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October 4, 2023

Immigrants Hero

San Diego boasts a growing immigrant population, with approximately 698,000 immigrants speaking at least 70 different languages and dialects across the different ethnic groups. Spanish, English, Filipino/Tagalog, Chinese and Vietnamese are among the prominent languages spoken, showcasing the city’s multicultural richness. By 2030 immigrants from Asia, including Middle Eastern nations, are projected to become San Diego’s largest immigrant group.

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Immigrants play a crucial Role in San Diego’s Economy, a 2020 report from the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego underscores the indispensable role immigrants play in the local economy. More than one-third of San Diego’s essential workers are immigrants, contributing significantly to the well-being of residents and businesses. With more and more immigrants coming to San Diego it is vital that we as a community recognize their economic contributions and create more inclusive pathways for them to achieve  equitable education and career opportunities to make San Diego’s economy work for them 

Community-Based Solutions to Improve the Immigrant Experience  

Collaboration is key to achieve innovative solutions to making to create equitable solutions for all San Diegans, current and future. Recognizing this, government entities and public organizations are mobilizing their efforts towards creating make solutions to the current barriers immigrants are facing.   

One of these solutions proposed by U.S. Senator Alex Padilla is new titled the legislation Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, seeking to provide a clear pathway to citizenship for essential workers who worked during the pandemic. Locally, The City of San Diego’s Office of Immigrant Affair’s Welcoming San Diego, a strategic plan on immigrant & refugee Integration, focuses on workforce development, advocacy for immigrant rights, and the provision of inclusive services. The plan includes four major goals toward creating economic opportunity:  

  1. Facilitate career advancement of immigrants through job placement, rights protection, inclusive recruitment, upskilling and re-credentialing.  
  2. Promote immigrant entrepreneurship and support immigrant-owned businesses.  
  3. Promote financial literacy among newcomer communities.  
  4. Ensure housing stability and reduce barriers toward homeownership. 

The Workforce Partnership in Action 

The San Diego Workforce Partnership plays a pivotal role in supporting immigrants through programs like San Diego Gateway to College and Career. This initiative provides young adults, ages 18-24 who identify as immigrants, refugees, or English language learners with high-touch support, stipends, and paid internships, fostering a supportive environment for their professional development. The program was able to help support people like Gabriel Souza and Samvathna Em along their career journey.

I was new in this country, I was learning the language and wanted to assimilate to the culture and systems. I heard the Gateway program would help me attend a two-year college successfully and prepare me to transfer to a four-year program, which I want to do. Some of my other goals are to do well in college, feel engaged and understand the culture. I want to make America feel like home.”    

Samvathna Em 

“My role models are my grandparents in Brazil. They were not able to pursue their education, even though they work really hard to have a good life… I want to be a psychologist to have a better understanding of myself and others, and with this knowledge I will continue to help people who seek mental health support.” 

— Gabriel Souza 

The Workforce Partnership also works collaboratively with the International Rescue Committee (IRC)a humanitarian organization that leads community-based efforts by providing outreach and case management to immigrants and refugees—by helping Individuals currently working with the IRC and are seeking career services enroll in one of our programs. An IRC navigator connects them with one of our team members who then works with the person to begin accessing our workforce development services and resources, while continuing to coordinate with their IRC navigator. Connect with them here. 

What’s Next? 

San Diego’s commitment to fostering diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce is evident through collaborative initiatives and community-based solutions. By recognizing the unique needs of the immigrant population and providing inclusive pathways, the city is poised to create a more prosperous and harmonious future for all residents. As we move forward, it is imperative to continue building bridges that empower immigrants and celebrate the invaluable contributions they make to San Diego’s dynamic and diverse community. 

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