SAN DIEGO -- A local immigration advocacy group says the county is facing a health and humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of migrant families here seeking asylum.
The group, Immigration Justice League, claims that many families are dealing with conditions that are so bad, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is guilty of child abuse.
The IJL rallied in front of the San Diego County administration building Monday morning prior to the inauguration of the new county supervisors, The group said hundreds of legal asylum seekers, including hundreds of children, are going without food, shelter and resources. The group called on the supervisors to help the families as they wait for asylum hearings .
“Look at that picture of a child in a cage. That is what we are doing,” said one IJL member.
The group says many migrants are suffering in horrendous conditions at ICE detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border or in migrant shelters. Others are even homeless on the streets of San Diegos.
“I volunteered at the asylum relief shelter many times. I wiped the children’s runny noses. I wrapped blankets around them to stop their shivering. Even when their teeth are chattering, many of them are smiling, because they’re so happy to finally feel safe," said one IJL speaker.
The group also alleges the supervisors have committed child abuse under California law, because they have failed to report suspected abuse or neglect of children. They said county officials have failed to provide children with adequate food, shelter, clothing, medical treatment or supervision.
“We’re here to demand that they [the supervisors] do their jobs," one IJL member said. "What are their jobs? To protect the health and welfare of the people in this region.”
District 1 County Supervisor Greg Cox said he and District 4 Supervisor Nathan Fletcher recognize the problem, and they will introduce a proposal to help migrant families at Tuesday’s board meeting.
“Our primary focus is going to be on the health and human services side of this -- public health," Cox said. "That’s the county’s primary role is to make sure that those people that are coming through the process are given the healthcare needs they need temporarily until they get to their final destination.”
Cox said he hopes to put together a task force of state, county and city representaitves to come up with a plan for a transitional refugee shelter.
“It’s really a humanitarian issue," Cox said. "These are folks that have gone through the process we have and have been vetted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and they are basically going to have their opportunity to prove their worthiness to be given asylum in the United States. In the interim we need to make sure there’s the ability to get them to wherever their sponsor's home base is."
The migrant issue will be discussed during the supervisor's meeting on Tuesday.