Touring the East County’s shelter for immigrant children

EL CAJON, Calif. -- Journalists got a first look Friday inside an East County shelter where undocumented children live while immigration officials try to determine their future.

The kids living at El Cajon's Casa San Diego either arrived in the country unaccompanied or were separated from their parents at the border. Undocumented children stay, on average, about 45 days in camps like these in several border states, waiting for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement to either place them in the custody of family members or a foster family in the US, or to return them to their home country.

KSWB reporting partner the San Diego Union-Tribune was one of the few news organizations allowed inside the El Cajon center Friday, and reporter Kate Morrissey caught up with FOX 5 outside the shelter to describe what she saw.

For the most part, there was a sense of normalcy -- colorful classrooms, kids playing soccer and students learning how to say "good morning" in one another's language. But there were also stark reminders of the students' heart-wrenching circumstances, like the room where the kids are allowed to place brief calls to parents.

The shelter is one of three in San Diego County. Casa San Diego is for boys only -- girls in San Diego County have been placed into one of two smaller shelters in Lemon Grove and El Cajon.