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San Diego Migrant Shelter Reaches Capacity

Central American migrants line up for a meal at a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.
Associated Press
Central American migrants line up for a meal at a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018.
San Diego Migrant Shelter Reaches Capacity
San Diego Migrant Shelter Reaches Capacity GUEST: Kevin Malone, executive director, San Diego Organizing Project

The shelter in San Diego that provides temporary housing for migrants is filled to capacity with more people seeking asylum on the way. Now organizers are looking for fast solutions and hoping the community can open its doors as immigration officials release migrants from detention more quickly. Here to talk about the work being done to house people who are seeking asylum is Kevin Malone. He is the executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project. Kevin welcome. Thank you. You're part of a coalition of groups that runs the shelter. Talk about why the shelter was created and what it offers to migrants who have just been released from custody. So a couple of years ago with the ACLU and Jewish Family Services we set up a rapid response network to respond to migrant needs. It wasn't set up for this but when this crisis hit we were informed on Thursday that ice would be dumping people on Friday and our rapid response network got the first call. And they did. They started dropping people off that Friday and we immediately went into high gear and set up a shelter because nobody else was doing it. And these are families with small children that would have just been on the street in the last seven weeks and six days. We've moved over 2000 people. So is this all happening because more migrant families are being released all at once. No. So when the caravan was reported there were 2000 people in a waiting line to come across and these are again families waiting for asylum and then ice and Homeland Security started releasing people more quickly than they had before. And importantly in a different way. My understanding is that before this crisis when families were seeking asylum what Homeland Security nights would do is do family are kind of a planning process and logistic process so that when people were processed they already had a plane ticket and or a bus ticket or arrangements to get to their final destination. Why they changed it is a mystery to me. To be honest but it came at the same time as the news of the caravan. So our feeling was they wanted to deal with the with the backlog that was already on the border before the caravan arrived. Now that being said how much coordination is actually happening between the shelter and immigration authorities when a group of migrants is released. You know it's gotten and honestly it's gotten better. But our capacity is limited by the size of our shelter and the city fire marshal has restricted it to a certain number and everyday kind of what's making this impossible. And everyone's like on edge and in crisis all the time is that we have to move enough people out everyday so that we're not overcapacity at the shelter that we're at. It causes havoc. I mean what we need is clear we need government to move fast and to prevent a disaster. How much notice even are you guys given. It varies but usually by midday we'll get a number 50 folks are coming. Last night it was 125 and we had to move people out as quickly as we could so that we weren't over capacity at the shelter and we did that. But everyone had to break their backs to do it. It sounds like it's a rough and tough situation out there for migrants. What kind of stories are you hearing from them from the people who have stayed in the shelter. Overall it's gratitude. I mean the San Diego community has been more than generous. And like I keep saying that we're performing miracles every day. Early on it seemed like if we needed a nurse one showed up so these families have struggled to get here. And if you ask me are exactly who we want. They're resilient they're risk takers they're hardworking people just looking for a better life. And their stories are heartbreaking. The women talk about traveling through Mexico scared of being trafficked tying their kids to their hands at night to make sure their kids don't walk away or get taken. But once they get on this side there is relief and gratitude for what we're doing for them. What have you heard from local and state leaders about how they might help. The irony is that during the Haitian crisis a couple of years ago a lot of people came across a lot faster. And the governor signed an executive order and opened an armory the city and the county and the mayor have signed a letter asking the governor to open an armory. That's what they've done. And and little else that I can see on the ground the government in California is in transition between Brown and new some Governor Gavin Newsom visited his client has said he would support quick action. He doesn't take the reins till January 7th. And so I mean what we're asking government to do is to act fast to give us a bigger facility and then to give us flexible funding from the city the county and the state. And there's some talk of that happening but we need it to happen now and then in the near term or longer term we need to. There is no migrant infrastructure here. There is no money. We need to build infrastructure for this all along the border it's not like it's going away. I mean what will happen if if the shelter doesn't get more support. So if they if ICE increase increases the flows they'll be bodies in the street this country has accepted refugees and asylum seekers at far larger numbers. And what we're looking at now. So the country is big enough we're a nation of immigrants. We've got the heart and the compassion to do this. We've shown it here in San Diego and this welcoming the stranger that's at the core of what we're doing is part of who we are. I've been speaking with Kevin Malone the executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project. Kevin thank you for joining us. Thank you.

