SAN DIEGO – The executive director of the city’s new Office of Immigrant Affairs is taking on the task of making sure immigrants are welcome in San Diego.

Rita Fernandez, the city of San Diego’s executive director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs, speaks to FOX 5 anchor Shally Zomorodi during an interview held Wednesday, July 6, 2022 in the FOX 5 studio. (KSWB)

This week, Rita Fernandez was appointed by Mayor Todd Gloria to lead the office, which was created under the mayor’s 2023 budget and launched July 1. Under Fernandez’s direction, the office will carry out the mayor’s Welcoming San Diego initiative as well as a number of other duties, including workforce development, championing available resources and creating a language access plan for city programs and services, a city news release shows.

“Immigrants make up about a quarter of our overall population,” Fernandez said Wednesday. “They represent over 115 countries and territories and speak 75 different languages and dialects. Sometimes they might feel a little bit unsupported or not heard in city hall.

“This office is tasked with fostering a welcoming environment for them to make sure their voices are heard in city hall and that their needs are being addressed by the city.”

Fernandez was described by the city as a Chula Vista native, a graduate of UC San Diego and the daughter of immigrants. She previously served as Gloria’s director of global affairs with past work as associate director in the Immigrant Affairs Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and working in the office of U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas.

With her parents immigrating from Mexico, Fernandez said she “really saw through their eyes and their experience” how challenging it can be to integrate into a community.

“The importance of this office is to be able to offer resources to immigrants in San Diego to be able to help them with increased language access services as well as naturalization assistance and other resources as well,” she said.

In the release announcing her appointment, Gloria said he was “grateful” Fernandez stepped up to lead the office and is “confident her expertise will be a benefit to all our city’s immigrants.” She’s being replaced in her prior role by Javier Gomez, who had been the mayor’s senior advisor of policy and council affairs.

The new office is located in San Diego City Hall.

To read more about Welcoming San Diego or to access resources from the Office of Immigrant Affairs, click or tap here. The office is reachable on Twitter and Facebook and Fernandez can be contacted by emailing rsfernandez@sandiego.gov.

FOX 5’s Shally Zomorodi contributed to this report.