DA Reaches Out to Immigrant and Refugee Communities
San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said today that her office is conducting new outreach to immigrant and refugee populations in the county with the goal of allaying fears about reporting a crime and encouraging cooperation with law enforcement if someone is a victim or witness to a crime. According to the County’s Health and Human Services Administration, approximately 21.5% of the county’s population are immigrants, including refugees.
“My office is committed to keeping every child, adult and senior safe from crime in San Diego County and that includes our large immigrant and refugee communities. It is understandable that if you are a refugee from another country, a documented or an undocumented immigrant, there may be uncertainty about reporting a crime to law enforcement,” said DA Stephan. “We want to ease the fears that people in these communities have and encourage them to contact local law enforcement and cooperate with the DA’s Office if they, a family member, or friend become the victim of a crime. We will not ask their immigration status, which is the law in California, and we have services that can help them.”
So far, the DA’s Office has printed cards in English, Spanish, Farsi and Ukrainian, which encourage refugees and immigrants, whether undocumented or documented, who are victims or witnesses of a crime to report the incident to law enforcement. Police departments, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s Office are only concerned about the details of the crime, not an individual’s immigration status.
The San Diego District Attorney’s Office does not, in accordance with California law, report immigration status and does not tolerate any actions intended to interfere with or retaliate against potential crime witnesses.
San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas, who represents District 1, said the outreach is needed as the county’s immigrant population is significant and constantly evolving.
“Regardless of their immigration status, all residents in our county should feel safe about accessing the justice system if they are a victim, witness, or otherwise harmed by a crime — it is their right,” said Vice Chair Nora Vargas, San Diego County Board of Supervisors. “I’m proud to work in collaboration with the District Attorney’s Office and our Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs on this effort to widely distribute information cards to remind refugees and immigrants that they will not be asked about their immigration status when reaching out for assistance to law enforcement.”
Local data provided to the County Refugee Coordinator by local resettlement agency partners shows there were 3,715 refugee arrivals in San Diego County during fiscal year 2021/2022 from 29 countries. The DA is working in conjunction with the San Diego County Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs, which is distributing the printed cards to non-profit organizations and other groups that provide aid and resources for immigrants.
“It is essential for immigrant and refugee populations to feel safe and supported in their community,” said Lucero Chavez Basilio, Director of the County Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, Department of Homeless Solutions & Equitable Communities. “We will distribute these cards in the community to help ensure all county residents know their rights and understand they have access to resources that can help protect them and their families, without fear of repercussions or unintended consequences and regardless of immigration status. Reiterating this message is an important step in creating a just, sustainable and resilient future for everyone.”
The DA has also produced videos in English and Spanish which feature DA Stephan and Cardinal Robert McElroy. The videos are being posted on social media and shared by Catholic Charities, through its extensive network, to connect with these vulnerable populations and assure them that their status should not stop them from reporting a crime or seeking victim services. Catholic Charities has programming that works to facilitate an effective and memorable transition experience for refugees through an integrated provision of services: resettlement, employment, acculturation, case management, and health.
“The safety and security of the immigrant and refugee communities is close to the heart of God, and we are blessed that here in San Diego County, a person reporting a crime against themselves or their family or friends will find justice and protection without in any way endangering their immigration status or right to continue to live in this community,” said Cardinal McElroy.
Anyone who has been a victim of a crime and needs assistance can call 619-531-4041. A District Attorney Victim Advocate will speak with you ad determine how we can assist you. Program services are provided free of charge, and there is no legal citizenship requirement to receive assistance. More about the DA’s Victim Services Division can be found here.