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The IRC in San Diego, 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 San Diego and other offices across the country, the IRC helps them to rebuild their lives.

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Who are refugees?

Refugees are people fleeing violence and persecution—in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and other countries in crisis. They have left their homes—and have a proven well-founded fear of return—and crossed international borders. They are seeking safety and the chance to move their lives forward.

Why are refugees arriving in San Diego?

The United States 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 1 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. However, as legal U.S. residents, refugees may live in any city and state they choose.

The IRC in San Diego opened in 1975 in response to the arrival of Vietnamese refugees resettling to the area, and has since grown to serve approximately 1,000 new refugee arrivals from many countries around the world each year. To date, we have resettled over 28,500 refugees from 29 countries.

How refugee resettlement really works.

How does the IRC help refugees in San Diego?

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 San Diego:

  • Resettlement: Meeting the basic needs for food, shelter, health services and legal rights in the early, critical stages of resettlement.
  • Center for Financial Opportunity: Employment, Career Development, Vocational ESL and Microenterprise services as well as financial education to help families move out of poverty and achieve lasting financial self-sufficiency.
  • Immigration and Citizenship Services: Strengthening communities and preparing individuals to participate fully in American society.
  • Youth Programs: Providing educational and developmental opportunities that build the essential academic, personal and social skills needed to succeed.
  • Food Security and Farming: Finding lasting solutions to food insecurity, health problems, and economic hardship through community-based food and farming projects.

What services does the IRC provide to the wider community?

With office locations in City Heights and El Cajon, the IRC in San Diego is deeply invested in serving not just refugees but other low-income community members as well. Many of our services such as immigration and citizenship, youth programming, career development, tax services, microenterprise and community gardens are open to our local community.   

How can I help refugees in San Diego?

There are many ways that you can get involved with the IRC’s work in San Diego. You can: 

Donate: Make a tax-deductible financial contribution online or by mail.

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.

Items Needed for Refugees: We’re collecting specific items for newly arrived refugees. Learn what we’re currently accepting.

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, get your corporation involved, and connect us to affordable housing options.

What do refugees contribute to San Diego?

Once they acclimate to their new environment, refugees often thrive and contribute to their communities, building careers, purchasing homes, gaining citizenship.


Our impact

In one year, the IRC and our partners in the United States helped:


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

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