Rita Fernandez is San Diego’s first immigrant affairs manager. Photo via City of San Diego.

San Diego Wednesday welcomed its first immigrant affairs manager, who is tasked with overseeing the successful integration of immigrants and refugees into the city.

The position was established earlier this year after the release of a report outlining a strategic plan to integrate immigrants and refugees. The city recruited Chula Vista native Rita Fernandez from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Immigrant Affairs Office, where she served as an associate director, to run San Diego’s own office.

Fernandez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, worked with Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, in his Washington, D.C., office on immigration issues prior to working with Garcetti.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez touted her experience and argued she will be pivotal in making the city more welcoming to immigrants.

“One of San Diego’s greatest strengths is our immigrant and refugee communities,” Gomez said. “This is who we are as San Diegans and moving forward the recommendations in the Welcoming San Diego Strategic Plan not only recognizes the contributions of new Americans but invests in their success.”

According to local data, the county’s immigrant households paid some $7.5 billion in federal taxes and $2.1 billion in state and local taxes in 2016 while entrepreneurs who immigrated to the county generated $1.4 billion in income. Roughly one quarter of county residents are immigrants, with many coming from China, Iraq, Vietnam and the Philippines in addition to Mexico.

“As a native of San Diego County and daughter of immigrants myself, I know this will be a humbling opportunity to support the region’s immigrant population,” Fernandez said. “In the coming weeks, I look forward to speaking with community leaders and stakeholders about laying the groundwork for immigrant integration work in San Diego.”

— City News Service

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