Historic First for Asylees in California

By Sharon Samber, HIAS.org

Historic First for Asylees in California

California Governor Gavin Newsom included funding for case management services for asylees in the state budget.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California is set to be the first state in the nation to introduce case management services for asylees.

After years of advocacy by the California Welcomes Coalition*, which includes HIAS, the legislation unanimously passed the State Assembly with bipartisan support. Since the funding was provided by Governor Newsom in the budget, passage in the State Senate this fall will just be a matter of finalizing details regarding implementation. 

According to the new legislation, introduced by Assemblymember Lisa Calderon, funding is now available for resettlement agencies to assign caseworkers to those who have been granted asylum and noncitizens with special visas (for victims of certain crimes and victims of trafficking). Advocacy by HIAS and other refugee assistance and humanitarian organizations, along with the political support of the respective California Legislative Latino and Jewish Caucuses, means that asylees will have more help getting on their feet as they start their new lives. So robust was support from the state’s Jewish Caucus that over half of its members and every single one from the Bay Area delegation joined the legislation as co-authors, including its Chair, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel and Vice Chair, State Senator Scott Wiener. 

Asylees are legally identical to refugees yet they are frequently deprived of access to the services that help them establish themselves in the U.S. These can often be some of the most necessary services for an arrival in a new country, like health and public benefits; community connection and relationship building; English language instruction; vocational training; and professional re-credentialing and licensing application assistance.

HIAS affiliates Jewish Family & Community Services of the East Bay, Jewish Family Service of Silicon Valley, and Jewish Family Service of San Diego are among the approximately two dozen agencies eligible to apply for funding from the program, which will enable them to provide and expand the services they already offer to refugees to those granted asylum and special visas.

“Our shared Jewish and American values of welcoming the stranger are being put into action now in communities across California,” said Joe Goldman, HIAS’ community engagement director for the Western region. “And this legislation wouldn’t have moved forward if not for the extraordinary advocacy of hundreds of HIAS activists who sent messages to their legislators and Governor Newsom in support of the measure.”

*The California Welcomes Coalition is comprised of We Are All America, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Council on American-Islamic Relations California (CAIR-CA), Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles - Interfaith Refugee & Immigration Service (IRIS), International Institute of Los Angeles, International Rescue Committee, HIAS, Home for Refugees, and OXFAM America, all of which organized more than 75 California organizations to sign on to a public letter in support of the newly-funded program.

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