Local politicians speak out over mass migrant drop-offs at transit stations
As U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents continue to drop off hundreds of migrants at transit centers throughout San Diego County Friday, local politicians are speaking out against the policy.
The cited cause of the drop-offs is an attempt to clear a space between two U.S.-Mexico border fences where more than 700 migrants, asylum- seekers and refugees had been camping, a CBP statement read.
One group was dropped off this week at the Oceanside Transit Center.
City staff and local organizations were informed of the drop offs ahead of time.
"Even if its an hour or two in advance, it gives us the chance to pivot resources. To make sure we're there and available and on time to get them back to their families," said Salvador Roman with the city of Oceanside.
He said the tip from CBP made all the difference in organizing basic resources.
"Most of them had no idea where they were dropped off," Roman said. "They weren’t dropped off with any items other than their documentation. They hadn’t showered in days. We're here just to provide the essentials."
Local non profit organizations set out food and water, clothes, and power to charge their phones.
Volunteers were also helping them coordinate travel arrangements to their sponsors.
"Really basic necessities. We're helping them contact their sponsors and working through the logistics of booking a plane ticket. Or arranging transportation to the airport. Or putting them up for the night if their flight isn't until tomorrow. Getting something warm in their stomachs. These people have had a rough journey," said Janet Reeves with Interfaith Community Services.
She says most sponsors are quick to book plane tickets but some can't afford it- leaving organizations looking for ways to cover the cost.
On Thursday, officers closed the Pedestrian West border crossing in San Ysidro so authorities could process the people stuck between the border. Migrants have been brought to transit centers as far north as Oceanside.
"I have been in close communication with the city of Oceanside's elected leaders and senior staff, as well as local social services organizations, to help the migrants who were dropped off here without a choice, and I applaud their responsiveness," said Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point. "I have also communicated my concerns to the White House about the lack of resources provided to our community to deal with this. I'm committed to ensuring a safe, rapid and respectful resolution to this situation."
He described the country's immigration system as broken and urged Congress to act.
Other officials were more direct.
"This isn't humane. This isn't compassionate," wrote San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond on Thursday. "The Federal Government is failing in its obligation to protect the people of San Diego County. This system is broken and puts our region at risk. If the Federal Government wants to process asylum seekers, it must provide adequate resources to manage people entering our area.
"Most of them had no idea where they were dropped off. They weren’t dropped off with any items other than their documentation. They hadn’t showered in days."Salvador Roman, city of Oceanside.
"We already have a severe homeless problem in San Diego County, this will only worsen it," Desmond said. "We should not be forced to chase the Feds' actions to protect San Diegans."
The drop-offs have overwhelmed nonprofits, such as Jewish Family Service, which runs the shelter system for the San Diego Rapid Response Network, a coalition that supports asylum seekers arriving in San Diego.
"Effective immediately and going forward, the shelter will limit arrivals only to the most vulnerable asylum seekers released by DHS, including those with medical conditions, families, pregnant people, LGBTQI, older adults, etc., as space allows," a statement from the nonprofit reads.
County Supervisor Joel Anderson penned a letter to President Biden asking for assistance "Receiving assistance from the federal government to process the asylum seekers entering San Diego and immediately halting the lateral transfer of asylum seekers from other states will allow us to better address this continuing humanitarian crisis without adding to our region's existing homelessness crisis," he wrote.
According to Anderson's letter, the San Diego Rapid Response Network has served more than 157,000 people with shelter and other humanitarian aid since the Department of Homeland Security began releasing hundreds of migrant families onto San Diego's streets in the fall of 2018.
"We expect an unknown number of individuals to be released by DHS directly into our community, left at transit centers throughout the region to fend for themselves," Anderson wrote. "This is neither safe nor fair to San Diego County residents nor to the those seeking refuge in our border county."