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Escondido Again Rejects Shelter For Migrant Youth

Photo by Jill Replogle / KPBS

Above: People packed the Escondido City Council chambers at a hearing on whether to allow a shelter for unaccompanied immigrant youth to open in a former nursing home, June 24, 2014.

Escondido again denied opening a temporary shelter for immigrant youth caught trying to cross the border illegally. But some groups want the issue reopened for debate.

Escondido's planning commission upheld its decision Tuesday night to keep a shelter for migrant children from opening in the city.

Pro-immigrant activists had hoped to convince the commission to reopen debate over the shelter, but after several hours of public comment, the commission unanimously upheld its earlier decision.

Last month, the planning commission first rejected the federal government's request to open a temporary shelter for immigrant youth caught trying to cross into the U.S. illegally.

The unanimous decision was met with applause from hundreds of people packed into the City Council chambers and hallways. Most who spoke in front of the commission were against the shelter. Many made it clear that their opposition was more broadly aimed at what they said were lax federal immigration policies.

But some local churches and Latino groups — along with the ACLU — wanted the issue reopened for debate.

"We all have different points of view on immigration reform, but children are the most vulnerable members of any culture," said Sharon Wylie, a minister at Chalice Unitarian Universalist Church in Escondido.

"We really wanted to come down and show that there are calmer voices, and cooler heads and higher values to consider with regard to the permit and the project."

Anyone can appeal the Planning Commission's decision on the shelter and have it brought before City Council. Wylie said that would be the appropriate forum to make the decision on what has become an issue of politics more than land use.

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