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Chair Fletcher & Vice Chair Vargas to Introduce Policy for Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs on June 8


San Diego County’s proximity to Mexico, binational workforce and its ongoing work to support migrants seeking asylum are some of the reasons Chair Nathan Fletcher and Vice Chair Nora Vargas are introducing policy to establish San Diego County’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA). Today Chair Fletcher and Vice Chair Vargas issued the following statement:  

“Immigrants are our constituents and it is time for the County of San Diego to lead by ensuring our communities are integrated and having a dedicated team in place to support immigrants in their pursuit of the American dream. The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will help facilitate access to county services, benefits and opportunities for immigrant families and individuals. It will serve as an advocate to promote policies that advance the civic, social, and economic participation of immigrants and refugees in our county. This policy is a recognition that the County of San Diego is a welcoming community, and that immigrants have been, and will continue to be, vital participants in the future of San Diego County's ability to thrive, and in the weeks ahead we will have more specifics to share about the policy.”

Immigration is a policy topic important to both Chair Fletcher and Vice Chair Vargas. 

Chair Fletcher, whose father-in-law immigrated to the United States from Mexico, helped fight for deported veterans to be repatriated and gain citizenship. As a candidate, Chair Fletcher vowed to create an Office of Immigrant Affairs at the County; and soon after taking office he began fighting former President Donald Trump’s failed immigration policies locally. He secured State funding and led the way in partnership with nonprofits to set-up a temporary shelter in his district for families seeking asylum. Earlier this year, Chair Fletcher played a pivotal role in securing shelter at the San Diego Convention Center for unaccompanied children seeking asylum, along with Vice Chair Vargas. 

As the first immigrant elected to serve in the history of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors, Vice Chair Vargas has prioritized the establishment of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs as a first step to becoming a more equitable and inclusive County, by helping rebuild trust in immigrant communities that were harshly criticized by the previous administration. Vice Chair Vargas has had a long history of advocating for immigrant rights at the national, state, and local level, spanning two decades, including establishing and directing the Office of Immigrant Affairs for the City of Los Angeles, the only office of its kind in the West Coast in the early 2000s. Vice Chair Vargas understands the importance of ensuring immigrants and refugees are integrated as part of our regional fabric, to help build healthier and stronger communities. 

The board of Supervisors will vote on the policy at the June 8, 2021 Board of Supervisors meeting. In anticipation of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs being established, funding has been set aside in the draft 2021-22 budget that was released on May 6. 

The Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs aligns with  the Framework for the Future of San Diego County. The Framework prioritizes communities and populations in San Diego that have been historically left behind. Through this Framework, Chair Fletcher and his colleagues like Vice Chair Vargas are fighting for: racial justice, health equity, economic opportunity, environmental protection, government transparency, and fundamental changes to county operations.