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Refugee Voices




NEED HELP? RESOURCE GUIDE FOR REFUGEES

Find resources for refugees throughout San Diego County by clicking this link. Many services are available including help with resettlement, immigration, education, jobs, literacy, healthcare, and much more. 

You can also find an interactive map here.

LA MESA CHURCH LAUNCHES PETITION TO HELP REFUGEE CHILDREN; MEETINGS WITH CONGRESSWOMAN DAVIS

 

“We  expressed our concern over the current debate that is focusing on sending the children back while we believe it should be focusing on the care and safety of the children.”—Doug Brunson, UCCLM Committee on Border Justice

View or sign petition: http://tableucc.com/witness/sign-the-petition-central-american-refugee-crisis/

Over 50,000 young children have crossed the border to seek refugee status in the U.S. this year.  Some are fleeing gang violence and drug trafficking, others are escaping grinding poverty or trying to reunite with family already in the United States.  Many have paid large sums to smugglers and made dangerous journeys atop trains to get here from Central America, only to be placed in overcrowded, often unhealthy holding facilities while awaiting determination of their status by understaffed courts.  Some have also endured the verbal abuse of militant protestors seeking to banish them back to the horrors from which they fled.

Inspired by The Rev. Kaji Douŝa’s sermon on Sunday, July 13, members of the United Church of Christ of La Mesa gathered to discuss the child immigration crisis and how the congregation, as a justice-oriented church, should respond.

RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL LEADERS OFFER HOPE AMID DESPAIR TO PERSECUTED IRAQI CHRISTIANS AT PRAYER VIGIL IN EL CAJON

 

By Miriam Raftery

Listen to our show on KNSJ 89.1 FM on Monday at 5 p.m. to hear our special report including audio highlights from this event.

July 26, 2014 (El Cajon)--Local political and religious leaders offered messages of hope for Iraqi Christians fleeing persecution and genocide in Iraq, many of them seeking to find refuge in America.   They offered a safe haven here in East County, as well as political actions now underway in Washington D.C. and Sacramento to aid Christians in their homeland.

“When they come here, I want you to tell them they will be safe here,” Mayor Bill Wells told the crowd during a prayer vigil in El Cajon’s Centennial Plaza last night  that was attended by an estimated 2,000 people.

The Mayor denounced the “unconscionable” slaughter of Iraqi Christians by ISIS terrorists who have declared a caliphate, or Muslim state, in the Mosul area, where churches dating back to Biblical times are being destroyed and Christians ordered to convert to Islam or die by the sword.

THOUSANDS EXPECTED AT PRAYER VIGIL FOR IRAQI CHRISTIANS TONIGHT

East County News Service

July 25, 2014 (El Cajon) -- The recent persecution of Iraqi Christians has outraged people all over the world. Over 40,000 Chaldeans and other Iraqi Christians live in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, which has one of the world’s largest concentrations of Chaldeans.  Tonight, elected officials, community leaders and Christian leaders of all denominations are coming together I El Cajon for a vigil in support of persecuted Iraqi Christians. 

The event is organized by City Transformation, San Diego Leadership Forum and the Chaldean Council for Public Affairs.  Leaders in attendance will include El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells, Bishop Sarhad Jammo from St. Peter Chaldean Diocese, Dr. Jim Garlow, pastor at Skyline Church, Pastor Mark Hoffman from Foothills Church, and other local political representatives, community and church leaders.

TWO GOVERNORS, TWO POLAR OPPOSITE APPROACHES TO CHILD REFUGEES

 

By Miriam Raftery

July 22, 2014 (San Diego)--How should America deal with the tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America, arriving at our borders?  Many are traveling alone, trying to reach family members in the U.S.  Most are teens, but some are as young as three years old.

CHRISTIAN HOMES MARKED, FAMILIES KILLED: EAST COUNTY RESIDENTS RALLY FOR HELP TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hear our  radio special report on the Save Iraq Christians rally, plus our interview with East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce president Ben Kalasho on the worsening crisis in Iraq:  http://kiwi6.com/file/iw4izsdhq7

By Miriam Raftery

July 21, 2014 (El Cajon) –They carried an American flag, proud to be in a country where they are free. But their hearts ache for loved one endangered in their homeland: Iraq.  They are Iraqi-American Christians who rallied Friday in El Cajon's Promenade Park, pleading for political leaders to save Iraqi Christians from massacre by terrorists invaders who have declared an Islamic state, or caliph.

Farouk Georges shared the latest chilling news. Just one day earlier, he revealed, sources inside Iraq told him that the terrorist group ISIS “issued a decree against the Christians of Nineva…They are asking them to leave, or to convert to Islam, or be killed.”   

