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Border & Immigration

300 Teen Girls Moved From Convention Center To Make Room For Younger Migrants

A health screening site set up inside the Convention Center for arriving migrant teens, March 27, 2021.
Pool photo via CBS 8
A health screening site set up inside the Convention Center for arriving migrant teens, March 27, 2021.

Hundreds of asylum-seeking teenaged girls were transferred from the emergency intake site at the San Diego Convention Center to another site in Texas last night in order to make room for younger migrant children, it was announced Friday.

To create space in the convention center, the U.S. Department of Health and Human services moved the 300 girls — who had been brought to San Diego from a Border Patrol site in Texas last month — to Fort Bliss in Texas in an exchange for an equal number of children between the ages of 5 and 12 and their older siblings.

These "tender age" children have been in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and will arrive in San Diego on Friday, city officials said.


"San Diego was chosen as the best place for the most vulnerable younger children because of the high standards of care that our local service providers like South Bay Community Services and Rady Children's Hospital have set," wrote Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Supervisors Nora Vargas and Nathan Fletcher in a joint statement.

"We are incredibly proud of the work they have done in such a short period of time," they added. "Regardless of the ages of the children arriving, San Diego will give them the compassionate support they need as they await the day they're connected with the family members or guardians who will care for them here in the United States."

Speaking to KPBS Friday afternoon, Fletcher said taking the children in was the right thing to do.

"These are kids that have traveled thousands of miles, often by themselves. They came to America, they were put in deplorable conditions in CBP (Customs and Border Protection), and they come to the convention center, and it’s something to see these kids overjoyed at a cot, a soccer ball to kick around and someone who gives them compassion and empathy and love," he said.

RELATED: Almost 19,000 Migrant Children Stopped At U.S. Border in March, Most Ever In A Month


According to the local leaders, the casework involving the girls moving to Texas will continue, with hopes of uniting them with verified family or sponsors as soon as possible.

The San Diego emergency intake site started on March 27 with a focus on girls between the ages of 13 and 17. In addition, roughly 100 tender-age children with older sisters were taken in before the site reached its capacity of 1,450. The convention center will operate in this capacity until July 15.

The unaccompanied migrant children in San Diego are provided with comprehensive case management, medical and behavioral health care, educational and recreational activities, nutritious meals, hygiene and legal assistance.

No children will be transported out of the San Diego site if they have COVID-19. More than 70 of the children kept in federal custody have tested positive for COVID-19, HHS officials said last week.

HHS officials said in order to accommodate the new population, there will be an increase in the number of staff needed for supervision. HHS will adjust staffing through existing contracts and an increase in federal staff on site. There will also be adjustments made to the contracted services for education, mental health and food/nutritional services.