I’ve been working on this post for a while now as part of my project to research refugees. This specifically covers refugees in California. I didn’t pick California for any specific reason except I noticed they take a lot of the refugees coming into the US, so I Googled it. I plan to look at other states and their situations too.

There is A LOT of information to sift through and honestly, some of it is extremely overwhelming and confusing. This post is about my most interesting findings so far.

Countries of Origin

These are the most recent totals for San Diego County onlyWhile these are the countries represented here, they do not reflect the total percentages for the rest of the US or other states. In Florida, for example, the top 3 countries refugees come from are Cuba, Haiti, and Iraq. (Source.)



Refugee Organizations

Alliance for Africa Assistance

With funding from grants and private donations, the Alliance has been resettling refugees since 1995. Refugees are assigned case managers who help them with housing, meet them at the airport, and give a basic orientation to life in the US and laws. Refugees can sign up for ESL classes and meet with a Resettlement Job Developer, who helps them to find a job.

Safari Seconds Thrift Store in San Diego is both a store and a place for refugees to receive job training. All proceeds from sales go towards the store’s operating costs and providing household items to refugees. If you live in San Diego and are wondering what you can do to help refugees, consider stopping by to shop or donate. Website

Heart 4 Refugees Syrian Community Network, San Diego

When people in the community come together to help the newcomers.

“It wasn’t like he chose to come to America. The U.S. chose the people to come here. So they didn’t choose to come here, they were chosen by the U.S., by the UN.,” Kinda Arzon, Vice President of Heart4Refugees. In the last two months, Heart4Refugees has raised $86,000 for 96 families. The one-time subsidy of $1,125 given to each family member for the first three months is not enough and these families need more help.East County Magazine has more information on how the Heart4Refugees charity got its start and how you can adopt a Syrian family.



One of the major concerns for Americans is that refugees are taking the jobs of citizens already here who need them – such as the homeless and veterans. But in San Diego Country, which resettles many refugees, the unemployment rate has been falling.


This means that each month more and more people are being hired, and more jobs are being created.

Refugee Success Stories

Microenterprise Development Program

  • Program provides technical assistance in management, bookkeeping, business plan development, and marketing.
  • Refugees wishing to be successful entrepreneurs can receive a micro-loan up to $15,000.
  • Over the past 19 years, refugees have an 88% survival rate with 10,800 micro-businesses.
  • The loan repayment rate is nearly 98%.
  • These businesses have created over 10,000 jobs and over 24,000 refugees have learned new skills.

Safaa Al Bazzaz – Sammoon Bakery & Restaurant
One of the successes of the Microenterprise Development Program, Safaa came from Iraq in 2009 and settled in San Diego. His original trade was a civil engineer, but he instead decided to open an Iraqi restaurant. The restaurant offers both eastern and western foods and also Iraqi sammoon bread.

Abdikadir Osman – Fatuma Restaurant
Osman came from Somalia in 1990  with only $19 and settled in San Diego working in several different jobs. In 2006, the Microenterprise Development Program helped him open the Safari Grill Restaurant. It eventually merged with a local pizza restaurant to become Fatuma Restaurant. The restaurant serves affordable Somalia and Mediterranean cuisines along with halal pizza. NBC San Diego has a review of Fatuma restaurant where you can either sit at a table or take your shoes off and sit on the carpet. Osman says, “One of the most important things people should know about Somali culture is we are very open-minded people. We like to talk, and Somalis are well known for sitting around having tea.”

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) took a bus tour stopping at both of these businesses, which you can read about at East County Magazine. A district councilmember commented, “Helping these small businesses succeed is what makes our economy grow. Just a little bit of money goes a long way and it’s small businesses like this one which make the community a better place.”

Source 1 Source 2

Another concern about refugees in the US is are they bringing any illnesses with them? Also, how much do American taxpayers pay for their healthcare? Here is some of the information I found.

Within 90 days of arriving in the US, Refugees are given a health assessment. They are tested for diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, and hepatitis along with being given a physical. Children are tested for lead in their blood. They’re also given a brief health education lesson and need immunizations. The cost per child was $243 and per adult $558 in 2014. More information on cost http://www.cdss.ca.gov/refugeeprogram/res/pdf/StatePlans/2014_CA_State_Plan_2013_2014.pdf A lot of the cost of the healthcare goes towards administration costs. AKA – paying jobs for Californians.

As of January 1, 2014 California expanded Medicaid coverage under the ACA. This expansion made more refugees eligible for affordable healthcare.

Education Funding


This money will go towards programs to help children who have been in the US for less than 3 years. Programs include extra English classes, tutoring, and summer programs to promote parental involvement. The funding for this comes from the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Additional funding information is on California’s Department of Social Services website: http://www.dss.cahwnet.gov/refugeeprogram/PG1545.htm

I had wanted to add more categories to this, but will leave it at this. If I find more information on refugees in California, I’ll post it in a new post. Like a sequel!

More information on my refugees research under this category (what a shocker of a name): Refugees