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 collaborates closely with government bodies, civil society actors, and local volunteers to support refugees, asylum-seekers, and other immigrants in San Diego, as they work to rebuild their lives.

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.

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 welcomed hundreds of newly arrived refugees from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and many other countries each year. To date, we have resettled over 30,500 refugees from 29 countries.

How refugee resettlement really works.

How do you help refugees and asylum-seekers?

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, small business development and digital inclusion services - as well as financial education to help families move out of poverty and achieve lasting financial self-sufficiency.
  • Small Business Development Services: The IRC's Center of Financial Opportunity hosts a Small Business Development Center, the IRC SBDC, helping small business owners and entrepreneurs prosper by delivering in-language and no-cost business assistance.
  • Safety & Wellness: Providing resources and case management support to vulnerable individuals and families whose safety has been threatened. S&W serves Survivors of Domestic Violence, Victims of Crime and Asylum Seeking Families.
  • Women's Resilience Center: Launched in 2020 and the first of its kind, the Center provides a safe space for refugee and immigrant women to access services and overcome barriers. Learn more about WRC here.
  • Immigration and Citizenship Services: Providing immigrant communities with legal assistance and assisting New Americans get on the pathway to citizenship.
  • Youth Programs: Offering educational and developmental opportunities that build the essential academic, personal and social skills needed to succeed.
How are you supporting vulnerable groups during COVID-19?

When the novel coronavirus reached California, IRC acted quickly to develop a mitigation and response plan which is now well under way. We continue to actively monitor updates from public health officials and are circulating CDC guidance with our staff, community partners, and clients—including resettled refugees, asylum-seekers, and vulnerable immigrant populations. This includes sharing best practices in social distancing, personal hygiene, and health with our staff and clients, including making this information accessible in multiple languages. We are committed to protecting the physical health and safety of our clients, volunteers and staff and are grateful for our local community that continues to stand by us in support of refugee and immigrant communities during these uncertain times.

How does the IRC support local businesses?

In addition to supporting refugees, the IRC hosts a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) helps local small businesses prosper by delivering no-cost business assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs through in-language technical assistance, training, and access to microloans to support entrepreneurs to start or expand their business, with a focus on helping refugees, immigrants and other low-income individuals. Shop BIPOC, refugee and immigrant-owned businesses using our Small Business Directory. 

What immigration services do you provide to New Americans and DREAMERS?

With over 40 years of experience, IRC San Diego Immigration Department provides quality low-cost and free application assistance and legal representation to refugee, asylee and other immigrant communities both in El Cajon and City Heights. Our DOJ Accredited Legal Representatives can assist with: 

  • Citizenship 
  • Green Cards/Adjustment of Status 
  • Travel Documents  
  • DACA Renewals 
  • Employment Authorization 
  • Family Petitions 
  • Fiancé Visas and Affidavit of Support 
  • Removal of Conditions 
  • Replacement of Lost Immigration Documents  
  • Legal Consultations 
  • Information on Public Charge 

To schedule an appointment, please call IRC at 619.641.7510 ext. 250 or send an email to [email protected]. Click here to learn more about available immigration services. 

How can I help?

Our work isn’t possible without your support. Here’s how you can help:

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

Fundraise for the IRC in San Diego: Create your own DIY peer fundraiser here to engage and involve your community with raising funds for the IRC in San Diego. You can also use the "Team Fundraiser" feature to fundraise as a team!

Volunteer and Internship Opportunities: See our current list of volunteer opportunities and available internships. Contact us at [email protected] with any questions. 

Open Homes: With housing costs on the rise in San Diego and local shelters at capacity, free or low-cost temporary housing for asylum-seeking clients is one of our greatest needs. Click here to learn more about becoming an Airbnb Open Homes host by offering up extra space, or to sponsor a family’s Airbnb stay. 

In-KindDonations: From providing a newly arrived refugee family with a warm welcome to emergency supplies for asylum-seekers on the go, we collect specific items that support and empower our clients. See our list here

Become an employment partner or get your workplace involved: Are you hiring? Partner with the IRC to provide employment opportunities for new Americans. Want to get your workplace involved?

Join companies like San Diego Gas & Electric in supporting the IRC through a corporate workday and/or event sponsorship. Email [email protected] to get involved.

Spread the Word: Sign up for our newsletter here, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and ask others to do the same! 

Our impact


people in the U.S. received asylum and protection support.

IRC offices across the U.S. provide immediate aid--including food, housing and medical attention—among other support.

Learn about resettlement and asylum


people were assisted to become new U.S. citizens.

The IRC offers high-quality, low-cost immigration legal services and citizenship assistance in cities across the U.S.

Learn about immigration


Our economic empowerment support includes financial coaching, vocational training and asset building.

people with training to help them build careers and income.

Learn more