More than 1,000 Immigrants from 75 countries took an oath to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and become citizens.
More than 1,000 Immigrants from 75 countries took the oath of allegiance to the U.S. and became citizens at 2018 event. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas outlined the details of their proposed Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Monday, which they will present to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

The office will be the first of its kind in San Diego County and is intended to serve as a centralized hub connecting individuals and families to services.

“We are creating a framework for our future that ensures San Diego County is welcoming and everyone feels like they belong,” Fletcher said at a news conference Monday. “The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will be a regional asset, proactively engaging with the community to provide information, educate on important topics and connect individuals and families to vital county and community resources.

“The creation of this office will undo some of the harm of former policies by making it crystal clear that immigrants belong, and are a vital component of our region,” he continued.

According to the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, more than 20% of San Diegans were born in other countries and speak 68 different languages.

“As the first immigrant elected to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors it is an honor to champion an initiative so personal to me,” Vargas said. “To fulfill our vision of creating stronger and healthier communities, the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will work for everyone by creating a central hub of services and resources and uplift the positive contributions that our immigrant and refugee communities have on our economy and culture.”

The office’s role will be to connect community members and stakeholders to services, and when there are gaps, informing the board of the policy changes that need to occur. It will also partner with the Public Defender’s Office of Assigned Counsel to create a link for referrals to the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program for detained immigrants facing deportation and can help connect individuals to trusted legal resources in the community.

The county’s Chief Administrative Officer already put $750,000 in her proposed Fiscal Year 2021-2022 Budget for immigrant programs, but this policy is seeking to increase that number to $2 million and with five full-time employees to support.

Some of the 82 organizations represented in the coalitions engaged with that support this policy were present at the news conference and spoke, including: Jewish Family Services of San Diego, MAS PACE, MAAC Project, Border Angels, Karen Organization of San Diego, San Diego Organizing Project, San Diego Rapid Response Network and Invest in San Diego Families.

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