Orange County is taking steps to help local immigrants and refugees access government resources and services.
On Tuesday, April 25, the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan by Supervisor Doug Chaffee and Vice Chairman Andrew Do to establish an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA) in Orange County.
“In Orange County we value and welcome the immigrant and refugee community that come and resettle in Orange County with their families,” said Doug Supervisor Chaffee, Fourth District. “The OIRA will support immigrants and refugees by serving as a hub for resources, a place they feel safe, welcome, and most importantly a one-stop office where they can learn about resources available in Orange County and in their own language. In the event if the OIRA is not able to assist them, connect them with community partners and organizations that may be able to.”
The OIRA will serve as a central hub for coordinating service, resources, and advocacy efforts to support Orange County’s immigrant and refugee populations in accordance with requirements of state and federal law. The goal of the new County office is to help immigrants and refugees gain stability, become self-sufficient, and financially prosper.
“My family and I came to this country as refugees,” said Vice Chairman Andrew Do, First District. “We know what it means – the struggles and hardships – to start your life over in a completely new place.”
He added, “This new Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs in Orange County will support incoming immigrants and refugees accessing existing services as they build a new home in Orange County.”
On August 2021, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution by Vice Chairman Do and Supervisor Chaffee, urging the U.S. Congress and President Biden to act swiftly to create an orderly process to admit Afghan refugees after the Unites States removed U.S. troops in Afghanistan and establish opportunities for resettlement under a 3-step plan.
Immediately thereafter, the County mobilized an interdepartmental team made up of the County Executive Office, Social Services Agency, and the Health Care Agency to assist local resettlement agencies in their efforts to connect Afghan refugees seeking refuge in Orange County to programs and services. According to the Social Services Agency, 76,000 Afghan refugees arrived in the United States that summer and over 500 settled in Orange County. As of June 2022, the County completed its efforts in assisting Afghan refugees while continuing to assist with any new requests.
“The creation of this office is overdue,” said Supervisor Chaffee. “We’ve done a pretty good job with the different waves of immigrants and refugees that have come into the county, but now we want a hub. County government will now partner with community partners and organizations to continue assisting these communities.”
For the first 90 days after a refugee’s arrival, their assigned resettlement agency will guide them through the necessary steps, including a health assessment, short-term housing, and how to apply for eligible State and Federal benefits. The goal of the OIRA is to work with the resettlement agency on a transition plan for when the 90 days end by continuing to assist immigrants and refugees with services such as case management and connections to resources. Clients who are equipped with the correct tools are more likely to become self-sufficient and can better support themselves and their families.
“As a former Vietnamese refugee, I know what it means to flee a violent and oppressive regime,” said Vice Chairman Do. “Through the OIRA, we want to assist new immigrants assimilate into American life. Their success in the U.S. is the fuel in the fight for democracy, basic human dignity, and human rights around the world.”
Community organizations such as CAIR-LA, CHIRLA, and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California have already started collaborating on ways to improve services for immigrants and refugees and make the OIRA a one-stop hub. The first office will be located in the County Community Service Center (CCSC) in Westminster.
About Supervisor Andrew Do
Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do represents the First District communities of Cypress, Fountain Valley, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, La Palma, Seal Beach, Westminster, and the Unincorporated Communities of Midway City and Rossmoor. As Supervisor, Andrew Do has reformed Orange County’s mental health services, expanded access to health care, and led efforts to combat homelessness.
About Supervisor Doug Chaffee
Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee represents the Fourth District, which includes the Cities of Brea, Buena Park, Fullerton, La Habra, Placentia, Stanton, portions of Anaheim, and unincorporated communities.