In the News

Following the Trump administration’s latest issuance of an executive order once again suspending the refugee resettlement program, blocking family reunification after years of separation and further endangering lives, a broad array of community members has risen up in defense of our new neighbors and their families now torn apart. A federal court halted this first order, but we now face a new iteration of this cruel policy.

In the last month, we have seen protesters gathered at the San Diego International Airport to decry the White House’s executive orders, and civic leaders have taken a stand against these un-American policies. Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, who attended the airport gathering, has vowed that “California will be a beacon in these dark times.” Meanwhile, other public officials have held forums, issued statements and spoken out on social media.

In California tradition, San Diego County welcomed 4,525 refugees in 2016. Within months of escaping persecution, they were in San Diego renting homes, patronizing local businesses, paying taxes, enrolling in school and sharpening their English. Americans are from all walks of life and these new Americans are no different. They may have been born outside this country but, like us, they have overcome adversity and pride themselves on self-sufficiency.

Likewise, refugees share our spirit for entrepreneurship and innovation. Qualcomm co-founder Andrew Viterbi was a refugee who fled Italian fascism and started over in the United States. We must remember that our communities are enriched by the people we’ve welcomed — they are revitalizing our towns, they are starting new businesses. Among those who resettle in San Diego are heroes who have, at great personal risk, stood side by side with U.S. military operations, and now seek security here as agreed.

Lawmakers from both parties have come out in opposition to the overreaching executive order because of how out of step this policy is with our values.

Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, has stated that “the order to shut the door on families fleeing violence and oppression betrays our values as Americans.” Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, implored us to be “better than this” and to not turn our backs on those seeking help. The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 to support an amicus curiae brief joining the state of Washington in its lawsuit against the first executive order. People’s lives are at stake and we are in the position to help. In doing so, we are standing up for the fundamental rights of all people at home and abroad.

In 2017, San Diego was slated to be the new home for 4,000 more refugees — the majority of whom are women and children. They’ve been screened by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and others. The vetting system has been strengthened by Republican and Democratic administrations alike. We’ve built a successful refugee resettlement program over decades in America and California is a critical part of that, with San Diego at the forefront. Our county has long been a torchbearer in the refugee resettlement field, leading the state and the nation in annual arrivals.

In San Diego, we know that a thriving small business community and an innovation ecosystem are pillars of economic growth. Refugees as a group tend to be highly entrepreneurial; many of them were business owners in their homelands before conflict struck. Once here, they contribute to the richness of our entrepreneurship hub. We fear that excluding these creative and enterprising individuals would not only run counter to our values of community and collaboration, but would also endanger our vision of a vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystem where creativity and new approaches foster regional growth.