Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Border & Immigration

San Diego's Migrant Welcome Center to close, months after opening

SBCS, the organization running the Migrant Welcome Center in San Diego, says its finite resources have been stretched to the limit after a surge in the number of migrants seeking assistance.

As a result, SBCS said it is closing the center on Thursday, Feb. 22.

That’s unwelcome news for the partner agencies that have been working with them.


“We have been given very little notice to plan for a response,” said Al Otro Lado executive director Erika Pinheiro.

Her organization has been providing family reunification services at the center.

She’s frustrated it's already closing after opening last October.

“The Migrant Welcome Center was supposed to address the issue of street releases in San Diego County,” she said.

Before the center opened, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents would drop migrants at transit centers throughout the region, and nonprofits set up makeshift welcome centers with services nearby.


Like Al Otro Lado, Immigrant Defenders Law Center is one of the groups that worked at the makeshift centers and the location run by SBCS.

“What we really need is long-term planning,” said the organization's managing attorney Paulina Reyes-Perrariz.

The County of San Diego set aside $6 million in funds for SBCS to operate the welcome center over the past six months — but those funds have run out.

Reyes-Perrariz is asking for financial accountability and transparency.

“We still have not received information of how the money was spent,” she said.

Supervisor Jim Desmond was the lone vote against additional funding for the Migrant Welcome Center in December. He said he’s glad to see it ending.

“It is unsuitable for the county of San Diego to continue to foot the bill for a federal government issue,” Desmond said.

SBCS declined an interview.

In a statement President and CEO Kathie Lembo said they knew the county funding was for “a limited time.”

The statement also said SBCS would work with the county and their partners to try to find a way to keep the center open to prevent “hundreds of individuals a day from being stranded in San Diego without the support they need to continue their journey.”

The nonprofit partner agencies said many of the people at the center were coming from open-air migrant camps near Jacumba and San Ysidro.

They said there are now a lot of unknowns for how migrants will be moved throughout San Diego County.

KPBS has created a public safety coverage policy to guide decisions on what stories we prioritize, as well as whose narratives we need to include to tell complete stories that best serve our audiences. This policy was shaped through months of training with the Poynter Institute and feedback from the community. You can read the full policy here.