Supervisors declare humanitarian crisis on federal response to migrant issue
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously declared the lack of federal resources for asylum seekers a humanitarian crisis, along with making several recommendations.
The vote follows recent public concern over migrants being dropped in the San Diego County area by U.S. border agents.
As proposed by Supervisors Jim Desmond and board Chairwoman Nora Vargas, the declaration also:
- requests federal resources and personnel to manage asylum seekers, and connect them to their sponsors and final destinations, to prevent releasing them onto the street;
- opposes lateral transfers of asylum seekers from other states or jurisdictions;
- directs the county Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to send a detailed letter outlining the specific needs of local non-governmental organizations and impacted communities to San Diego's federal delegation;
- advocates for federal funding to develop a long-term solution, including a permanent facility and operational support when asylum seekers are released into the county;
- in connection to a previous board decision in early February, directs the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs to continue working with governments and non-governmental organizations on short- and long-term goals for the permanent border community. Vargas said that while the county has welcomed those requesting asylum based on a legal right to do so, it faces the challenge of a broken immigration system.
"Every day, all over the world, people make the most difficult decision to leave their lives in search of a safer and better life," Vargas said, adding the county "always steps up to meet the challenges when people needed it the most."
Vargas said that while she and Desmond "may have fundamentally different views on immigration policy, we can both agree on one thing: This county urgently needs federal resources as we face a humanitarian crisis."
Desmond said the migrant crisis is neither a Democrat nor a Republican issue, but "a federal responsibility issue."
Desmond mentioned having visited a transit center Sunday in Oceanside and heard people who were dropped off asking, "Where am I?"
The immigration system is broken, and people are capitalizing on the federal government's ineptness in terms of handling it, Desmond said.
"We can't just continue down this path," Desmond said. "We have empathy and we must acknowledge the practical limits of our own capacity to meet the needs of those who arrive in our region."
Both Desmond and Vargas praised the efforts of various nonprofits which have helped migrants with food, shelter or other resources. Representatives from some of those organizations, while supporting the declaration, also asked the county to do more. A woman who said she was a member of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad, suggested that the county needed to apply for badly needed Federal Emergency Management Agency money, as one example.
"We'd like to make it clear that we cannot wait another day for the county to respond as well," she said, adding that migrants are at risk of being trafficked or illness.
Over the weekend, Desmond complained about federal agents' continuing practice of dropping off migrants from the Mexico border in San Diego County.
"This morning, I visited the Oceanside transit station and witnessed Border Patrol officials drop off over 20 migrants. Nearly 7,000 migrants have been dropped in San Diego in the past 10 days alone," Desmond wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
His colleague Joel Anderson penned a letter to President Joe 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 those seeking refuge in our border county."