2011 E Pluribus Unum WINNER

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego

“Refugees come to the United States determined to live full and successful lives here. While the support we provide in their early days is crucial, we recognize that to be truly self-sufficient, refugees need more than that first job. We provide services that focus on long-term success — such as understanding the U.S. financial system, starting a business or getting back into a profession. We are proud that our program has seen strong success in accomplishing these targeted goals and is being recognized by the E Pluribus Unum Prizes for that work.” - Bob Montgomery, IRC San Diego Executive Director

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in San Diego is one of 22 branches of the IRC in the United States resettling refugees from war- and disaster-stricken regions around the world. Since opening in San Diego in 1975, the IRC in San Diego has helped tens of thousands of refugees — ranging from Iraqi medical doctors to pre-literate Burmese farmers — successfully resettle and become self-sufficient, productive members of the community.

The IRC in San Diego offers a range of programs to help refugees make the often difficult transition to life in the United States, ranging from adult and youth education to career services, citizenship instruction, English and financial literacy courses, and even urban farming. The multi-generational offerings speed refugees’ integration into their new communities and allow them and their children to more fully achieve their potential in the United States.

Each year, the IRC in San Diego resettles some 1,100 refugees annually, providing them assistance in opening businesses and obtaining jobs, access to credit-building loans, and more. Two notable programs are First Things First, which provides pre-school instruction to refugee toddlers while building the English skills of their mothers, and the New Roots Community Farm, which allows refugees who come from agrarian cultures to grow food and learn new agricultural skills.

A unique aspect of the IRC in San Diego’s approach is that its programs are open to others as well, serving about 5,000 community members a year. And the IRC in San Diego seeks to foster mutual understanding between refugees and the community, with speaking engagements, volunteer activities, and more.

Exceptional Immigrant
Integration Initiative

The IRC in San Diego is the first refugee resettlement program to win an E Pluribus Unum Prize. Its many creative and effective approaches to addressing the integration needs and challenges that refugees face stood out — whether through programs that address the school readiness needs of infants and toddlers in refugee families, the after-school care and learning needs of refugee youth, or the English learning, employment, financial literacy, or business development needs of their parents.

The agency is also remarkable for the focus it places on creating lasting interactions and greater understanding between refugees and members of the native-born community. Hundreds of community members volunteer each year at the center, supporting its many efforts, forming relationships across cultures, and maximizing the impact of limited program dollars. Effective approaches to the integration of refugees and their children are particularly important given that the limited resettlement assistance provided by the government places significant pressure on refugees to become self-sufficient almost immediately.

For more about IRC San Diego, visit:

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About Bob Montgomery, IRC San Diego Executive Director

Bob Montgomery has had a 35-year tenure with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and is currently Executive Director of the San Diego Resettlement Office. He began working with IRC in San Diego in 1976 as a Resettlement Caseworker.

Mr. Montgomery has a Master’s degree in Social Work from Temple University in Philadelphia and is an accredited representative with the Bureau of Citizenship and Naturalization Services.

He co-authored Avenues: A Caseworker’s Guide to Immigration for Refugees and Asylees and has been a presenter on resettlement and immigration issues at numerous conferences and workshops.

Mr. Montgomery has served as a member and as Chair of the California State Advisory Council for Refugees.

Watch Bob Montgomery, IRC San Diego Executive Director, accept the 2011 E Pluribus Unum Prizes award