A million and a half Christians in Iraq have been displaced, said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce and organizer of the rally. “We’ve counted 120 churches that have been bombarded and destroyed.” Thousands of Iraqi Christians have been killed, hundreds have been kidnapped and as of a few days ago, he revealed, “ISIS has spray-painted the letter N on Christian homes, letting everyone know where the Christians live.”  The N is for Nasrani, an Arabic word meaning Christian.

(caution: graphic photos)

RALLY TO SAVE IRAQI CHRISTIANS: FRIDAY, JULY 18

 

 

July 18, 2014 (El Cajon) – East County is home to an estimated 40,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians as well as many Assyrians and Syriacs. 

Local Iraqis including the Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, churches and other groups, ask the community to join them in a rally today, July 18 at El Cajon City Hall , 200 Civic Center Way, to urge protection and humanitarian help for those now fleeing Iraq, where a terrorist group has declared an Islamic caliph and is slaughtering Christians and other minorities.

A petition has also been launched calling on U.S. representatives to consider creating a safe haven for Assyrians and other minorities in the Nineveh Plains.

IRAQ VIDEO: BEFORE THE WAR

 

East County News Service

July 2, 2014 (San Diego's East County) -- Ben Kalasho, president of the East County Chaldean-American Chamber of Commerce, has posted a video on his Facebook page to show what Iraq was like before the war and the violence currently tearing the nation apart.  He writes,

"A lot of people always ask me what IRAQ was like before U.S. intervention. I always hear the same things; Was it all desert? Was it hard to live there? Was it safe? Was it clean? Sometimes I wondered if they thought we were nomads living in tents. Perhaps even huddled on a sidewalk somewhere begging for change.

I am glad to see this video being made. For those who have never been to IRAQ pre U.S. occupation, this should serve as a great visual tool." 

SAN DIEGO ACLU SUES IMMIGRATION OFFICIALS FOR EXPULSION OF U.S. CITIZEN

 

East County News Service

June 29, 2014 (San Diego)--The San Diego ACLU has filed suit against top immigration officials for unconstitutionally preventing a born-and-raised U.S. citizen from returning to the United States from Mexico. Like Joseph K. in Franz Kafka’s novel The Trial, Oscar  Olivas, a 45-year-old natural-born U.S. citizen, has been detained but does not know why. He is unable to access the court before which he stands accused, and has not been allowed to view any evidence used against him.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Diego, naming the port director of Calexico, the San Diego field director of  U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and  Secretary of State John Kerry. The suit asks the court to allow Olivas to return to the United States, declare that he is a United States citizen, and affirm that the order exiling him violated the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

CENTRAL AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS BOUND FOR SAN DIEGO

 

By Miriam Raftery

June 29, 2014 (San Diego) – The Border Patrol has announced that starting this week, it will bring undocumented Central American immigrants from Texas to California.  The first groups will include families, not unaccompanied minors, to ease overcrowding of facilities due to an influx of children fleeing violence in Central America.

The families will be brought to San Diego and El Centro to ease what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. 

ABC News this week interviewed a 17 year old girl who was among those immigrants apprehended attempting to cross into the U.S.   In a tearful voice, she told them that she fled her home in Central America after her brother was murdered and a gang threatened her with harm if she would not join.  On her journey here, she was gang-raped by several men before reaching the U.S. She was  detained after reaching the U.S. but eventually released into custody of a relative in Florida, where she awaits an asylum hearing to determine if she can stay in the U.S. or not.

AB 2325 TO ESTABLISH LANGUAGE ACCESS TO MEDICAL PATIENTS

By Nadin Abbott

June 9, 2014 (San Diego) Imagine if you will, going to the doctor and not understanding what your doctor is telling you. Worst, imagine if you will, an EMS crew taking you to the Emergency Room, a life or death situation, and again you are not being able to understand what language the EMS crew, or later the hospital, is speaking.

UNDOCUMENTED "DREAMER" YOUTHS CAN NOW DELAY DEPORTATION FOR TWO MORE YEARS

 

June 8, 2014(San Diego)--This week, Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced the renewal process for undocumented youth who have been granted deferred action from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

NILE SISTERS HOSTS INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE MONTH CELEBRATION JUNE 7

 

By Miriam Raftery       

May 27, 2014 (San Diego)—Nile Sisters Development Initiative invites the public to celebrate diverse cultures in the City Heights community on Saturday, June 7 to commemorate World Refugee Month.  The event features a variety of ethnic foods, dancing, spoken word, a DJ playing music, raffles, entertainment for children and more.

CITY HEIGHTS PARTNERSHIP FOR CHILDREN IS ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO REACHING GOALS

 

Hear a podcast of our radio interview on KNSJ with Tad Parzen, City Heights Partnership: http://www.kiwi6.com/file/sjqbi6s8mf

By Janis Russell

May 22, 2014 (City Heights)- The mission of the City Heights Partnership for Children, which has been in existence since 2011, is for young people to emerge as adults with the skills to succeed in college or a career and enter adulthood as productive members of the community. From preparing children to kindergarten to saving youngster's vision and even lives, the Partnership is attracting national attention for its successes.

