Refugee Voices

GOVERNOR SIGNS MINIMUM WAGE HIKE; LOCAL CHALDEAN BUSINESS GROUPS SPLIT ON MEASURE

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022.  The increase will be gradual, with the minimum wage going up from $10 an hour to $10.50 next January, $11 the next year, then rising by $1 a year, after which raises would be tied to the cost of living.  Small business will have an extra year to comply and the Governor could waive increases in bad economic times.

IRC/KAISER COMMUNITY GARDEN GROWS HOPES FOR NEW IMMIGRANTS

 

 

By Mimi Pollack

March 30, 2016 (El Cajon) - It is not easy leaving your home and moving to a new country as an immigrant or refugee. Many immigrants and refugees’ lives are shattered by political or religious conflict and they have to flee their countries. The ones who arrive in the United States have to learn a new language, and get accustomed to a new culture and different types of food. Not only that, many immigrants and refugees go from living in a rural place where they had land, or perhaps a house in the city with a garden to living in  small, urban apartments. Sometimes, they feel homesick and long for what they had back home. 

POPE’S EASTER MESSAGE CALLS FOR COMPASSION FOR REFUGEES

 

East County News Service

Photo: Pope Francis, from his Twitter feed

March 27, 2016 (San Diego) – On Good Friday, Pope Francis washed the feet of European immigrants including Christians, Muslims and Hindus, demonstrating his outreach to people of all faiths and calling for world peace. 

In his Easter Sunday mass at the Vatican, the pontiff stated, ““This day invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees, including many children, fleeing war, hunger, poverty and social injustice.”

He also criticized those who seek to stop migrants fleeing persecution in the Middle East and North African from seeking a safe haven in Europe and other regions.

KERRY DECLARES “GENOCIDE” BY ISIS AGAINST RELIGIOUS MINORITIES

 

Action is “monumental step forward” – Mark Arabo, Minority Humanitarian Foundation

By Miriam Raftery

March 20,2016 (San Diego’s East County) — Since 2014, local Iraqi Chaldean leaders have been speaking out and urging the U.S. to take action to halt what they termed “genocide” committed by ISIS against religious minorities including Christians, Yezidis, and others.  

HOUSE PASSES MEASURES TO DECLARE ISIS ATTACKS GENOCIDE, CALL FOR SYRIAN WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

March 16, 2016 (San Diego’s East County ) – The House of Representatives this week has passed two measures aimed at holding ISIS and the Syrian regime accountable for atrocities committed in the Middle East. One would declare atrocities by ISIS to be war crimes, the other calls for a war crimes tribunal to address Syrian actions.

HEAR OUR INTERVIEW: BEN KALASHO SPEAKS OUT ON CHALDEANS' CONCERNS IN THE ELECTION

 

 

March 16, 2016 (San Diego's East County) -- Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, sat down with the East County Magazine Radio Show on KNSJ 89.1 FM to discuss concerns of the Chaldean community in the presidential primary election. In our interview, which originally aired on KNSJ last week, Kalasho speaks about the issues that matter most to the Iraqi Chaldean and Middle Eastern communities from an international and domestic standpoint.

He also discussed the new Mega TV news network that he helped launch, which debuted earlier this month. In addition, he shared his thoughts on the Grossmot Union High School District's redistricting proposal that divides the Chaldean voting block--and what steps he thinks should be done at the state level to assure fairness in elections for Chaldean Americans.

To hear our interview, click the link above.

Audio: 

CHALDEAN CHAMBER PRESIDENT THREATENS LAWSUIT IF “GERRYMANDERING” SPLITS CHALDEAN VOTERS IN GUHSD

 

 

District board expected to vote on redistricting plan today at 4 p.m.

"...Our Chamber will not accept any gerrymandering or divisive planning for political purposes and would be readily committed to engage either legally or politically to ensure a fair and equitable approach for the betterment of our community.” -- Ben Kalasho, Chaldean American Chamber president

By Miriam Raftery

February 25, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) – Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce in East County, has issued a press release calling on the Grossmont Union-High School District board to be “transparent and pragmatic” in its decision on how to transition from at-large to district elections. A vote on which map to approve is expected at today’s GUHSD board meeting at 4 p.m. at the East County Regional Education Center, 924 East Main St. in El Cajon.

FORMER REFUGEE AND BOSTON MARATHON WINNER MAKES THE OLYMPICS—AGAIN

 

 

By Liz Alper

 

Photo:  Keflezighi in the 2014 Boston Marathon.  Credit to Gr5 on Wikipedia

 

February 15, 2016 (Los Angeles) - Two years ago, ECM ran a story on Meb Keflezighi, the incredible local refugee-turned-athlete who won the Boston Marathon in 2014.

