from the Global South—notably the Middle East and Latin America—upon attempted entry into the US and legal working status upon entry.
The fellows asked about services HHSA and IRC offered to migrants and refugees, and were impressed by the care of the staff and variety of support migrants receive from these organizations. HHSA and IRC staff, together, offer employment and job training services, trauma and domestic violence counseling, financial literacy and banking services, childcare, and education/certificate opportunities. They continued that, similar to Europe, San Diego organization struggle with ever-changing immigration policies from administration to administration. Nonetheless, the organizations mobilize their staff to best support their clients in face of difficult policy and discrimination. One of the fellows works for IRC in the European Union, and the two offices hope to collaborate and connect in the future. The fellows said this was one of the more fruitful discussions during their trip, and will acknowledge and learn from the ethical practices and services observed by HHSA and IRC when they return to Europe.
Ending the Day at Procopio
Following this session, the delegates made their way to Procopio Tower, for an informal mixer with Procopio Staff, delegates from another IVLP program exploring “Promoting the International Legal Order in the South China Sea”, and friends and guests of the San Diego Diplomacy Council. Thank you to Procopio for inviting us to your beautiful location, and to SDDC Board Member Ric Bainter, for coordinating such a successful evening.