'A JOURNEY TO THE SUN' APRIL 30 STAGES BABYLONIAN HISTORY, RELOCATION OF IRAQI EMIGRES

 

April 25, 2014 (El Cajon  -- The eras from the Babylonian Empire to present-day Iraq will be depicted with the Cuyamaca College staging Wednesday, April 30, of “A Journey to the Sun,” a costume and music showcase and labor of love for Arabic  instructor Aklas Sheai.

IRAQI ELECTIONS APRIL 30; LOCAL VOTING APRIL 27 & 28 IN EL CAJON

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 25, 2014 (El Cajon) – Iraq will hold elections for parliamentary offices including Prime Minister on April 30.  All Iraqi-born people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce announced today.  Locally, eligible voters can cast their ballots on April 27-28 at the Crystal Ballroom, 414 North Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon from 12-2 p.m.

“This is arguably the biggest election since the fall of Saddam Hussein due to the unique circumstance of post-troop withdraw and immense violence,” said Ben Kalasho, president of the Chamber.

KURDISH-AMERICANS CELEBRATE FREEDOM IN EAST COUNTY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Leon Thompson

April 23, 2014 (Lakeside) --At El Monte Park in Lakeside on March 29, the Kurdish people celebrated Kurdistan’s independence and the Kurdish New Year.  

According to Chinar Hussein who helped start the Kurdish Community Center in El Cajon it is fitting that the two events be celebrated together since it is like a “new beginning” for the Kurdish people.  She said one reason the occasion was so joyous is because this particular celebration is forbidden in their homeland, Kurdistan, a mountainous region that encompasses portions of  northern Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria.

A TRUE CHAMPION: SAN DIEGO ATHLETE, FORMER REFUGEE WINS BOSTON MARATHON

 

By Miriam Raftery

April 21, 2014 (San Diego) – Meb Keflezighi is a champion in every sense of the word—an impoverished refugee who has become a symbol of the American success story—a story crowned by winning this year’s Boston Marathon.

As a child, he came to America as a refugee with his family, fleeing war-torn Eritria in Africa. The son of a janitor and one of 10 children, Keflezighi  found that running became his ticket out of poverty. He began running while at Roosevelt Middle School and won the CIF state championships representing San Diego High School. He went on to win four NCAA championships and All-American awards at UCLA before winning a silver medal at the 2004 summer Olympics.

COMING TO AMERICA: AN IRAQI IMMIGRANT'S REMARKABLE JOURNEY - MAY 1 IN LEMON GROVE

 

April 19, 2014 (Lemon Grove) - Continuing this season's theme, "immigrant history alive right now," the Lemon Grove Historical Society will present Warda Yonan on the "History Alive" lecture series on May 1 at 7 p.m. in the H. Lee House Cultural Center, 3205 Olive, Lemon Grove.

IMMIGRANTS START BUSINESSES, PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN THE RECOVERY

 

Photo: immigrant-owned businesses in San Diego’s Little Mogadishu, Little Saigon, and downtown El Cajon

By Nadin Abbott

April 9, 2014 (San Diego)—In recent years there has been considerable debate over how to modify the immigration system and how to grow the economy. Both are related--and both matter to not just the national economy, but our regional economy. There has also been renewed emphasis in growing our export capacity, which has lagged. But there has always been an emphasis on small businesses as the engine of American economy—and now a new report shows that immigrants are fueling that engine.

SAN DIEGO SOMALI LEADER HONORED BY FBI FOR EFFORTS TO IMPROVE LIVES

 

Photo:Ahmed Idlle San Diego Somali leader, receives Director's Community Leadership Award from FBI Director James Comey at FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

By Miriam Raftery

April 5, 2014 (San Diego)— In a ceremony at FBI Headquarters on April 4, 2014, Director James B. Comey recognized the recipients of the 2013 Director’s Community Leadership Award. These leaders, selected by their area FBI field office, have demonstrated outstanding contributions to their local communities through service.

MISS MIDDLE EAST BEAUTY PAGEANT SET FOR APRIL 3

 

March 26, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) --The  San Diego East County Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce is proud to sponsor the Miss Middle East Beauty Pageant.

STUDENTS FOR REFUGEE AWARENESS

 

By Lizbeth Francisco, Hannah Haller, Faisal Imami, & Damien Martinez

The authors are seniors at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, CA working together to help refugees by organizing a petition for their cause.

March 5, 2014 (San Diego)-- Nations throughout human history have been torn apart by civil war, natural disasters, famine, and foreign and domestic wars leaving millions of people displaced in a region they once called home. Refugees, as they are called, are forced to live in horrid conditions, usually having to take shelter in government provided camps; these camps however, have no rules on sanitation, drug use, or hardly have an intact system of peacekeeping. Other refugees flee their home countries to seek asylum in other neighboring countries, not facing the same perils as theirs.

