SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The County of San Diego filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the heads of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, calling for the reinstatement of the “Safe Release” program and reimbursement for the cost of treating a recent influx of asylum seekers.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Ronald D. Vitiello, Immigrant and Customs Enforcement Executive Associate Director Matthew T. Albence, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan, and Chief of Border Patrol Carla L. Provost are named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims the county has been harmed as a result of what it describes as a “sudden and unlawful change” in policy, releasing asylum-seeking migrants from federal detention into the county while “denying them previously-provided assistance in reaching their final destination(s) outside the County.”
From 2009 to October 2018, ICE implemented a policy described in the lawsuit as “Safe Release”, which provided asylum seekers assistance in reaching final destinations outside San Diego, attorneys say. The aid came in the form of phone calls and transportation to other areas of the U.S.
ICE officials said the policy ended last fall due to limited resources to support the program, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims some 40 asylum seekers and family members were dropped off at a San Diego bus station within 24 hours after the end of Safe Release. County attorneys say since then, as many as 80 parents and young children have been released into San Diego County each day. County attorneys wrote the vast majority of asylum seekers and family members must remain in the area without sufficient means to support themselves.
San Diego County has provided surveillance, monitoring, and training, along with health and food safety screenings for the migrant shelter operated by the San Diego Rapid Response Network. Projected costs of the County’s assistance exceed $1.1 million as of Mar. 22, the county reports.
County officials are calling for a judge to reinstate the Safe Release policy and rule that the change in federal government policy violated Administrative Procedure Act.
The County of San Diego also wants a preliminary and permanent injunction requiring the defendants to resume providing asylum seekers and their family members assistance in reaching destinations outside the County.
The lawsuit claims the defendants violated procedural due process, citing the Fifth Amendment that “no person may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”