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Border & Immigration

As Fewer Unaccompanied Children Cross Border, San Diego Convention Center Workers Reunite Hundreds Of Families

Cots laid out for unaccompanied migrant teens temporarily sheltering at the San Diego Convention Center, March 27, 2021.
Pool photo via Nevin Cepeda / Union-Tribune
Cots laid out for unaccompanied migrant teens temporarily sheltering at the San Diego Convention Center, March 27, 2021.

Customs and Border Protection announced Tuesday that the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border decreased in April, bucking a months-long upward trend. The number of unaccompanied children crossing the border fell 9% in April, from a record high in March.

During the months-long uptick in children crossing the border alone, California’s own border sectors saw just a modest rise in the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors. Those numbers held steady for April.

As Fewer Unaccompanied Children Cross Border, San Diego Convention Center Workers Reunite Hundreds Of Families
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

San Diego Convention Center Continues Processing Migrants

But even without the rise along its own border, San Diego has played a vital role in sheltering thousands of these unaccompanied children.

Since late March, the San Diego convention center has sheltered 2,629 unaccompanied children in total, according to numbers obtained by KPBS.

989 children have been reunited with family members or sponsors, with those numbers increasing in recent days as the federal government has streamlined the process.

The average stay is 30 days, while the average population of children has hovered around 1100 — 400 fewer than the convention center’s capacity.

RELATED: Left With Nothing By Biden Administration, Migrant Families In Tijuana Face An Impossible Choice

Currently, 71 children are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

Emergency intake sites like the convention center have allowed the federal government to quickly move children out of ill-equipped Border Patrol facilities along the border. Currently, only a few hundred children are in those facilities — and none for more than 72 hours.

Now, the job becomes getting these children out of facilities like the convention center and other temporary spaces before they revert to their original uses.

In San Diego, that will be in mid-July, meaning case managers there have eight weeks to reunite children with families or sponsors before they lose the space to hold them — something they’ll accomplish if current trends hold.

San Diego has a goal of ending all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2025. But progress has been slow on this “vision zero” plan, and many bike and pedestrian safety projects have yet to be built. Meanwhile, San Diego Unified announced plans to diversify its teachers and administrators. Plus, the 48 Hour Film Project and the San Diego International Film Festival have been partnering for years to highlight short films made by local filmmakers. This Friday the best of the pandemic short films will be available in a virtual Shorts Fest.