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Border & Immigration

Atkins Calls For Increased Support Of Migrants

State Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is shown speaking at the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego, June 7, 2016.
Nancee Lewis
State Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, is shown speaking at the Westin Hotel in downtown San Diego, June 7, 2016.

Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, called on elected officials at all levels of government Tuesday to improve support systems for migrants and asylum-seekers in U.S.-Mexico border communities like San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico.

Human-rights, service and faith-based organizations have been assisting migrants entering San Diego in recent months, since migrants and asylum-seekers often don't have concrete support networks in place once they get on U.S. soil.

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On Dec. 6, the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition of such organizations, reported that it had offered shelter and humanitarian aid to more than 1,700 asylum-seeking migrants in recent months.

Federal immigration authorities like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers have been releasing an average of 80 migrants into San Diego County each day, according to the SDRRN.

"I am watching with growing concern as thousands of migrants are released into the San Diego community in the middle of the night without so much as a meal to sustain them for one evening," Atkins said.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom made similar comments when he visited the Otay Mesa Immigration Detention Center Nov. 29, calling on officials in San Diego and Imperial counties to proactively support asylum-seekers rather than just responding to them. Newsom added that the state government's support efforts must also be improved.

Central American migrants began arriving by the thousands in Tijuana in early November, prompting the federal government to deploy military personnel to the border and reinforce existing fencing with jersey barricades and concertina wire in an attempt to prevent illegal border crossings. Immigration officials have since been filtering through asylum claims, but it remains unknown how long it may take to process the bulk of those claims.


Atkins said her office is discussing possible solutions to the influx of migrants with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is already dealing with ways to solve the city's homelessness issue.

"I am also calling on the county of San Diego and state officials to step up and provide services and funding that are desperately needed," Atkins said. "And finally, I call on Congress and the federal administration to find a coherent, long-term solution to ensure migrants can exercise their right to seek asylum in a safe and orderly way, in accordance with U.S. and international law."