 

Always dreaming bigger, Keflezighi is realizing one of his biggest dreams two years later--he's going to his fourth Olympic games, this time in Rio de Janeiro.

WHITE HOUSE LAUNCHES TOUR TO SUPPORT IMMIGRANT AND REFUGEE INTEGRATION IN COMMUNITIES

 

East County News Service

January 30, 2016 (Washington D.C.) – This week, the White House Task Force on New Americans (Task Force) launched the White House Regional Convenings on New Americans. This initiative, aimed at strengthening and supporting local immigrant and refugee integration efforts, is part of a multi-city tour that will run over the course of the next several months.

COUNCIL DECLARES 2016 “YEAR OF INCLUSION”

 

By Miriam Raftery

January 14, 2016 (San Diego) – The San Diego City Council has proclaimed 2016 as the Year of Inclusion.  The proclamation notes that immigrants comprise 23 percent of the population in our region, with over 100 languages spoken by San Diego residents from around the world.

The proclamation recognizes organizations in San Diego dedicated to helping s build a “culture of civic participation among new generations” that empower leadership and activism. The city's welcoming gesture toward immigrants comes at a time when anti-immigrant has been on the rise nationally and among some prominent political figures, most notably Republican presidential frontrunner candidate Donald Trump.

UCSD CONFERENCE OFFERS PERSPECTIVES ON REFUGEE SITUATION WORLDWIDE

 

 

By Victiashea Matthews

 

December 30, 2015 (La Jolla)  - The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) and Eleanor Roosevelt College at the University of California, San Diego hosted an event called the “Comparative Responses to Asylum Seeking in Europe, Australia, the U.S., and Middle East” on November 30th,  

 

What drives international migration?  Why are some countries more hostile and others more accepting?  Those are some of the compelling questions posed by David FitzGerald, Co-Director of CCIS and Professor of Sociology. These are fascinating questions to consider when unpacking the asylum-seeking diaspora. Here are some highlights from the event.

UC SYSTEM DIVESTS OF HOLDINGS IN PRIVATE PRISON CORPORATIONS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: A private detention facility run by Corrections Corporation of America at Otay Mesa for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

December 26, 2015 (San Diego) – The University of California has divested over $25 million of its holdings in private prison corporations, in response to a resolution by the Afrikans Black Coalition, a student advocacy group.

“The goals of the private prison industry are to profit from the incarceration, labor and rehabilitative treatment of black and immigrant lives,” said Kamilah Moore, organizer with the coalition.  In an e-mail statement, she added  that by selling the shares, the UC system has sent a message that it is “against human rights abuses,” the Daily Bruin reports.

The rise of private prisons in modern times began in 1984 and has mushroomed since then. According to the U.S. Justice Department, by 2013, private prisons were housing 19.1% of all federal prisoners and 6.8% of state prisoners, reaping billions of dollars in revenues.  Private prison corporations also operate immigrant detention facilities, with over 23,000 immigrants currently behind bars. But serious questions have been raised about both racial injustice and failure to live up to promised cost savings.

READER’S EDITORIAL: NOW IS THE TIME TO WELCOME REFUGEES, NOT SHUT THEM OUT

 

By Rebecca Paida

December 13, 2015 (San Diego)--Now is the time to welcome refugees, not shut them out. Given the recent controversy over refugees, I am compelled to write about my refugee story and call on cities to create an inclusive Citizen Commissions on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs.

THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY: COVETING THE GREEN CARD

 

Coveting the Dream, by Jacintha Griffith (Katamja Press, Mckinney, Texas, 2012, 153 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

December 12, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) - In this time of heightened awareness in immigration reform, highlighted by Immigrants from Mexico and our country’s reluctance to allow into the country Syrian immigrants, Jacintha Griffith has written a fictional account of what it must be like for immigrants pursuing the American Dream, Coveting the Dream. Herself an immigrant, originally from the island of Grenada in the West Indies, this is her first novel – which from its design and literary craftsmanship many more will follow.

IRAQI GROUP HOSTS "YOUTH CONFERENCE: CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS" DEC. 17 IN EL CAJON

 

East County News Service

December 8, 2015 (El Cajon) – The IraqiCenter for Dialogue invites you to participate in a " Youth Conference" on December 17 at 11 a.m. at the Royal Palace, 1340 Broadway, El Cajon, CA 92021.

NILE SISTERS SEEKS HELP FOR GIFT BASKETS TO ASSIST REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS

 

December 1, 2015 (San Diego)--Each year, Nile Sisters’ Adopt-a-Basket program provides baskets filled with household goods to help newly arrived women refugees and immigrants and their children.  

The end of the year and holiday season is a difficult time for many families, so Nile Sisters seeks to relief some of the financial worries on these newcomers to our region. This year, Nile Sisters is building partnerships with local schools and organizations to organize a donation drive for household items at their respective locations, and all donations will go directly to the communities served by Nile Sisters.