POPE FRANCIS APPOINTS BISHOP SORO TO SERVE FOR CHALDEAN AND ASSYRIAN CHURCH

 

January 29, 2014 (El Cajon) – Pope Francis has assigned a Titular See of Foraziana to Bishop Bawai Soro for service of the Diocese of Saint Peter the Apostole of San Diego for Chaldeans and Assyrians.  This is a culmination of an eight-year process, since Bishop Sarhad Yawsip Jammo received Bishop Soro, his clergy, and thousands of their Assyrian Christian faithful into the Catholic Church. Bishop Jammo hosted a reception to honor the newly assigned Bishop at St. Peter’s Church in El Cajon on January 14.

 “Our Diocese congratulates the whole church on the appointment of new pastors, and roles to help strengthen the congregation,” a statement issued by the Diocese reads. “Pope Francis has proven himself to be an integral part of the ever-growing Catholic Church. We are incredibly humbled by his recognition and appointment.”

3 LOCAL REPRESENTATIVES URGE PROTECTED STATUS FOR PHILIPPINE NATI ONALS IN U.S. IN WAKE OF TYPHOON HAIYAN

November 22, 2013 (San Diego) -- Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) led a delegation letter calling on the Department of Homeland Security to temporarily halt the deportation of Filipino nationals because of the devastating impact Super Typhoon Haiyan has had on the Philippines.

“It would be irresponsible to send individuals into a situation with the level of destruction and suffering occurring in the Philippines right now,” said Davis. “I hope acting Secretary Beers will recognize the gravity of this situation and provide some certainty and relief to those who may be facing deportation.”

Davis and several her House colleagues, including local Democratic representatives Juan Vargas and Scott Peters, asked for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Filipino nationals in the U.S.  TPS is designed to protect individuals from being sent home to countries that may be too dangerous for them to return. It would also grant them permission to work in the U.S. 

WOMEN’S REFUGEE COMMISSION CITES NEEDS OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AFTER TYPHOON DEVASTATES PHILIPPINES

November 14, 2013 – As international relief groups pour into the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, the Women’s Refugee Commission has issued an alert identifying ten crucial needs to protect the victims – including special needs of women and children. 

Beyond such essentials as food and water, the WRC urges steps to prevent women and children from sexual violence or human trafficking and to provide medical care to minimize mortality among pregnant women and their babies.  Other needs include providing education for displaced youths, economic opportunities for women, and help for the disabled.

MAYOR LEWIS IN CONTROVERSY OVER COMMENTS ON CHALDEANS

 

Full tape of interview  reveals comments praising Chaldeans in addition to remarks deemed culturally insensitive by cricis

By Miriam Raftery

October 24, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) – At Tuesday’s El Cajon City Council meeting, a crowd of Irarqi Chaldean community members denounced  remarks made by Mayor Mark Lewis in an interview with Progressive Magazine for an article published in May.  Critics denounce the remarks as insensitive and reinforcing racial stereotypes. 

Supporters say the comments were taken out of context.  An audiotape of the full one-hour interview posted by RawStory in fact reveals many positive statements made by the Mayor about Chaldeans, as well as the remarks that stirred controversy.  Some backers of the Mayor have suggested a financial motive behind the criticism emerging months after the story first ran, noting that a leading critic represents Chaldean store owners chafing under a newly enacted city policy restricting alcohol sales.

SOMALI BANTU HONORS NATIONAL HERO

 

African beads auctioned, traditional dances showcased

By Janis Mork

October 3, 2013 (San Diego) - The Somali Bantu Association of America held a fundraiser for their youth group to receive new supplies and computer activities. Throughout the event in September, there was also a silent auction on African beads.

Isha Aweyso, a volunteer of the association, welcomed everyone. “We have things you can buy to help our community,” he said, noting that the event benefits students. “I’m really thankful to have this association community.”

INTERPRETING FOR CALIFORNIA EVENT HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR MORE MEDICAL TRANSLATORS

 

By Trang Pham

September 30, 2013 (San Diego)--On September 27th, Assemblymember Toni Atkins met with community members, medical interpreters and former patients to honor those who have been affected by language access barriers at medical facilities. She also called on Governor Jerry Brown to sign legislation to improve patients’ access to interpreters.

FUNDRAISER TONIGHT TO HELP KENYA TERRORISM VICTIMS

 

September 27, 2013 (San Diego) – A candlelight vigil and fundraiser to help victims of the terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya will be held tonight at 8 p.m. at Flavors of East Africa, a Kenyan restaurant at 2322 El Cajon Blvd. , San Diego 92104.   Ten percent of all proceeds from food sold tonight will be donated to the Kenyan Red Cross.

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