Refugee Arrivals: Although many arrived decades ago, California remains committed to welcoming refugees fleeing political and civil unrest or the effects of climate change.

Insights and Analyses

  • Although in recent years the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. has been reduced significantly, California remains as one of the state’s receiving the largest number of refugees. Since fiscal year 2002, California has resettled the most refugees, or 108,600 individuals.
  • Between 2002 and 2019, a large number of refugees have arrived in California from countries like Iran, Iraq, Ukraine, and Laos. 
  • California is also home to a long-settled Southeast Asian refugee community. About 36% of Southeast Asian Americans in the U.S. (Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, and Hmong) live in California, according to a recent report.
  • In recent years (2017-2019), Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego counties were the top destinations for refugee arrivals in California.

San Diego’s Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) advances full economic, social, and civic inclusion of refugee communities.

Founded, led, and staffed by refugees, PANA uses relational organizing to bring community onto a pathway of ongoing engagement and develops indigenous community leadership development to build power in the fight for social change. PANA works at the intersection of African, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian refugee communities impacted by racial and ethnic profiling; religious discrimination and Islamophobia; increased government surveillance and law enforcement harassment; and barriers to healthy housing, and family-sustaining jobs. PANA’s recent work includes partnering with other state and national organizations to repeal the Muslim Ban, advocating for a citywide rent board to protect tenants and preserve affordable housing, and organizing a refugee census hub to ensure participation in the 2020 Census among hard-to-count communities. To learn more about PANA, click here. To read more about refugee experiences in San Diego, read PANA’s biennial report here.

Photo credit: Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans

The Transgender Law Center (TLC), Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia: TQLM), and Black LGBTQIA + Migrant Project (BLMP) advocate for transgender and queer migrants in detention.

While seeking asylum in the U.S. after fleeing persecution, violence, or torture, many transgender women and queer people are detained at the border. A report by the Human Rights Watch, details the inadequate conditions that transgender women face while in detention centers across the U.S. that often lead to harsh and even fatal consequences. In response, organizations like Familia: TQLM and TLC are collaborating to raise national and local awareness about the violence committed against transgender individuals in detention centers, through demonstrations and campaigns on social media platforms, including #FreeValeria, #FreeNicoll, #FreeChristina, and #JusticeforRoxsana. In 2016, Familia: TQLM, along with other organizations in Orange County, held a hunger strike outside of the Santa Ana City Jail, resulting in the termination of the city’s contract with ICE. Moreover, BLMP, a project of TLC, provides community-based support like post-detention resources for Black LGBTQ+ migrants including housing for asylum seekers, translation services, pro-bono legal services, financial support, and development of deportation defense campaigns. To learn more about the issues transgender and queer migrants face in detention centers, read the Human Rights Watch Report here. To read about TLC, Familia: TQLM, and BLMP’s work, read Rewire’s article here.

Photo credit: Paolo Riveros

Related Indicators