Coming From Away : Local Refugee and Immigrant Women

Member Blog

One of the six areas of focus for Women Give San Diego is helping immigrant and refugee women. Two weeks ago, the Education Team led a lively panel discussion of recent policy changes that are impacting local refugee and immigrant women. The four panelists were from organizations that are working to help these women navigate through these changes, including two of whom are prior grant recipients from WGSD (Casa Cornelia and UWEAST).

Many of the populations served here in San Diego often involve mixed-status families that may include some mix of refugee/undocumented, U.S. born citizens, and/or a DACA recipient. The panelists’ organizations often work not only with the immigrant/refugee but with their families as well, and recent executive/legislative changes are affecting all members of these families and communities in a variety of ways.

Lenise Andrade, the Education Team co-chair, helped explain the distinction between terms we hear daily but may not fully understand. Through a better understanding, we are in a stronger position to help effect change for this vulnerable population. We strongly encourage our WGSD members to get involved in this critical area of focus. Below you will find the contact information for our panelists as well as a glossary of terms to maximize your impact.

Please scroll to the end for specific calls to action for our participant organizations.


California Endowment, Steve Eldred, Senior Program Manager or (858) 526-2600
The California Endowment’s mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. We don’t focus on prescriptions. We focus on fixing broken systems and outdated policies, ensuring the balance of power is with the people. We don’t focus on the individual, we focus on the larger community as an ecosystem of health. We work with citizens and elected leaders to find lasting solutions to impact the most people we possibly can. We’re changing the narrative around health to ensure health and justice for all.

Casa Cornelia Law Center, Elizabeth Camarena, Esq, Associate Director or (619) 231-7788
Casa Cornelia is a public interest law firm providing quality legal services to victims of human and civil rights violations. Casa Cornelia has a primary commitment to indigent persons within the immigrant community in Southern California, seeking to educate others regarding the impact of immigration law and policy on the community and the public good.

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA), Ramla Sahid, Executive Director or (619) 732-6793
PANA promotes the fair treatment and equitable inclusion of refugee communities using organizing to achieve collective impact and policy change. PANA is dedicated to increasing the number of leaders from refugee backgrounds who understand and work on the issues concerning New Americans.

United Women of East Africa (UWEAST), Sahra Abdi, Executive Director or (619) 487-1188
United Women’s East African Support Team (UWEAST), is a community driven organization and comprised of over 200 East African women with the mission of being the pipeline for culturally competent healthcare services, education, advocacy, for the improved well-being of East African women and families.

Immigration Glossary/References:
Refugee: A refugee is someone who is forced to leave their home due to the fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, and is not firmly resettled in another country. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) staff interview everyone, and only those who can prove they are facing persecution and cannot return to their home country are registered as “refugees.” Refugees are interviewed again by U.S. State Department staff multiple times. Their story is vetted, they complete biographical screenings, and multiple U.S. intelligence agencies work together to create a full background check on each applicant, multiple times.
Asylum seeker: A person who meets the refugee definition and is in United States or at a port of entry seeking protection, but do not have refugee status yet.

DACA recipients: Brought to the U.S. as children, received protection from deportation and allowed to work under DACA, which was rescinded this year and will wind down over the next 2 years.

Unaccompanied children: The majority in San Diego county are youth fleeing violence and/or forced gang affiliation in Central America, do not have refugee status nor protections and entered the U.S. without a parent or guardian.

Undocumented immigrant: This includes those in the Unites States without any documentation. Many may qualify for a U Visa (for victims of serious crime), T Visa (for victims of human trafficking, or Violence Against Women Act (for victims of domestic violence; allows certain spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and certain spouses and children of permanent residents to file a petition for themselves, without the abuser’s knowledge).

Would you like to help?  Please get involved in these following ways to help these organizations:



Please invite friends and family to attend their Dec. 10th International Human Rights Day of Action

Why Human Rights Day of Action?

Last year, on December 10th, PANA launched the Right To A Roof Campaign for quality, affordable housing for all. Housing was chosen as a priority based on the 2015-2016 PANA Refugee Experiences report, incorporating input from over 600 community members across 50 house meetings.

As part of the campaign, in May 2017, PANA launched the Build Better San Diego coalition along with community and labor partners, to advance Homes Jobs and Transit for All. This year, we could not be more excited to return to the County Administration Building with you and thousands of San Diegans to show up for refugees and lay the groundwork to build a San Diego that is a true first class city for all of our families and where refugee and Muslim communities feel a sense of belonging. We hope you will RSVP, sign up to volunteer, and invite friends.

Donate to PANA.

Generous donors like you are critical and help strengthen our ability to protect our newcomer and Muslim families. Please consider donating to PANA this giving Tuesday. Your gifts are tax-deductible and all donations go towards grassroots organizing, advocacy, and leadership development in refugee communities.

Casa Cornelia

Please visit our website for Volunteer Opportunities as well as job opportunities/careers. We currently have two job opportunities.  A donation is always appreciated as well!  Please go to or

California Endowment
Call your Congressperson to state your support for legislation to protect DACA recipients – Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children and whose protection was recently rescinded. Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121.