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Region moving fast to prep convention center for migrant children

Migrant Children
Posted at 5:04 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 20:27:35-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher's phone rang around 1`1 a.m. Saturday morning.

A rep from Health and Human Services was on the other end. The agency needed a place to house some of the 15,000 unaccompanied minor children apprehended at the U.S. Mexico border.

"Saturday at 4 p.m. we were all on a Zoom call talking about doing it," Fletcher said Tuesday.

Specifically, they came up with a plan to house a number of the migrant children at the San Diego Convention Center. The venue is in its final days as a socially distanced homeless shelter.

By the end of the week, unaccompanied minors who came from Central and South America to seek asylum could be living there instead. The children have come with the hope that President Biden's policies combined with the fact that they're alone would allow them a better chance to be granted entry.

Currently, they're in overcrowded Customs and Border Protection facilities.

"It's always disheartening to see some of the conditions that these children are in, these children who have a legal claim to be here, who have a legal right to be here, who have claimed asylum are in conditions and situations in Customs and Border Patrol detention facilities that simply should be unacceptable to all of us," Fletcher said.

At the convention center, the children will get a place to eat, sleep, shower and an outdoor recreational area. They are expected to stay for 30 to 35 days until they are reunited with family in the US or a sponsor.

Congressman Darrell Issa, a Republican, blamed the Biden administration for the crisis at the border. He said instead of trying to find the next convention center, the administration should focus on a long-term solution.

"California is paying an especially heavy price for the Biden Administration’s border crisis – with both monetary cost and human suffering increasing every day," Issa said in a statement.

Mayor Todd Gloria said San Diego is a welcoming city, and this would be a chance to step up while the situation is addressed at the federal level.

"Our new president has inherited a broken immigration system made worse because of the last couple of years," he said. "The infrastructure to care for many of these children really isn't there."

Gloria also announced Tuesday that the last 550 homeless people living in the convention center would be transitioning to bridge shelters around downtown over the next two days. In all, 4,000 people stayed at the center during the pandemic, with 1,300 moving to permanent housing.

The Convention Center is expected to serve as a migrant shelter until July, when conventions are scheduled to start again.