Proposed facility in Escondido for undocumented youth sparks debate

ESCONDIDO, Calif. - A proposal to open up a facility to hold undocumented children in Escondido has sparked an angry backlash from neighbors.

Kitty Demry said the joy of living in her neighborhood is now at risk because of the possible new arrival.

"I am outraged," said Demry.

The Department of Health and Human Services is applying to turn a former senior care facility in the 1800 block of Avenida del Diablo into a facility for undocumented, unaccompanied children between 6 and 17 years of age. A six-foot fence would surround the facility, 10News learned.

According to the proposal, the 96-bed facility would also provide services including education, recreation and basic medical.

Recently, images of undocumented children in overcrowded detention facilities in Texas have surfaced amid a surge of illegal immigration from Central America.

The Department of Homeland Security issued an open letter Monday cautioning parents thinking of sending their children with smugglers.

This comes as the Border Patrol suddenly canceled flights that would have brought hundreds of migrants from Texas to California, including San Diego.

"How big is the need for this type of facility in San Diego?" asked 10News reporter Michael Chen.

 "The need is urgent," said Estela De Los Rios, executive director of CSA San Diego County.

The immigrant rights activist said she hasn't heard any horror stories inside the three local facilities -- totaling about 100 beds -- but added the facilities are always full.

Demry believes the federal government is pushing a national problem on her community. The children would be at the facility between 10 and 60 days.

"They're dumping kids that we don't know anything about in our community and saying it is our responsibility," said Demry.

She worries about declining property values and exposure to children with unknown health issues and backgrounds.

"If they are gang members, are they going to rob our homes because they need money?" said Demry, "We are concerned about crime in our community."

"We cannot make assumptions. We just have to do what is right and what's right is to take care of these children. This is a humane issue," said De Los Rios.

Demry is marshalling neighbors for a Planning Commission hearing to consider the proposal Tuesday evening. She showed 10News a letter sent by Rep. Duncan Hunter opposing the facility.

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