The Biden Administration is partnering with San Diego to turn the city’s convention center into a temporary shelter to support unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the United States.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Nathan Fletcher said Monday that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra “requested our help to house some of the unaccompanied minors at the border,” saying they “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,” they said in a joint statement. “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.”
The added: “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 convention center, according to the city, will be a temporary shelter for unaccompanied migrant children up to age 17.
The plans are still being finalized, but once operational, the site will be used for approximately three months, giving each child an average stay between 30 and 35 days. While at the site, the unaccompanied children would be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers, according to the city.
The city said a “safe and secure recreation area will also be created on the exterior of the facility. The children are not permitted to leave the convention center until reunification occurs.”
“Every child in our care deserves a safe place to rest and to know their well-being is addressed,” Becerra said Monday. “The County and City of San Diego has generously offered to partner with the Department as we abide by the law to provide unaccompanied children with food, sanitation and shelter.”
Becerra added: “Our task is to protect the health and safety of unaccompanied children, who are under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while they go through their immigration proceedings.”
The Department of Health and Human Services Refugee Resettlement Program is expected to fund the temporary shelter, along with other federal partners including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The temporary shelter comes as thousands of unaccompanied children attempt to enter the United States.
The number of migrant children in federal custody has surged past 4,000, with roughly 94% of beds for migrant children occupied, sources told Fox News, while adding that migrant children are entering federal custody faster than they are leaving, creating a backlog.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, during the briefing on Monday, though, again squashed the characterization of a “crisis.”
“Children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing prosecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis,” Psaki said. “We feel it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they are treated and put into conditions that are safe.”
Psaki said White House officials, in reviewing photos of inside the Border Patrol facilities, said they are “not places made for children,” and not places the administration wants children to be staying for extended periods of time.
“The alternative is to send children back on this treacherous journey,” Psaki said. “That is not, in our view, the right choice to make.”
Psaki said the administration’s focus, at this point, is “on solutions” and “putting in place policies, including expediting processing at the border and opening additional facilities.”
“Our focus is on solutions and implementing them as quickly as possible,” Psaki said.