Farhat Popal

Mayor Todd Gloria Tuesday appointed Farhat Popal as the city’s  immigrant affairs manager, tasked with overseeing how the city interacts with its newest residents.

“Farhat brings a powerful combination of professional and personal experience that will build bridges to our immigrant and refugee communities while creating a more welcoming San Diego for all of us,” Gloria said. “We are extremely excited to have someone as exceptionally qualified as her join the city.”

Popal succeeds the city’s first immigrant affairs manager, Rita Fernandez, who now serves as San Diego’s director of global affairs.

Popal said she hopes to continues the strides made by Fernandez and will be responsible for facilitating immigrant integration services and implementing the “Welcoming San Diego Strategic Plan on Immigrant and Refugee Integration.”

“My first priorities will be to build on the strong foundation Rita has established and identify solutions to challenges the immigrant and refugee community faces in the midst of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “I bring with me my own experience as a refugee and first-generation immigrant, a perspective which will guide my work to advance a truly welcoming San Diego.”

Popal’s family fled Afghanistan when she was 3 weeks old and arrived in the United States in 1992. She said her family struggled with the challenges many first-and second-generation immigrants face such as creating new livelihoods after leaving their professions in their native country and navigating the college application process.

She brings over a decade of experience to the role. Popal served as the senior program manager for the George W. Bush Institute Women’s Initiative, where she was a subject matter expert on women’s empowerment, leadership and roles in the economy in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan.

Welcoming San Diego is an initiative intended to advance the “civic, social and economic integration of immigrants and refugees.” According to city data, immigrants in San Diego pay $9.6 billion in taxes and have $16.3 billion in spending power each year, making them a powerful economic force. Immigrant households have 27.8% of San Diego County’s spending power.

–City News Service

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