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City Heights In 2017: Trump's Immigration Policies, Increasing Housing Costs

December 28, 2017 1:12 p.m.

City Heights In 2017: Trump's Immigration Policies, Increasing Housing Costs

GUEST:

Tarryn Mento, Speak City Heights reporter, KPBS News

Related Story: City Heights In 2017: Trump's Immigration Policies, Increasing Housing Costs

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

President Donald Trump's policies on immigration and refugee resettlement have dramatically altered the lives of potential newcomers to the U.S. San Diego and specifically the neighboring City Heights have historically been areas where a large number of refugees settle. Tarryn Mento covers the community of City Heights and she spoke about the top stories of 2017 with Alison St John.
>> The travel ban has had a significant impact on people living in City Heights especially the refugee community.
>> Overall, the numbers of refugee rivals have significantly reduced from hundreds and thousands in previous years to dozens. They offer referred to the numbers just being at in. The -- they receive a large percentage of U.S. Thai cases which means they are connected to a friend or family member here. The reduction indicates many here in City Heights and sending a region overall may not have been able to bring their relatives or friends here.
>> How many refugees are settled in any given year in San Diego?
>> We see thousands before and San Diego has been a top destination for refugees. Again, court numbers are showing a handful coming in each month and there is different classifications of refugees. A lot that we are seeing is special immigrant visa recipients which are people who work with the military and they come over different classifications. We are seeing a lot more of those.
>> Like you said San Diego is a very popular place for refugees. Is it because of the sustainable communities?
>> Something I hear most often is there's just a large number of service providers with every wave of refugees from different nations that came. There was a community that rallied around those newcomers and created services specifically tailored to the unique culture needs of that community. There are a lot of these services here at San Diego is a welcoming community open to newcomers. There is a lot of transients from different states and cities so there's a large welcoming to bring in people from other places.
>> Things are changing because of the ban. What is the current status of it?
>> That is a tricky question. The ban has gone through a lot of revisions and changes. We are on our third. Each time it's challenged by a state or group and a federal judge may allow some parts of it to go through another parts not.
>> You investigated another story that revealed that housing issues that the refugees face are quite serious.
>> Well, the first thing is San Diego has really high rental prices and refugees come in with a very limited amount of money. They receive a little bit of money for each refugee that they resettled to offset the cost of doing so. You can imagine we have a little bit of Marnie -- money and large families and it's going to be tricky to place them. Back when San Diego was receiving record numbers of refugees, people had to stay in hotels longer and had fewer dollars to spend on their home and it looks like some caseworkers were encouraging refugees to sign leases not listed fewer residents than they had living in the home in order to get them into cheaper, smaller apartments.
>> So as a result of your stories there were changes at the International Rescue Committee.
>> Right. The committee local leadership the director stepped down and the agency says it has retrained their staff and expanded where it is looking for affordable housing. It is no longer focusing on El Cajon or City Heights. They're also questioning if they can resettle families larger than six people here because that was the problem was finding homes that had occupancy limits I could take large families but the affordable. They are saying unless there is a specific view there would be sending someone of a larger family off to one of their other cities may be in Arizona or another city in California.
>> Refugees are not the only ones being affected by I -- a tight housing market. It is affecting the community in general. Tell us about that.
>> From the homeowners perspective which is had a very low home price they are seeing tons of people flocking to come to their homes. It's very centrally located. You have people who -- one but there house on the market and the agent was trying to have the open house but had to cancel it because they have offer above asking price. This story we did there's a man who is taking us around the neighborhood showing us all the renovations and the homes that are on sale in the really skyhigh prices that they're seen them go for.
>> So if 70% of the people are renters how is that affecting them?
>> That is the other side of it is that as you have home values going up, landlords who own apartment complexes may want a partner that. I've been seeing a lot of apartment complexes being sold in City Heights and then they been renovated and that increases the value of it a little bit more driving up the rents for these lower income communities. We are looking into where are they going? What is happening. We talk to an analyst that said I would like to know how they are responding to this. Are they changing maybe some of their budgeting or actually moving out of the community? That is something that we will continue to look at.
>> It's really interesting because City Heights is so big. You feel like you are covering the own little city. It is 80,000 people, which is very large, and not one area that I focus on. You get to cover topics related to health and education and economic development and immigration.'s pretty robust and I also live in the community.
>> All of those subjects are going to be big issues next year. We will keep listening to your stories.