The shelter in San Diego that provides temporary housing for migrants is filled to capacity with more people seeking asylum on the way. Now organizers are looking for fast solutions and hoping the community can open its doors as immigration officials release migrants from detention more quickly. Here to talk about the work being done to house people who are seeking asylum is Kevin Malone. He is the executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project. Kevin welcome. Thank you. You're part of a coalition of groups that runs the shelter. Talk about why the shelter was created and what it offers to migrants who have just been released from custody. So a couple of years ago with the ACLU and Jewish Family Services we set up a rapid response network to respond to migrant needs. It wasn't set up for this but when this crisis hit we were informed on Thursday that ice would be dumping people on Friday and our rapid response network got the first call. And they did. They started dropping people off that Friday and we immediately went into high gear and set up a shelter because nobody else was doing it. And these are families with small children that would have just been on the street in the last seven weeks and six days. We've moved over 2000 people. So is this all happening because more migrant families are being released all at once. No. So when the caravan was reported there were 2000 people in a waiting line to come across and these are again families waiting for asylum and then ice and Homeland Security started releasing people more quickly than they had before. And importantly in a different way. My understanding is that before this crisis when families were seeking asylum what Homeland Security nights would do is do family are kind of a planning process and logistic process so that when people were processed they already had a plane ticket and or a bus ticket or arrangements to get to their final destination. Why they changed it is a mystery to me. To be honest but it came at the same time as the news of the caravan. So our feeling was they wanted to deal with the with the backlog that was already on the border before the caravan arrived. Now that being said how much coordination is actually happening between the shelter and immigration authorities when a group of migrants is released. You know it's gotten and honestly it's gotten better. But our capacity is limited by the size of our shelter and the city fire marshal has restricted it to a certain number and everyday kind of what's making this impossible. And everyone's like on edge and in crisis all the time is that we have to move enough people out everyday so that we're not overcapacity at the shelter that we're at. It causes havoc. I mean what we need is clear we need government to move fast and to prevent a disaster. How much notice even are you guys given. It varies but usually by midday we'll get a number 50 folks are coming. Last night it was 125 and we had to move people out as quickly as we could so that we weren't over capacity at the shelter and we did that. But everyone had to break their backs to do it. It sounds like it's a rough and tough situation out there for migrants. What kind of stories are you hearing from them from the people who have stayed in the shelter. Overall it's gratitude. I mean the San Diego community has been more than generous. And like I keep saying that we're performing miracles every day. Early on it seemed like if we needed a nurse one showed up so these families have struggled to get here. And if you ask me are exactly who we want. They're resilient they're risk takers they're hardworking people just looking for a better life. And their stories are heartbreaking. The women talk about traveling through Mexico scared of being trafficked tying their kids to their hands at night to make sure their kids don't walk away or get taken. But once they get on this side there is relief and gratitude for what we're doing for them. What have you heard from local and state leaders about how they might help. The irony is that during the Haitian crisis a couple of years ago a lot of people came across a lot faster. And the governor signed an executive order and opened an armory the city and the county and the mayor have signed a letter asking the governor to open an armory. That's what they've done. And and little else that I can see on the ground the government in California is in transition between Brown and new some Governor Gavin Newsom visited his client has said he would support quick action. He doesn't take the reins till January 7th. And so I mean what we're asking government to do is to act fast to give us a bigger facility and then to give us flexible funding from the city the county and the state. And there's some talk of that happening but we need it to happen now and then in the near term or longer term we need to. There is no migrant infrastructure here. There is no money. We need to build infrastructure for this all along the border it's not like it's going away. I mean what will happen if if the shelter doesn't get more support. So if they if ICE increase increases the flows they'll be bodies in the street this country has accepted refugees and asylum seekers at far larger numbers. And what we're looking at now. So the country is big enough we're a nation of immigrants. We've got the heart and the compassion to do this. We've shown it here in San Diego and this welcoming the stranger that's at the core of what we're doing is part of who we are. I've been speaking with Kevin Malone the executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project. Kevin thank you for joining us. Thank you.

The San Diego Rapid Response Network is asking state and local leaders for help to house migrants who have been released from federal custody while their requests for asylum are processed.

Since early November, the Rapid Response Network, a coalition of groups, has been temporarily housing migrants released from custody by federal immigration authorities. The group reports helping 1,700 migrants in the last month.

But the shelter is now at capacity as immigration authorities release migrants from detention more quickly than before and without travel assistance.

Kevin Malone, executive director of the San Diego Organizing Project, one of the groups running the shelter, discusses what's being done to house Central American asylum-seekers in San Diego, Wednesday on Midday Edition.

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