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Migrant welcome center in SD County set to close on Feb. 22nd

SBCS, which runs the center, confirmed with ABC 10News on Friday
Posted at 7:34 PM, Feb 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-16 23:23:09-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – The migrant welcome center in San Diego County is set to close on February 22nd.

“The center was really important because, at the very least, it provided some central place for orientation to happen to new comers into the United States,” Pedro Rios, the Director of American Friends Service Committee, said. “Now that it’s closing, again, it’s leaving people out on the streets, in the dark about information that’s available to them.”

SBCS, formerly known as South Bay Community Services, has been running the center in San Diego since October of last year and confirmed this with ABC 10News on Friday.

The local non-profit’s CEO Kathie Lembo told ABC 10News in a statement regarding the closure, “As the number of migrants arriving at the center has increased significantly over the last few weeks, our finite resources have been stretched to the limit, leading to the closure of the center on February 22nd.”

“When we accepted the challenge of this work in October of last year, we knew two things: that it spoke to the heart of our mission, and that it was for a limited time.”
“Leading this effort has been an honor. We will continue working with the County and our partners in hopes of identifying additional resources to keep the center open, preventing hundreds of individuals a day from being stranded in San Diego without the support they need to continue their journey.”

As we previously reported San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a total of $6 million in American Rescue Plan funding for the center in 2023. The first $3 million being issued in October 2023 with an additional $3 million being approved in December 2023.

With the center’s impending closure, Rios says it raises questions about accountability and if there’s a transition plan in place.

“We’ve known from the very beginning that this was a temporary stop gap measure. It was always intended as a temporary stop gap measure,” Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said.

This migrant welcome center is designed to give these asylum seekers food, water, clothing, and help them get to their sponsor families.

Lawson-Remer told ABC 10News the hope was when she and Chairwoman Nora Vargas brought this initiative forward it would be a bridge to when Congressional funding for immigration and border aid was approved.

But Lawson-Remer said that hasn’t happened yet on Capitol Hill.

That’s what she said is most disappointing to her with the center’s looming closure.

“For me the disappointment is just to see the way in which these really critical issues that matter so much to San Diego as a border community are being manipulated for political gain at a national level by people who are not impacted,” Lawson-Remer said.

As we saw before the center was open, migrants were being dropped off at different transit centers in the County.

ABC 10News has reached out to Customs & Border Protection if that would resume with the center closing but, we haven’t heard back from them at this time.