GIFT OF GIVING CHRISTMAS GALA: DEC. 4 AT ST. MICHAEL'S WILL BENEFIT LOCAL CHALDEAN AND ASSYRIAN REFUGEES IN NEED

 

November 21, 2015 (El Cajon)—St. Michael’s Chaldean Catholic Church will host its first annual “Gift of Giving Christmas Gala” on Friday, December 4 at 8 p.m.  The 21+ wine and cheese gala will feature a silent auction, raffle items, a selection of wines from local wineries, craft beers and donated foods.

HOUSES PASSES BILL TO STOP REFUGEES FROM IRAQ AND SYRIAN FROM ENTERING U.S.

 

 

Update Nov. 20, 2015:  Here is how San Diego's Congressional members voted:  Representatives Duncan Hunter, Scott Peters and Darrell Issa voted for banning refugees from Iraq and Syria, while Representatives Juan Vargas and Susan Davis voted against the broad-based ban.

East County News Service

Photo: Iraqi Christians in El Cajon at a 2014 rally pleaded for help to save persecuted Christians in Iraq

November 19,2015 (San Diego’s East County) –The House of Representatives has passed a bill to suspend admission of refugees from both Syria and Iraq into the U.S., until national security agencies certify that they pose no security risk.

The measure passed by 289 to 137, a wide enough majority to override President Barack Obama’s threatened veto, with 47 Democrats joining Republicans to push the bill through.  But Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to block the bill in the Senate.

STATE GOVERNORS SPLIT ON ADMITTING SYRIAN REFUGEES IN U.S.

 

Refugees in Europe, most fleeing ISIS, risk death with winter approaching if not enough places will accept them. But fear of potential terrorism has led some nations to bar entry.

Photo: Refugees marching across Europe arrive in Slovenia; source: Slovenia Ministry of Defense.

By Miriam Raftery

November 16, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – After Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris, for which the Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. over the next year.

But governors in half of all states nationwide have reportedly said that they oppose taking any Syrian refugees in their states, or want to postpone admitting them until screen procedures are approved, according to reports by Associated Press, CNN and USA Today.

DETAINED WOMEN FACE RETALIATION FOR HUNGER STRIKE



 

By Eric Galatas, Public News Service

Credit: PhanuwatNandee/iStockphoto

November 9, 2015 (Austin, Texas) – Detained women seeking asylum in the U.S., who launched a hunger strike last week, are facing retaliation from ICE agents, according to the advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.

U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM HOSTS “OUR WALLS BEAR WITNESS: IRAQI MINORITES IN PERIL” EXHIBITION: LIVE WEBCAST NOV. 9

East County News Service

Photo by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin, courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

November 7, 2015 (Washington D.C.) –A live webcast will be streamed Monday, November 9 at 3:30 p.m. at  http://ushmm.org/webcast-iraq as part of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibition, “Our Walls Bear Witness: Iraqi Minorities in Peril."

Building-size images will be projected on the exterior of the muesum’s walls at night from Nov. 9-12 during FotoWeekDC 2015. These imaes will depict the Yezidi people and other ethnic and religious minorities who have been targeted by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in northern Iraq. The opening-night public program will include a panel of experts who will discuss the mass atrocities in the Ninewa province of Iraq and the plight of ethnic and religious minorities.

NEW REPORT: ICE INSPECTIONS "PERPETUATE AND OBSCURE ABUSE AT IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTERS" ACROSS U.S.

 

Newly Released Government Documents Reveal Critical Flaws in ICE Inspections Process, Show that the Obama Administration’s Reforms Fail to Fix Widespread Abuses

October 21, 2015 (San Diego)-- A new report, “Lives in Peril:  How Ineffective Inspections Make ICE Complicit in Immigration Detention Abuse” released today by the National Immigration Justice Center (NIJC) and Detention Watch Network (DWN), exposes how the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) inspections process for immigration detention centers obscures and perpetuates widespread abuses of detained immigrants.

CHRISTIANS EXECUTED BY ISIS; PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS URGED TO TAKE ACTION

October 10, 2015 (San Diego’s East County)--Militants with ISIS, the Islamic State, have released a video that appears to show executions of three Assyrian Christian hostages captured  in Syria in February, the Guardian reports. The terrorists are threatening to kill 200 more hostages, including women and children, unless hefty ransoms are paid for each prisoner, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Assyrian and Chaldean Christians have faced genocide at the hands of ISIS for refusing to convert to Islam. International leaders are urging President Barack Obama and Congress to take action, but thus far those please seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Locally, Mark Arabo, a leader in the Chaldean community, issued this statement. “"It breaks my heart to see the continuous bloodshed, and the constant persecution of Christians by ISIS. Scholars, journalists, and the American public are in consensus that more must be done to end this genocide. Yet, our government continues to remain inactive. Every video is yet another reminder of the victims our government has left to rot in Iraq and Syria.”

