Refugee Resettlement - JFSSD
Moving Forward Together

Refugee Resettlement

The invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a humanitarian crisis in a region already overwhelmed by internally displaced people, refugees, and asylum seekers. We anticipate the increased number of Eastern Europeans coming through our shelter will continue, as seeking asylum at the southern border is the only option available to many in the short-term. In the coming days as the plight of Ukrainians and other Eastern Europeans continues to unfold – among many other conflicts and humanitarian crises across the world – Jewish Family Service of San Diego stands at the ready to Welcome the Stranger.

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Today, more than 84 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide.
Less than 1% have returned or been resettled.

Since 1918, JFS has maintained its commitment to welcoming refugees from around the world. From the moment a refugee arrives in San Diego, our dedicated staff and volunteers work with them side by side to build stability and adjust to a new culture and way of life.

On any given day, we help families enroll their children in school; gain proficiency in English; learn to navigate banking systems, public transportation, and community resources; further their education; find permanent employment; and become contributing members of the community. Together, we empower refugees to rebuild their lives and create a brighter future for their families.

For More Information

You can help ensure San Diego remains a welcoming place for those in search of a safer life—free from violence and persecution with a gift to JFS’s Welcome the Stranger Fund.

“The story of today’s refugees is really the story of all of us—and for those who have lost everything, one act of kindness can make all the difference.”

Laurie S., Volunteer

Who We Help


A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. Today, there are more than 25.4 million refugees worldwide. More than half are children under the age of 18.



A person in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.


SIV Holders

Because of their cooperation with the United States military, individuals who served as translators/interpreters for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan often become targets of violence and persecution in countries, making it unsafe for them to remain. The US government created the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to allow them to resettle in the United State as permanent legal residents while receiving the same services as refugees.

How We Help

The federal government’s objective is for all refugees to be self-sufficient within 90 days. Before a refugee even arrives to San Diego, JFS resettlement staff are making the necessary preparations to welcome them to our community. During their initial 90-day Reception & Placement (R&P) period, we provide the core services required by the federal government and continue to assist as them on their journey towards self-sufficiency.

Pre-Arrival Preparation, Reception & Placement
  • Coordination with family members in our community.
  • Airport pick up on day of arrival.
  • Placement in a secure, fully furnished apartment, including safety orientation and explanation of amenities.


Immigration and Naturalization
  • Applications and petitions for green cards, replacement of immigration documents, work and travel authorizations, and petitioning for family members.
  • Classes for Citizenship interview, English and Civics tests.


Case Management
  • Coordinate intake and enrollment in all eligible services, including R&P and employment programs.
  • Schedule Initial Health Screening.
  • Assist with applications for public benefits.
  • Enroll children in school.
  • Provide clothing, food, and other necessities based on need.


Cultural Orientation Classes
  • Acculturation classes to assist with community orientation and introduction to the resettlement process, community and public services, basic laws and customs, financial literacy, housing, medical literacy, American culture and holidays, the U.S. education system, and job readiness.
Acculturation Services
  • Enrollment in ESL classes.
  • Short-term counseling to assist with adjustment and other cultural issues such as banking, medical care, public transportation and schools.
  • Connection to Friendly Match volunteers providing friendship and support.


Employment Assistance
  • Education and training program placements.
  • One-on-one interview coaching, job application assistance and follow up.
  • Workshops to assist with resume writing, interview preparation, job search skills and adjustment to American work place culture.


Translation Services
  • Essential document translation into English for access to services, housing, jobs and education.
  • Short-term translator services to assist with adjustment and access to services.

The Refugee Journey to San Diego

Refugee Resettlement is a complex, multi-lateral system. The U.S. Admissions Program determines how refugee resettlement operates in the United States. Some of the Parties involved in the refugee journey are: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), 9 National Affiliate Resettlement Agencies, and local resettlement agencies such as JFS.

Once a case has been referred to the United States by the UNHCR, the U.S. Government screens the refugee and determines whether it would like to admit them for resettlement. Depending on the location where the refugee will be resettling, the case is referred to one of 9 National Affiliate Agencies, who then refer the case to local resettlement agencies such as JFS.

HIAS, originally the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, is a nonprofit organization providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and asylum seekers. Established in 1881, HIAS originally aided Jewish refugees fleeing Russia and Eastern Europe. Today, the organization resettles refugees and asylum seekers from countries all over the globe.

As our National Affiliate, HIAS works in partnership with JFS to ensure the safety and successful resettlement of refugees referred to San Diego County. We are proud to share a history and ongoing commitment to the Jewish value of Welcoming the Stranger.

Lautenberg Program

The Lautenberg Amendment was first enacted in 1990 as part of the U.S. foreign operations budget to facilitate the resettlement of Jews from the former Soviet Union and allowed HIAS to bring tens of thousands to safety. As the world refugee situation changed, the Lautenberg Amendment was expanded to include persecuted religious minorities in other countries, such as Jews, Christians, and Baha’is from Iran. Despite being a crucial part of U.S. refugee policy, it expires each year and must be reauthorized. (Source: HIAS)

JFS is one of the few resettlement agencies in the county that can process Lautenberg applications. We also process Lautenberg applications for individuals from surrounding areas who are trying to bring their loved ones to safety.

For More Information

Contact us to learn more. All communication is confidential.


Resettling a refugee can be a years’ long commitment. It requires the coordinated action of international and local agencies – and the compassion of everyday people, who give their time and support to helping families overcome difficult pasts and move toward a more stable future. From helping newly arrived families learn to use public transportation, to giving a few dollars each month, there’s a part for all of us in Moving Forward Together.


Invest in Community


These services are provided with the help of our local and national partners.