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

Migrant advocates overwhelmed after Welcome Center closes

 February 28, 2024 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, February 28th.


Migrant advocates are feeling overwhelmed after the county’s Migrant Welcome Center closed.

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding health care eligibility to millions of veterans.

Eligible veterans will be able to enroll directly in V-A health care without first applying for V-A benefits.

Any veteran exposed to toxins and other hazards while serving at home or abroad will be eligible for V-A health care starting next Tuesday (March 5).

The toxin exposures include air pollutants, chemicals, asbestos, lead, radiation and firefighting foams.

The expansion was mandated by the 20-22 PACT Act.

The department says it’s one of the "largest-ever" expansions for veteran health care.


The I-R-S is extending the deadline for county residents to file and pay their 20-23 federal taxes.

San Diegans now have until June 17th to do so.

The deadline was extended to offer relief to areas designated by FEMA that were affected by last month’s storms… including our county.

The original tax filing deadline was April 15th.

You can visit I-R-S-dot-gov-slash-extensions for more information.


UC-SD and the county are working together to launch a new program to offer free C-P-R training.

The goal of “Revive and Survive San Diego” is to train one million San Diegans on how to perform hands-only C-P-R for people in cardiac arrest.

If someone performs C-P-R before medical professionals arrive, it increases a person’s chance of survival.

County health officials say cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death across the country.

The new program will work with local healthcare providers and organizations to offer the free training.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


It has been less than a week since the county’s Migrant Welcome Center closed because of a lack of funding.

And U-S border officials have already dropped off more than 1-thousand migrants in the streets of San Diego.

Reporter Gustavo Solis says relief organizations are overwhelmed.

Paulina Reyes hasn’t stopped working since last Thursday. Paulina Reyes, Immigrant Defenders Law Center “There is no local, county or federal support.” Reyes is a managing attorney with the Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Which is one of the nonprofits, mutual aid organizations and advocacy groups welcoming migrants at the Iris Avenue Transit Center in San Ysidro. They are scrambling because the Migrant Welcome Center run by the nonprofit SBCS closed last week. San Diego County Supervisors had allocated $6 million for the center and it was supposed to stay open through the end of March. But they ran out of money before the end of February. Meghan Zavala, Al Otro Lado “As a result, this led to the site’s sudden closure without proper notice to on-site partners like ourselves and without any transition plan in place.” Meghan Zavala is a policy analyst with Al Otro Lado. She’s among the advocates frustrated by how quickly the money was spent. “Despite this infusion of $6 million we have no welcoming infrastructure to show for it. Customs and Border Patrol began releasing asylum seekers and other migrants into the streets of San Diego in September. Advocates asked County leaders to invest in long-term efforts like physical space to host these services. But that didn’t happen. And now the street releases are back, with more than 1,000 dropped off since Thursday. “At the moment, we are frustrated that the money was spent in the way it was without a lasting infrastructure. We understand that $6 million isn’t able to keep us going for many years. But it should be an investment to lay a foundation.” To be fair, more than 81,000 migrants went through the Migrant Welcome Center while it was open between October and last week, according to SBCS. Kimko Hirota is a policy advisor with the Women’s Refugee Commission. She says even without the county funding, welcoming migrants doesn’t have to be so chaotic. Kimiko Hirota, Women’s Refugee Commission “The reception of new arrivals doesn’t need to be only through a crisis response or emergency response. It works so much better when we are able to work collaboratively and not back away from the work but instead lean in.” Hirota says there are examples of orderly and sustainable migrant welcoming programs right here in San Diego. Jewish Family Services has serviced more than 200,000 migrants in the last five and a half years. CEO Michael Hopkins says the work requires lots of collaboration. Michael Hopkins, Jewish Family Services “Who will be our partners in helping to do this work. Because this work is bigger than Jewish Family Service or any one organization. It’s bigger than the county, it’s bigger than the city. The state. All partners need to have skin in the game to be doing this work.” Jewish Family Services receives money from the federal government and private donations. But those dollars aren’t fully guaranteed for next year. The overall funding picture is likely to remain cloudy. Budget deficits could lead to cuts at the state level.   And guessing what federal funding will be going forward is next to impossible until after the November election. This is why the San Diego region needs to develop its own  long-term plan. So says Kate Clark, a senior director for Jewish Family Services. Kate Clark, Jewish Family Services “But there are a couple of things that are not going to change. We are a border community, we are a border state. Folks are going to be fleeing from protection from all over the world. Our unsheltered services system is broken our immigration services systems is broken.” But as of now elected officials in San Diego don’t have a plan in place. This week’s agenda for the San Diego County Supervisors indicates that they’ve begun drafting a plan for a “long-term federally funded migrant transfer site,” But still no specifics. KPBS reached out to San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Nora Vargas. Neither responded to a request for an interview. Pedro Rios is another advocate who hasn’t stopped working since the Migrant Welcome Center closed. Pedro Rios, American Friends Service Committee “As members of a governing body, they should be tuned into all of these changes and understand what their roles and responsibilities are. And not just simply say here’s $6 million, fix it. That money is bound to run out. Obviously, it ran out faster than everybody expected it to.” He hopes a plan will be coming soon. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.


