Moving Forward Together

Welcome the Stranger

The invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a humanitarian crisis in a region already overwhelmed by internally displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Respite Shelter Services For Asylum Seekers

Jewish Family Service of San Diego (JFS) continues to operate the San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN) Migrant Shelter Services, welcoming asylum seekers from around the world – including those fleeing the Ukrainian conflict – who are released to our care after being processed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as they lawfully exercise their right to seek asylum in the U.S.

SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services for asylum seekers, which includes respite shelter, case management, food, financial and travel assistance, and legal support, as well as COVID-19 testing and overall medical screenings and support, have traditionally been limited to individuals released from DHS after being processed under Title 8, lawfully seeking asylum in the U.S.

On April 21, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new streamlined process to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine under its “Uniting for Ukraine” effort. Effective April 25, 2022, individuals can apply through the Unite for Ukraine via the DHS website.

Asylum Seekers VS. Refugees

Please note the difference between an “asylum seeker” and a “refugee” when talking about assisting vulnerable people displaced from their home countries, as both terms tend to be applied broadly to both populations in the news media/public:

  • “Asylum seekers” are those presenting themselves to another country’s immigration officials and requesting immediate entry and access to territory for their personal safety and protection. Some of the current Ukrainians and Russians arriving at our southern border are being processed as “asylum seekers,” while others are being granted humanitarian parole for one year to lawfully remain in the U.S.
  • “Refugees” are pre-approved and vetted by the UN Refugee Agency and U.S. Department of Homeland Security before arriving in the U.S. in a process that can take years. This process has not begun yet for individuals from Ukraine, despite the federal administration’s announcement that the U.S. will welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others impacted by this crisis.

While the government’s refugee pledge is encouraging, it leaves many questions unanswered. At this point, it is unclear who will qualify, what the process is and how long it will take, what their immigration status will be when they arrive, and whether that status will provide a path to permanent residence.

At this time, the U.S. government has not activated refugee resettlement, nor have resources been activated, to support Ukrainian asylum seekers or those arriving through humanitarian parole at the southern border.

We understand the urgency and frustration about this lack of clarity and support. While we are also frustrated with these uncertainties, JFS is preparing for the eventual resettlement of Ukrainian refugees while we wait for more guidance from the federal government.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I offer private housing to Ukrainian refugees or asylum seekers?
We appreciate your interest in assisting newly arriving Ukrainians and other asylum seekers in our community. Jewish Family Service is not coordinating/managing private offers to shelter asylum seekers or refugees. Through the San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services (operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego), asylum seekers arriving in San Diego are provided respite shelter, case management, travel assistance, nutrition services, medical screenings, and financial support as we work to reunite them with their families and/or network of care.


Does JFS need donated items at the SDRRN Migrant Shelter?
At this time, we are not collecting donated items. Financial support is critical to our work and ensures that we have the proper staffing and resources to Welcome the Stranger with dignity and compassion. Join our efforts by making a donation at


What is the “Uniting for Ukraine” program?
Per the Department of Homeland Security,

  • Uniting for Ukraine is a streamlined process for Ukrainian citizens who have been displaced by Russia’s aggression to apply for humanitarian parole in the United States. To be eligible, Ukrainians must have been residents in Ukraine as of February 11, 2022, have a sponsor in the United States, complete vaccinations and other public health requirements, and pass rigorous biometric and biographic screening and vetting security checks. Ukrainians approved via this process will be authorized to travel to the United States and be considered for parole, on a case-by-case basis, for a period of up to two years. Once paroled through this process, Ukrainians will be eligible for work authorization.
  • Beginning on April 25, 2022, U.S.-based individuals and entities can apply to DHS to sponsor Ukrainian citizens who have been displaced by Russia’s aggression through the Uniting for Ukraine process, which will go live that day on the DHS website. Any U.S. citizen or individual, including representatives of non-government organizations, can sponsor Ukrainian applicants. Individuals and organizations seeking to sponsor Ukrainian citizens in the United States will be required to declare their financial support and pass security background checks to protect against exploitation and abuse. The Department of Homeland Security will administer the program. Eligibility requirements will include required vaccinations and other public health requirements, as well as biographic and biometric screening, vetting, and security checks.
  • The United States strongly encourages Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States who do not have and are not eligible for a visa to seek entry via Uniting for Ukraine from Europe, this will be the safest and most efficient way to pursue temporary refuge in the United States. The U.S. government is working with European partners to ensure Ukrainians can meet the vaccination requirements of Uniting for Ukraine.
  • Ukrainians should not travel to Mexico to pursue entry into the United States. Following the launch of Uniting for Ukraine, Ukrainians who present at land U.S. ports of entry without a valid visa or without pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine will be denied entry and referred to apply through this program.

Welcome the Stranger:
Your Support Makes Our Vital Humanitarian Response Possible

Join Jewish Family Service in ensuring San Diego remains a welcoming place for those in search of a safer life — free from violence and persecution. Together, we can provide compassion and vital services to those desperately seeking security during challenging times.


Looking for a way to help support asylum-seeking families? Volunteer with SDRRN Migrant Shelter Services operated by Jewish Family Service. The SDRRN and JFS have been preparing for the increase of asylum-seeking families to the Southern California Region due to potential changes in immigration policy. We need your help — Please click here to learn about our current opportunities, including Airport/Greyhound Guide, Shelter Operations, On-Call Medical Advocate, and Children’s Play-Pal Position.

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