The migrant shelter at the Long Beach Convention Center has closed, Mayor Robert Garcia announced Friday, July 23, more than a week before the end of the site’s contract.
Since the shelter first opened in April, 1,538 migrant children have moved through the facility and the vast majority of them are now with family members or sponsors. About 150 of them, though, were transferred to smaller sites run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as another step in the process of unifying them with family.
None of the children were moved from the Long Beach shelter to other large-scale sites, such as the facility at the Pomona Fairplex, Garcia said.
“We could not be more proud to know that, as a city, we played a part of a much broader mission,” Garcia said in a Friday afternoon briefing, “to ensure that these children had dignity, had health care, had access to food, had access to education and, most importantly, would be reunified with their family.”
Federal officials tapped the Convention Center earlier this year as a temporary migrant shelter, along with several other facilities across the country — mostly in California and Texas — as an influx of children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America made their way to the border without a parent.
The Long Beach facility — housing mostly girls at least 5 years old — was one of two operating in Los Angeles County, with the other one at the Pomona Fairplex; HHS has leased that facility, which is still open, through the end of the year.
The Long Beach shelter provided the children with medical care, education and recreational opportunities. The facility could house up to 1,000 children, though federal officials kept the population below that so they could more easily monitor coronavirus cases.
“It’s our legal and moral obligation to care for the well-being of unaccompanied children in our care as we work to safely unite them with their parents or with vetted sponsors,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a written statement. “Since its opening, the Long Beach Emergency Intake Shelter has been an example of the care we can provide when staff, volunteers, local leaders and neighboring communities come together to support a temporary shelter
The facility’s closure comes amid signs in recent months that the surge of unaccompanied minors may be ebbing a bit — though there was a slight uptick in June.
Federal authorities encountered 15,253 unaccompanied minors at the southern border last month, up from 14,137 in May. In April, border authorities encountered 17,144, data from U.S. Border and Customs Protection shows. And in March, they encountered 18,877 minors — double February’s count and an all-time monthly high.
Work is already underway to break down the Long Beach shelter, Garcia said, and the Convention Center should be back to normal operations by Aug. 3 or 4. The first convention scheduled there is the Graphics Pro Expo, which has long been on the books and is set for Aug. 12.
While the Long Beach shelter has now closed, officials said Friday, work to support the children who were housed there will continue as they navigate the immigration system.
The Immigrant Defenders Law Center, for example, provided attorneys for each child in the shelter, and the organization’s legal services director, Yliana Mendez, said the group will continue to help the children.
“While the work we did inside this facility was so important, the most important part comes next,” she said. “Now that they are with their families, their immigration proceedings are about to begin. ImmDef, the Immigrant Defenders Law Center, will continue fighting for these children’s rights for all those that are being reunified locally.
“We will connect these children with legal service providers and community service providers, education and medical service providers,” Mendez added, “to ensure that they continue to receive the support from the community now that they are with their families.”
Garcia, for his part, said he was also committing to that continued support.
“I know I’m committed, others are committed,” he said, “to helping Immigrant Defenders to ensure that these kids continue to get the support as they go on through their immigration journey, particularly in the legal process.”
Source: Orange County Register