ESCONDIDO, Calif. - The Escondido Planning Commission rejected a proposal to turn an old nursing home into a shelter to house undocumented children.
On Tuesday night, nearly 500 people packed into Escondido City Hall to voice their concerns. Police were there in case the crowd got too rowdy.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services wanted to open a 96-bed facility on Avenida Del Diablo, which is currently the site of a nursing home once operated by Palomar Pomerado Health Services.
Escondido's mayor, anti-immigration activists and people who live near the site all opposed it. Ly Lykou came to this country 30 years ago from Asia.
"We did it the right way. We waited in line. We had our lungs X-rayed. If they want to do it the right way, let's do that, but I feel like this is being forced on us. This is not a temporary situation," said Lykou.
One hundred people submitted cards to speak.
"There's a six-foot fence that's going to go around this. There's a 27-foot fence at our border and we can't keep kids out," said one resident.
Another man said, "Rather than shipping these people all across America, send them back to their countries of origin."
Southwest Key would have run the facility. Alexis Rodriguez is with the nonprofit, which currently operates 22 other shelters in California, Texas and Arizona.
"These children are coming from extreme impoverished backgrounds. They are grateful for things that most of us take for granted such as three meals a day and an opportunity to get an education while they are with us," said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said most kids are transported to a family member in the United States after spending roughly 22 days at the center.
"We think we can be a benefit to the city of Escondido. We are offering 150 jobs to the local community. We would be infusing $8.5 million a year every year into the local economy," said Rodriguez.
Supporters said this was a chance for Escondido to side with humanity.
"I think we have enough space and enough heart to take in kids that are escaping from violence and have no hope," said Nina Deerfield.