SF reports uptick of immigrant families arriving, school district is first stop for many

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024
SF reports uptick of immigrant families arriving, school is 1st stop
The U.S is dealing with an influx of immigrants many from Latin America. Some of those migrants are ending up in the Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The U.S. is dealing with an influx of immigrants many from Latin America.

Some of those migrants are ending up in the Bay Area, but there hasn't been good data to track just how many are coming here until now. The latest data is coming from the San Francisco Unified School District.

It's been a long journey, but finally the Avilas brothers were reunited with their mom in San Francisco.

"My kids got here last week," said Esther Avila, referring to her two teenage sons.

Sixteen-year-old Erik and his 12-year-old brother Fredy fled Guatemala hoping for a better future. Today, their mom is enrolling them in school.

Erik wonders: "Will I make new friends?"

"I'm nervous," said Erik Avila.

Just like the Avila's, there are hundreds of families coming into the San Francisco Unified School District offices every month.

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"I definitely see an uptick. A trend of more immigrant, migrant families coming into our office. Often our families are coming and they are arriving sometimes just the day before, and this is their first stop and they have unique needs," said Danielle Uttley, SFUSD Enrollment Manager.

The school district's enrollment office has now turned into a resource center for many.

"They are coming in and sharing with us information that they might not feel comfortable sharing elsewhere," said Uttley and added, "You can say we are going a little beyond what the enrollment center office."

Every student who is enrolled gets new supplies, but many need more than just notebooks.

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A group called Sanctuary Cities is behind two new billboards in El Paso, Texas, saying San Francisco and New York "welcome immigrants."

"We've had families living in cars and sleeping on the streets before they are able to access some kind of shelter service through the city," said Angelina Romano, District Coordinator for Refugee and Immigrant Solidarity in Education or RISE SF.

A decade ago, SFUSD created RISE SF to help asylum seekers. Their latest data shows an increase in need.

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"We are seeing about an average of 150 new enrolled students every single months since about December of 2023," said Romano and added, "Every month 5-15 of those families report being unhoused."

SFUSD is working with the city's Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs who noticed the uptick 18 months ago and not all immigrants are coming from Latin America.

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At least 50 families living in RV's parked on San Francisco's Winston Drive are scrambling to find a new street to park their vehicles.

"There are some families coming Ukraine for example. We know it's because of the war. We have also seen an influx of Chinese immigrants coming through the Southern border and we know that many of them make a stop in South America and then come through Central America through Mexico before they reach the U.S. border," said Jorge Rivas, SF Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs.

Recently, San Francisco reported refugee migration is putting pressure on the city's system of care especially its family shelter system. This led to a proposal by two San Francisco Supervisors for the city to increase capacity in family shelters.

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