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Border & Immigration

As Migrant Children Arrive, San Diego's Social Service Providers Step Up

Pool photo via Nevin Cepeda / Union-Tribune
Workers prepare burgers for hundreds of migrants female teenagers set to arrive at the San Diego Convention Center Saturday night, March 27, 2021.

Several hundred unaccompanied girls who crossed into the U.S. from Mexico seeking asylum began arriving in San Diego this weekend. More than 400 girls arrived Saturday night, with 250 more due to arrive Monday night and another 250 expected on Wednesday.

Health and Human Services officials expect they’ll stay at the shelter for at least 30 to 35 days. During that time, local service providers will take the lead in helping the migrant children.

As Migrant Children Arrive, San Diego's Social Service Providers Step Up
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

South Bay Community Services, which is now known as SBCS, will coordinate support for the migrants while they’re in San Diego.

“Their top need is to contact their families. The girls are really wanting to get to the end of their journey,” Kathy Lembo, the organization’s executive director, told KPBS.

RELATED: Migrant Children Arrive At San Diego Convention Center

SBCS, in coordination with local institutions like Rady’s Children’s Hospital and the County Department of Education, will help make sure the girls are healthy, learning and cared for while in San Diego. At the Convention Center, the girls will receive health check ups, have time for recreation and prepare for life inside the United States.

“What’s wonderful about the San Diego shelter is that the people who actually do this work locally, are getting to do it for these young people,” Lembo said.


Thousands of migrant children continue to arrive at the border, mostly in Texas. The federal government is currently scrambling workers to that area, in an effort to limit the amount of time children spend in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities.

Video: As Migrant Children Arrive, San Diego's Social Service Providers Step Up

For community members looking to help out with the migrants, SBCS has started a fund on its website, for helping the children after they leave government custody.

“We can give them some money to buy a bed, buy clothes, buy extra linens and towels. Because remember, these girls aren’t going to wealthy families. They’re going to hard-working people in the United States,” Lembo said.

People can also volunteer at the shelter through SBCS by registering through its website.

The Convention Center will remain in use as a shelter through July 15, after which it plans on hosting its first convention since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.