San Diego Begins Receiving Refugees from Previously Banned Countries, City Council Considers Joining Lawsuit

by Natalie Jacobs February 14, 2017


jfs1The San Diego City Council today is conferring with City Attorney Mara Elliot in a closed session to discuss whether or not the city should sign its name in support of Washington State’s lawsuit against the so-called travel ban. Although the executive order on immigration and refugees that called for the ban of travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries in late January was struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in early February, the city of San Diego is still considering adding its name to the growing list of cities in support of the lawsuit against the order.

Meanwhile, the ban has been lifted and refugee travel and resettlement in the United States has resumed, albeit slowly. Jewish Family Service, one of five refugee resettlement agencies in San Diego, received two Iraqis on Feb. 9, and this evening will welcome a family of 5, also from Iraq (one of the seven countries banned in the original executive order). This particular family holds a Special Immigrant Visa (SIVs) for their work with the U.S. military in Iraq, as translators or interpreters.

In the original execution of the order, people with SIVs were included in the ban until Defense Secretary James Mattis requested that they be exempted.

“It’s very hard to predict anything right now,” said Etleva Bejko, director of refugee and immigration services for JFS. “Things have changed hour to hour.”

In January, 61 people were resettled in San Diego through JFS. Bejko says they all need services, like housing and job training, so her staff is focused on those efforts.

At the beginning of the year, JFS had 129 people assigned for resettlement this year, from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

No formal announcement has been made from the White House about their next steps on the now-inactive executive order. It can either continue pursuing an appeal to the Supreme Court (which still only consists of eight Justices), or scrap the controversial executive order (and potentially issue a new one).

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