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How the IRC in San Diego is supporting asylum-seeking families during COVID-19

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From sharing in-language health and safety information to providing asylum-seeking families with much-needed support, IRC caseworkers are keeping clients informed of the rapidly developing COVID-19 pandemic and making sure they stay safe.

Photo: Andrew Oberstadt, IRC

The IRC's Safety and Wellness Unit provides life-changing services and case mangement support to some of San Diego's most vulnerable asylum-seeking families, and with the spread of the novel coronavirus, their work continues. As the pandemic intensifies, the physical health and safety of asylum-seeking families living in shelters and temporary group housing are at heightened risk. Many of our clients are single mothers with small children, individuals with serious health conditions, and families without a stable source of income who rely on support from a dedicated team of caseworkers. 

“Our initial response is to ensure our clients are safe and they have everything that they need. Once we identify that everyone is safe, we work with our clients to see how we can continue to work remotely on the goals that we had before [the COVID-19 crisis].”  - Andrea Guerrero,  Caseworker for Asylum-Seeking Families 

IRC caseworkers help asylum-seekers not only meet their basic needs but also create safety plans and help clients set goals for the future. Goals for many asylum-seekers are centered around stable and secure housing, self-sufficiency, and financial independence.   

In addition to providing wellness checks and subsequent safety planning, IRC caseworkers aim to inform asylum-seekers of available resources such as food banks and legal aid. Thanks to the support of our community partner, Baby2Baby, asylum-seeking families were able to receive diapers, baby wipes and other much-needed baby supplies. Our office also provided hygiene kits containing body soap, shampoo, conditioner, feminine hygiene products and other supplies. 

In response to the spread of COVID-19, the IRC has implemented preventative and protective measures for asylum-seeking families. We are also helping clients overcome new barriers caused by the health crisis as they wait for their asylum claims to be heard. Out of safety concerns, San Diego Immigration Court has postponed hearings for our clients seeking asylum until late 2020. Families are left in limbo as they continue to wait, many without a means to provide for their children. 

"The uncertainty about hearings and processing times is very stressful for the individuals and families we support. I hope that the current situation does not hurt the timeline for their asylum applications and work authorizations, because their livelihoods and families depend on it.” - Isaac Gomez, Caseworker for Asylum-Seeking Families 

From navigating changes in the immigration system to securing safe and reliable housing, asylum-seeking families need our help now more than ever. 

How can I help?

  • Donate -  Help families in need during the COVID-19 crisis by supporting our work here.
  • Stay connected - Follow us on Facebook or Twitter and our COVID-19 updates page for the latest and to help us share critical information and updates.
  • Contact us - Please reach out to our Development Coordinator, Lida Dianti, at Lida.Dianti [at] Rescue.org with any questions or ideas to support our work.