A few weeks ago you may have read a Q&A I did with Thabit Khalaf, an Iraqi refugee forced to flee his Baghdad home in response to violent threats against his life. The Iraqi architect arrived in El Cajon with his family last summer. His story highlighted some of the challenges confronting El Cajon’s already large and still-growing population of Iraqi refugees.

In a story today, the Los Angeles Times explores in greater personal depth the economic challenges facing that community. El Cajon has seen a recent influx of thousands of Iraqis fleeing their war-torn country, many well-educated and professional. Many of the new arrivals have to contend with a difficult economic situation that is making readjustment in San Diego harder than they’d expected.

From the Times story:

In El Cajon, where about one-quarter of the population of 96,000 has Iraqi ancestry, an estimated 7,000 Iraqis arrived last year. A similar surge is expected this year, straining resources and schools in the city believed to have the second-largest number of Iraqis in the country, most of them Chaldean Christians. …

The tales of trauma and struggle spill out from women in veils, middle-aged men playing dominoes and children who sleep in clothesline-strung bedrooms…

A white-haired man stands in a welfare line, jobless in a new country after having been kidnapped and losing his chicken farm in Iraq to Muslim militants. A burly man in a cafe who had worked as a security guard for foreign media left Baghdad after receiving an envelope with five bullets inside, meant for each member of his family.

An estimated 80 percent of the refugees are jobless, according to community leaders and social service agencies.


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