SD councilwoman calls on city to help migrants

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Members of the Gonzalez family, from Guatemala and part of the Central American migrants who travelled in caravan to the Mexico-US border, pose for a portrait as they have breakfast outside their tent in a temporary shelter in downtown Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on December 18, 2018. (Photo: GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — San Diego City Councilwoman Barbara Bry joined a growing number of local and state politicians Monday by calling for the city’s short- and long-term support of immigrants who have recently arrived in the city.

Human rights, service and faith-based organizations have been offering humanitarian aid to migrants and asylum-seekers for the last several months. According to these organizations and their coalition, the San Diego Rapid Response Network, these migrants often lack resources once they enter the U.S. and can end up homeless. The SDRRN claimed on Dec. 6 to have helped more than 1,700 migrants and asylum-seekers in recent months.

Bry, the council’s president pro tem and a likely Democratic candidate for San Diego mayor in 2020, called on city officials to draft a list of properties that could be used as short-term shelters for migrants and asylum-seekers until a long-term solution is found. Bry also suggested that officials at all levels of government as well as nonprofits and local humanitarian leaders coordinate to solve what Bry described as a humanitarian crisis.

“San Diego is blessed that a coalition of human rights and service organizations, attorneys and community leaders have come together to form the San Diego Rapid Response Network to help immigrant families,” Bry said in a statement. “To date, they have aided more than 3,200 individuals’ travel to reunite with family and friends all over the country. … Our homeless crisis could be exacerbated without services like this in place to connect recently arrived immigrants to friends or family members in the United States.”

State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, made a similar plea to political leaders Dec. 18 and said her office is discussing possible solutions with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom also has lamented the lack of sustainable support for migrants in San Diego and Imperial counties. After visiting the Otay Mesa Immigration Detention Center Nov. 29, Newsom suggested that the two counties and the state government should do more to proactively support migrants.

Migration advocates like the SDRRN claim that federal immigration authorities like U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are releasing an average of 80 migrants into San Diego County each day. Immigration authorities have slowly filtered through thousands of asylum claims after Central American migrants arrived by the thousands in Tijuana in early November.

In turn, the federal government deployed military troops to the U.S- Mexico border and fortified it with concertina wire and jersey barricades. With the exception of a group of migrants who attempted to cross into the U.S. in late November, most asylum-seekers in Tijuana have remained peaceful. It is unknown how long it will take for immigration authorities to finish processing asylum claims at the border.

While waiting for assistance from local, state and federal leaders, the San Diego Rapid Response Network has collected donations via the crowdfunding website GoFundMe. San Diego and Imperial county residents can donate to the campaign, which has raised $135,437 of its $250,000 goal, at gofundme.com/migrantreliefsd.

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