The Sempra earnings report released yesterday caused a stir among advocates lobbying to replace SD-G-AND-E with a municipal utility.

Environment reporter Erik Anderson says the shareholders report didn’t itemize SD-G-and-E’s profit.

Protesters were hoping to talk about Sempra Energy’s latest financial report and  San Diego Gas and Electric’s profits. But for the first time in decades, those numbers were grouped together with another Sempra subsidiary Southern California Gas.  Sempra California earned just over one-point-seven billion dollars last year and Power San Diego’s Craig Rose says that leaves questions about SDG-and-E Craig Rose, Power San Diego “It’s a safe bet that they may have earned a billion or nearly a billion dollars, a billion dollars from SDG-and-E overall.  And probably close to $450 million dollars from SDG-and-E operations in San Diego.” Financial filings show SDG-and-E actually had a profit of 936 million dollars last year. That’s 21 million dollars more than the profit they made in 2022. Erik Anderson KPBS News.


Early voting is underway in the county.

Reporter Melissa Mae checked in with the Registrar of Voters to get an update on turnout.

MM: Hundreds of San Diego County voters have cast their ballots in person since the first vote centers opened Saturday. MM: Assistant Registrar of Voters Shawn Brom says vote centers are staffed with bilingual poll workers. SB “Spanish, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Chinese. Those are located at all of the vote centers throughout the county as best we can. And then there are select precincts that have the other targeted state and county covered languages and those are Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Laosian, Somali, and Persian.” MM: Starting Saturday, all 218 county vote centers will be open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. On election day, all vote centers, ballot drop off boxes and the registrar’s office will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM. Melissa Mae KPBS News.


There’s a new classroom on wheels in the San Diego Unified School District.

Education reporter M.G. Perez tells us it’s San Diego's latest food truck.

They threw a fiesta for a food truck.  The state-of-the-art kitchen on wheels was designed by and will be operated with the talent and ambition of culinary students in the San Diego Unified School District. The Intuit company paid for the truck and is partnered with the district to provide work based learning. 17 year old Taiga Pangelinan is a senior at Morse High School ready to cook on the road for everyone to enjoy his Asian inspired food. “if they do come afterwards and tell me the food was great…that’s what makes me happy..that’s what makes me feel I accomplished what I was meant to do.” The food truck is named ‘Sunset Bites’...and will travel during year to all 5 high schools with culinary programs…according to Sarah Vielma director of the district’s College, Career and Technical Education “it gives them exposure to a possible career path..ability to get work experiences…to meet people that are in the industry.” The Sunset Bites truck should be ready for students to use in about a month. MGP KPBS News. 


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. Join us again tomorrow for the day’s top stories. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Wednesday.

Ways To Subscribe
The San Diego County Migrant Welcome Center abruptly closed last week. The closure has forced advocates for migrants and asylum seekers to work around the clock. In other news, the Sempra earnings report released yesterday caused a stir among advocates lobbying to replace SDG&E with a municipal utility. Plus, there’s a new classroom on wheels in the San Diego Unified School District. We learn about San Diego's latest food truck.