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San Diego County Sues Trump Administration Over Asylum Policy

February 13, 2019 1:28 p.m.

GUEST: Dianne Jacob, chairwoman, San Diego County Board of Supervisors

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Related Story: San Diego County Sues Trump Administration Over Asylum Policy


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.

The costs of helping asylum seeking families as a burden San Diego County shouldn't have to bear. That's the argument behind a lawsuit the county is bringing against the Trump administration. On Tuesday the board of supervisors voted to sue the government over its decision to release asylum seekers into the San Diego community without providing resources of any kind. Last year the board voted in favor of the Trump administration's immigration policies by supporting a lawsuit against California's sanctuary state laws. And joining me is Dianne Jacob chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

And welcome to the program. Thank you.

What's changed about the way the government handles asylum seeking families that's prompted this lawsuit last October the Trump administration terminated what was called a safe release policy whereby the federal government stepped up and took responsibility for asylum seekers that were coming in this county. Asylum seekers are legally in our county when the Trump administration terminated that longtime policy of safe release. What happened as a result twofold one it dumped about four to five thousand asylum seekers onto the streets of San Diego County. And if it weren't for the nonprofit organizations in the county stepping up to shelter and then move these folks on because they're only here for maybe a day two days three days to move them on to other destinations we would be facing a huge public safety and public health threat.

But this is the federal government's responsibility. And by filing the lawsuit the intent is to send a very strong message that it's costing us money and it's not right and it's not fair for agencies in San Diego County to be picking up the tab and taking care of asylum seekers which is responsibility of the federal government. So we want the practice to be retained as it was the safe release policy that was in place prior to October of last year. And we want reimbursement for any and all expenses that have been occurred in San Diego County by the nonprofits by the County of San Diego.

Costs could be huge. This is already a big hit on county taxpayers. The county of San Diego spent five hundred sixty two thousand dollars so far. And if this practice continues as it is it's estimated that the cost to taxpayers could be as much as four million dollars this year.

Supervisor Jacob is the state providing any money for the asylum seekers released at the border.

The state has stepped up. We haven't seen the check yet but there's indication that the state is trying to help us out in the county. But this is not a state responsibility either. You know we're grateful for what the state is doing to help our county and help these asylum seekers that are here legally. But it is a federal responsibility and we all should be holding the federal government accountable for their actions.

Now it seems as if from observing the Board of Supervisors that it was your idea to sue the Trump administration over this change in policy. Can you tell us about the discussions that led up to yesterday's vote.

No I can't because those discussions were held in closed session and I cannot disclose what was discussed.

OK well supervisor Kristen Gaspar was the only supervisor we believed to vote against suing the federal government over this issue. In a statement she called the lawsuit quote political posturing and legal grandstanding. I wonder what your responses to that.

Very simple that we are facing a public safety and a public health threat and the federal government has failed in its responsibility to take care of asylum seekers that are coming into our region. It's a known fact that we've had at least four to five thousand that have been dumped on the streets of San Diego County. So in filing the lawsuit the intent is to send a very very strong message to the federal government that they need to live up to their responsibility. They need to pay the cost for these asylum seekers.

They need to take care of them and not dump them on the streets of San Diego County and then expect us to take care of what is a federal responsibility. The feds have failed and it's because the Trump administration has reversed a longstanding policy called safe release.

Now this isn't just happening at the border at San Diego it's happening in other border communities. And I'm wondering if you expect those other border communities to look at what San Diego is doing with this lawsuit and perhaps file similar lawsuits or join San Diego County's lawsuit.

I think it would be great if they did but we're not counting on that. Oftentimes San Diego County is OUTFRONT. We're in a leadership position and again win or lose on this lawsuit. We're out to send a very strong message to the Trump administration. They need to reverse their policy on safe release. And they need to pay for the expenses and the cost to taxpayers.

I've been speaking with Dianne Jacob chairwoman of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Diane thank you so much.

Thank you.