County to identify sites, funding for migrant shelters

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on April 26 to identify and use a portion of county property as temporary shelter for migrant families, and to seek state and federal reimbursements for services delivered at the shelter.

To meet those goals, a new subcommittee consisting of Supervisors who work with county staff and outside agency partners will be formed specifically to manage the project.

The item, which was introduced by Chair Nathan Fletcher who primarily oversees central San Diego in District 4, and Vice Chair Nora Vargas who oversees South San Diego in District 1, was submitted to the Board less than 30 days before the federal government is set to terminate Title 42.

Title 42 was a March 2020 federal health order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented by then-President Donald Trump cited the pandemic as a public health reason to bar people from entering the United States.

“We are proactively taking steps to embrace asylees who come to San Diego County after Title 42 is terminated,” said Chair Fletcher.

East County District 2 Supervisor Joel Anderson, who represents District 2 said he wants to make sure homeless individuals who are already in San Diego do not continue to go unhoused while new arrivals are given shelter.

“We’ve always been a warm and welcoming country but I’m also concerned my district needs shelter for homeless individuals,” Anderson said.

However, Vargas said there are different needs to be met for individuals seeking asylum and “the unsheltered population looking for longterm shelter,” and one does not supplant the other.

“To echo the Vice Chair’s comments… We can tackle both homeless and provide a modest effort to ensure asylum seeking individuals,” Fletcher said.

The county has an obligation, he said, to ensure humane and compassionate care for individuals coming to the United States through the county. Furthermore, he said, the current Board of Supervisors has an obligation to develop a long term, sustainable approach so future boards “don’t have to scramble every six months” as the situation changes.

Fletcher also said he believes there is funding available through agencies like the department of Health and Human Services.

During time for public comments, resident Natalie Hayes said she is concerned about “checks and balances” involved with placing vulnerable families that have young children in unsafe environments like Mission Valley hotels.

However Jewish Family Services Chief of Staff Chris Olsen said he believes identifying shelter space for asylum seekers “significantly strengthens work being done with partners and helps create pathways for immigrants to reach their final destination” safely.

“If the federal government does end Title 42, we have to be prepared… It’s our job to keep the county safe and this is a federal issue that greatly impacts San Diego county,” District 5 Supervisor Jim Desmond said, and the county’s job is to offer services to asylum seekers. Still, he asked that any long term policy coming from the new subcommittee be directed back to the board before implementation.

County to identify sites, funding for migrant shelters