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Humane, Viable, Cost-Effective Asylum Reception Thriving in San Diego

Washington, D.C. – San Diego has proven that humane, viable and cost-effective processes to welcome people seeking asylum in the U.S. are possible. The San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFSSD), has been providing such services along the border region since 2018, following the cancellation of “safe release” by the Trump administration. “Safe release” was the long-held travel protocol to facilitate asylum seekers’ ability to safely reach their final destinations.

“The work of SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services demonstrates that a public-private partnership to assist asylum seekers and centered on humanity is not only possible, but successful and effective,” said Kate Clark, senior director, immigration services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego. A new overview of the effort, released today by JFSSD and the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), highlights how up to 7,200 people per month have been helped in the last two years alone, with a total of 120,000 individuals seeking asylum assisted over the last four-plus years.

“Safe, humane and sustainable reception is the way forward as more vulnerable families and individuals – fleeing unimaginable dangers – approach the U.S. as a haven,” said Kimiko Hirota, WRC’s policy advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice program. “The work being done in San Diego is a blueprint for governments and communities across the U.S. to model.”

As part of this effort, JFSSD coordinates with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to facilitate the safe and humane transfer of migrants from government custody to shelter. Services provided through SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services include respite shelter, meals, case management services, clothing – including culturally and climate appropriate garments – and legal support, as well as medical care, COVID screenings and vaccines in partnership with the University of California, San Diego Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health. All services are provided with simultaneous interpretation available in a host of languages.

“The Biden administration and Congress should not resort to asylum bans, mass detention or expedited removals as the answer. Instead, look no further than SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services and its collaboration with government and local partners to ensure that people are welcomed with dignity to the United States,” said Hirota.

Following initial assessments and services, JFSSD then coordinates with asylum seekers to help them in their forward journeys to connect with family members or friends across the U.S.

“The federal government has a critical opportunity and moral obligation to vision, create and sustain a humane and welcoming infrastructure to support asylum seekers arriving in this region,” added Clark. “SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services shows that it is cost-effective and humane. We all can – and must – be part of the solution.”

View the report

About Jewish Family Service of San Diego

Founded in 1918, Jewish Family Service (JFSSD) is one of San Diego’s most impactful nonprofit agencies – partnering with people of all backgrounds to build stable and dignified lives. JFSSD’s immigration work includes operating the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services for respite shelter care for people seeking asylum, pro bono immigration legal services and refugee resettlement, as well as a variety of services for immigrants to assist with paperwork and legal support related to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA/Dreamers), citizenship, naturalization, green cards and more. Together, we create a stronger and healthier community where everyone can thrive. To get help, volunteer or support JFSSD, visit jfssd.org or call 858-637-3000.

About the Women’s Refugee Commission

The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) improves the lives and protects the rights of women, children, and youth who have been displaced by conflict and crisis. We research their needs, identify solutions, and advocate for programs and policies to strengthen their resilience and drive change in humanitarian practice. Since our founding in 1989, we have been a leading expert on the needs of refugee women, children, and youth and the policies that can protect and empower them. womensrefugeecommission.org.