ECM WRITER LAUNCHES FUND TO HELP MIDDLE EASTERN AND AFRICAN REFUGEES IN EUROPE

 

By Miriam Raftery

Mimi Pollack, a writer for East County Magazine, a La Mesa resident and a teacher at Grossmont College, has launched a GoFundMe account to help a nonprofit assisting refugees from the Middle East and Africa who have flooded into Europe after fleeing violence in their homelands. Masses of migrants have been forced to camp in a park, lacking basic needs such as clothing and shelter with winter fast approaching.  You can donate to the fund here:  http://www.gofundme.com/6k3w8pu4         

Pollack writes, “I have been deeply saddened by the plight of the immigrants/refugees arriving in Europe. The picture of the little Syrian boy was also very disturbing,” she adds, referring to a photo of a child who drowned after his family, like thousands more, risked their lives aboard a boat that overturned in the Mediterranean Sea.  There is a crisis going on in Europe right now, and in my own, small way, I want to help."

U.S. TO ADMIT MORE REFUGEES OVER NEXT TWO YEARS

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 12, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) – Today, Secretary of State John Kerry announced the U.S. will raise its cap on refugees from the current level of 70,000 to accept 85,000 next year and 100,000 in 2017. The news comes in response to a growing refugee crisis of people fleeing ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including Christians and other minorities as well as Muslims.

That came as welcome news in El Cajon, where Iraqi-American Christians are celebrating at the Chaldean Festival.

CHALDEAN AMERICAN FESTIVAL: A CULTURAL CELEBRATION SEPT. 19-20 IN EL CAJON

 

East County News Service

September 12, 2015 (El Cajon) -- The city of El Cajon is home to more than 40,000 Chaldeans, one of the largest Chaldean enclaves in the United States.  Chaldeans are an integral part of the local business community as well as the community at large, and would like to invite neighbors to sample the culture at the upcoming 5th Annual Chaldean American Festival on September 19 and 20. The City of El Cajon has proclaimed September Chaldean American Month, and invites the whole community to attend the Chaldean American Festival. The family event will feature authentic homemade Chaldean faire, traditional music and dancing, games for children, as well as local vendors for all to enjoy.

6 EL CAJON SOCCER PLAYERS CHARGED WITH DISRUPTING FLIGHT; FEDS ACCUSED OF RACIAL PROFILING

 

 

By Miriam Raftery

September 3, 2015 (El Cajon) – Six soccer players from El Cajon face federal charges of disrupting a Southwest Airline flight from San Diego to Chicago. The flight was diverted and landed in Texas Monday after a confrontation between crew members and the passengers.  If convicted of interfering with an airline flight, the young people could face up to 20 years in prison.

The federal complaint alleges that the young athletes in a Chaldean soccer league, all in their late teens or early 20s, used profanity, lunged at a flight attendant, and called her racist and a pig. But family and friends of those arrested say the dispute arose after flight attendants demanded that the players, all Iraqi-American Christians from El Cajon, stop talking in their native language. Some suggest racial profiling. Now another passenger has stepped forward to say he saw no altercation at all.

DIEGO VALLEY CHARTER SCHOOL HELPS IMMIGRANT AND DISADVANTAGED STUDENTS ATTAIN THEIR DREAMS

 

Hear our radio interview, originally aired on the East County Magazine Show on KNSJ:

http://k001.kiwi6.com/hotlink/kn5r63g0j0/Newsmakers-DiegoValleyCharterSchool.mp3

Story by Miriam Raftery, photo by Leon Thompson

August 28, 2015 (El Cajon) – Miguel Angel Soria and Peter Alkatib at Diego Valley Charter School in El Cajon are working wonders, helping 80% of their students—all at risk and drop-out youth—graduate with a high school diploma and go on to college or a career pathway. They are also co-producers of the Chaldean Voices documentary film debuting soon on KPBS and in El Cajon to celebrate Chaldean-American month.

About 30%  to 40% of the student body are Iraqi Chaldeans and most of the rest belong to other minority populations.  The school offers flexible scheduling to accommodate students who must work or raise children, also providing tutoring and other help to assure their students achieve their dreams.

Audio: 

IRAQIS IN EL CAJON RALLY FOR REFORMS

 

By Miriam Raftery

August 19, 2015 (El Cajon)—About 250 to 300 Iraqis from multiple religions and beliefs united in a demonstration in El Cajon on Saturday, standing in solidarity with people across Iraq who have taken to the streets to demand governmental reforms.  Mass protests in Iraq followed a cut-off of electricity amid sweltering heat.

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