SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Convention Center will be used for about three months to help house unaccompanied children seeking asylum at the border, as the country faces a surge in claims for asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Monday, in a joint statement, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and County Supervisor Chair Nathan Fletcher said the convention center would become a temporary shelter for those children after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra reached out to leaders for help.
"When [Becerra] requested our help to house some of the unaccompanied minors at the border, we knew it was the right thing to do. Over the weekend, we agreed to open our Convention Center to the federal government for use as a temporary shelter. The City and County will support this federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety. We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the details for preparing to receive these young people and provide them with care, compassion and a safe space to transition while they are reunited with families or sponsors," the joint statement said.
Currently, the U.S. is scrambling to build up the capacity to care for 14,000 unaccompanied children in federal custody, according to the Associated Press.
"Some of these children became separated from their family during their long and dangerous journey, some are orphans, and others were sent by desperate parents with hopes of delivering their children to a safe haven away from trauma, poverty, and danger in their home country," a release from Gloria's office read.
A date is being finalized for when the convention center would become the temporary home. Those brought to the center will include children up to the age of 17 years old, county officials said. It wasn't immediately clear how many children would be brought to the center.
Once the site is operational, the site will be used for about three months, officials added, saying that the average stay for each child will be about 30 to 35 days. The center will provide food, medical care, sleeping arrangements, and showers. Space will also be secured for recreation. The children will not be allowed to leave the center until reunification, officials said.
The HHS Refugee Resettlement Program will fund the temporary shelter at the center.
The San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services, which is operated by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, announced Monday that they were in urgent need of volunteers and staff to help amid an increase in immigration processing.
“We remain committed to welcoming asylum seekers into the United States and helping them travel to their loved ones across the U.S., with public health as the top priority. The last two weeks have been exceptionally challenging. In order to serve the hundreds of asylum seekers in our care, more volunteers and staff are needed,” said Michael Hopkins, CEO of Jewish Family Service. “We continue to work with all levels of government and our partners to determine how we can all best meet needs. It is critical that the federal government continue to work to rebuild and reimagine our country’s broken asylum and immigration systems, including the processes for migrant shelter services across the border region.”
This week, the convention center is set to transition homeless individuals staying there as part of the city's Operation Shelter to Home program to beds throughout the city's shelter system. That program has helped nearly 1,300 people and 43 families find permanent or long-term housing since it was opened after the pandemic began.
About two years ago, San Diego County used a closed county courthouse to help temporarily shelter asylum-seeking families released by the government.
This article was written by Mark Saunders for KGTV.