The IRC in Los Angeles, CA
The International Rescue Committee provides opportunities for refugees, asylees, victims of human trafficking, survivors of torture, and other immigrants to thrive in America. Each year, thousands of people, forced to flee violence and persecution, are welcomed by the people of the United States into the safety and freedom of America. These individuals have survived against incredible odds. The IRC works with government bodies, civil society actors, and local volunteers to help them translate their past experiences into assets that are valuable to their new communities. In Los Angeles and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.
Who are refugees and why are they arriving in Los Angeles?
Refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution—in Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, and other countries in crisis. They have crossed an international border and are seeking safety and the chance to move their lives forward.
The U.S. has a long tradition of sheltering those fleeing conflict and persecution. Once refugees have been identified by the United Nations refugee agency and cleared for resettlement, the U.S. government works with the IRC and eight other national resettlement agencies to help them restart their lives in America. Out of the nearly 20 million refugees in the world, fewer than one percent are considered for resettlement worldwide.
Refugees may be placed in a city where they have relatives or friends, or where there’s an established community that shares their language or culture. Other considerations include the cost of living and a community’s ability to provide medical services. But as legal U.S. residents, refugees may live in any city and state they chose.
What are refugees’ immediate needs?
As refugees arrive in Los Angeles to start a new life, they are most in need of financial and vocational support. The primary desire of newly-arrived refugees is to gain the ability to provide for themselves and their families as they establish themselves in California. Immediate needs include finding a job, learning English and learning to navigate the local environment. For families, those needs can also include helping their children adjust to a new school.
How does the IRC help refugees and immigrants in Los Angeles?
Our programs are designed to ensure refugees thrive in America—whether ensuring children are enrolled in school, adults become self-reliant through employment or starting businesses, or families receive acute medical care they need to recover from trauma or illness. The IRC helps those in need to rebuild their lives and regain control of their future in their new home community.
Refugees are greeted and welcomed at the airport by IRC case workers and volunteers to ensure their transition is as comfortable as possible. The IRC also makes sure newly arrived refugees receive:
- A furnished home
- Help with rent
- Health care
- Nutritious, affordable food
- English language classes
- Help building job, computer, and financial literacy skills
- Education for their children
- Social services and community support
- Legal services towards residency and citizenship
Our programs in Los Angeles:
- Resettlement: Meeting the basic needs for food, shelter, access to health care and assistance with navigating government agencies in the early, critical stages of resettlement.
- Economic Empowerment: Protecting, supporting and improving household livelihoods and financial security.
- Community Integration and Development: Strengthening communities and preparing individuals to participate fully in American society.
In addition to supporting refugees, the IRC also works with asylees, special immigrant visas (SIVs) and trafficking survivors. The IRC in Los Angeles provides services for those who have recently been granted status by the U.S. government, as well as services for those who have been in the country for a number of years and are ready to apply for permanent residence or citizenship.
What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?
Our Immigration department provides low cost assistance in applying for Permanent Resident cards, U.S. Citizenship, Refugee Travel documents and Central American Minor- Affidavits of Relationships (CAM-AOR), as well as various other immigration documents. We also provide Citizenship and Financial Literacy classes at public libraries throughout Los Angeles, available free of charge to immigrants throughout the area.
How can I help refugees and immigrants in Los Angeles?
There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in Los Angeles. You can:
Donate: Give a tax-deductible financial contribution either via the website or sent to our office. We also accept donations of unused gift cards to grocery, furniture and clothing stores.
Volunteer Process and Opportunities: Read the steps you need to go through to become an IRC volunteer and see our current list of volunteer opportunities here.
Internship Opportunities: See our current list of internship opportunities here.
Spread the Word: Consider hosting your own Fundraising Campaign (on- or offline). Stay connected via our newsletter, follow us on Facebook, and ask others to do the same!
Other Ways to Get Involved: Employ refugees and help connect us to affordable housing options.
We have a variety of opportunities for your group. Some options include gift card drives, apartment makeovers and citizenship workshops. Please note: all opportunities depend on your group and the current needs of our clients.
What do refugees contribute to Los Angeles?
Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building careers, purchasing homes and becoming citizens.
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Providing financial stability through microloans
The IRC in LA is helping refugees and migrants climb the 'credit building ladder' through a new micro-loan program, thanks to the partnership and support of Citi Community Development. The new program has been especially helpful in offering 'emergency grants' and 'resilience loans' to those affected by COVID-19.
Preparing first time voters at the IRC in LA
With new voter guides, the IRC in LA's citizenship class instructors help students feel confident in casting their first ballots as US citizens. As of March 2020, all classes have moved online.
Our staff and volunteers are committed to making sure people suffering persecution can find solace and security in our neighborhoods. But the IRC in Los Angeles is rooted in this community, and it can only succeed with the support of this community. So we need your knowledge, wisdom and advice. I encourage you to keep up with us on our web site, to participate in our events and, if you have time, to volunteer. There is no joy like the joy of helping a newly-arrived refugee, and you have that unique opportunity at the IRC.Martin ZoggMartin Zogg is Executive Director of the IRC's Los Angeles office.
children and parents seeking asylum in the U.S.
Extreme poverty and rampant violence in Central America have fueled a humanitarian crisis.See how we help asylum seekers
refugees and SIV recipients to resettle in the U.S.
The IRC helps refugees fleeing war and persecution to rebuild their lives in 25 U.S. cities.Learn about refugees in America
people with economic empowerment programs.
Our support includes financial coaching, vocational training and asset building.See our work in economic wellbeing