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Advocates Continue to Welcome Asylum Seekers Released by Federal Government onto san diego streets

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Board of Supervisors commended for approving $3 million for humanitarian relief; also commended for upholding accessibility of groundbreaking program providing legal assistance to immigrants.


For Immediate Release

October 11, 2023

Media Contacts: Alicia Vargas, avargas@immdef.org, (213) 653-1442

Melissa Flores, melissa@alotrolado.org, (213) 444-6081

Logan Goverman, lgoverman@interfaithservices.org, (760) 658-1443

Homayra Yusufi, homayra@panasd.org

Cheryl Phelps, CPhelps@aclu-sdic.org

Kendall Martin, kendall@alliancesd.org

Molly Pincherli, molly@jwalcher.com

Ian Seruelo, ianmseruelo@gmail.com

Pedro Rios, Prios@afsc.org, (619) 370-5908


San Diego, CA – Since September 13, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has released more than 15,615 people seeking asylum into San Diego County with no means to meet their basic human needs or to reach their destinations. Immediately, a network of local nonprofit organizations, human and immigrants’ rights advocates, grassroots and faith organizations, and community volunteers responded to welcome asylum seekers with the dignity and compassion they deserve.


With no government support, this network of advocates successfully coordinated resources and people power to provide vital humanitarian assistance – including food, water, basic first aid, WiFi access, and respite shelter – to as many as 750 asylum seekers being released into the local community daily. Their coordinated response also supports asylum seekers’ efforts to reunite with family, friends and sponsors in other parts of the country.


People being released by U.S. immigration authorities have a legal and human right to be in the United States to pursue their asylum claims. They hail from countries around the world, including Angola, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Haiti, Honduras, Mauritania, Morocco, Russia, Senegal, Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam and others.


Advocates commend the San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ October 10 vote to allocate $3 million to support the humanitarian relief efforts of community partners over the next 3 months. There is broad agreement, however, that more must be done at all levels of government to establish the sustainable infrastructure needed to welcome and support asylum seekers over the long term.


While advocates and community members welcome the recent decision by the County of San Diego to secure and direct $3 million to the coordinated endeavor providing basic humanitarian assistance to migrants, we call on the federal government to implement an expeditious and compassionate process for releasing asylum seekers into communities that are prepared to receive them.


Advocates urge the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors to continue to support the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program (IRLDP). Any measure seeking to deny due process and access to counsel to immigrants facing deportation is unjust. The IRLDP keeps families together and provides immigrants in our community access to due process. All people deserve due process rights regardless of who they are, where they were born or what they have experienced.


Members of the coordinated effort shared the following quotes:


“The San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) applauds Chair Nora Vargas and the Board of Supervisors for allocating $3 million to ensure our region is better equipped to welcome all asylum seekers with dignity and respect in our region. We also applaud Chair Vargas and Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer for recognizing the importance of San Diego County’s Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program, which makes our immigration court system more just and more humane by ensuring ALL immigrants in our community have access to basic due process. Both these decisions align with values held not only by San Diegans but also with the stated values of the County of San Diego.”

Paulina Reyes-Perrariz, San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC) Chair and Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) Managing Attorney.


“Our county government has an opportunity to be an example to the world in upholding human rights. We applaud this action in providing much needed resources to help asylum seekers get emergency access to necessities in terms of short-term shelter, access to food, and support with transportation to connect them to their final destination,” said Ramla Sahid Executive Director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. “In addition, San Diego’s Immigration Legal Defense Fund is a national model and we continue to advocate for this program to be preserved and expanded to all those in need of immigration defense.”


“Al Otro Lado is grateful for San Diego County's investment supporting nonprofits in welcoming the newest members of our communities. San Diego is part of a dynamic binational region whose governments and civil society groups must take collective responsibility to address the challenges that come with being situated on the U.S.-Mexico border. San Diego is also home to many immigrant communities who contribute to the diverse and vibrant character of our county, and who deserve support in pursuing legal status and keeping their families together. We welcome continued collaboration with our San Diego County agency partners as we build a more sustainable welcoming infrastructure that should include expanded respite shelter for individuals traveling outside of our region, as well as legal services that help keep immigrant families whole. We hope that the federal and state governments will follow San Diego County's lead and provide additional resources to meet the current needs,” said Erika Pinheiro, Al Otro Lado Executive Director.


“In the United States, we should not expect less than the humane and dignified treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers who arrived at our borders. APALA is glad that the County of San Diego has stepped up in providing resources to support the efforts of different groups and organizations on the ground assisting migrants coming from all over the world.” – Ian M. Seruelo, Chapter Leader, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance – San Diego Chapter.


“The American Friends Service Committee has been working with its partners along the border to provide necessary humanitarian aid to asylum-seekers forced to wait between two border barriers in inhumane conditions in San Diego County. We have been calling on San Diego’s Board of Supervisors to recognize its responsibility in supporting the organizations on the ground who, with limited resources but with boundless compassion, have welcomed asylum-seekers with dignity. While it is promising that the Board of Supervisors is now taking essential steps to budget much-needed funds in support of people in San Diego seeking asylum, we are disappointed that funds will not likely reach asylum-seekers waiting for Border Patrol to process them in at least seven open-air detention sites. We call on the Board of Supervisors to commit to building long-term infrastructure that protects due process rights and basic humanitarian relief for all migrants. We also call on the federal government to respect the right to asylum as bound by federal law and international agreements, including treating people with dignity when under federal custody.” - Pedro Rios, Director, US-Mexico Border Program, American Friends Service Committee.


“Interfaith Community Services continues to lead a broad public-private coalition of partners welcoming and supporting asylum seekers released every day in Oceanside. Our teams providing basic humanitarian aid, orientation, translation, shelter, and travel assistance are in critical need of resources and support to continue this seven-days-per-week, often 12+ hour per day operation. County investment of $3M will help in the short term. We must all work together, community and all levels of government, to create a more robust and sustainable infrastructure to reflect the strength and opportunity of our larger border community.”

- Greg Anglea, CEO, Interfaith Community Services.


“ImmDef applauds San Diego County’s investment in humanitarian assistance for asylum seekers, which will help to build the infrastructure we need to welcome asylum seekers with dignity. In order to meet this challenging moment, we need a strong public-private partnership that centers the humanity of the individuals we are serving in our response,” said Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director of Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef).


“San Diego Rapid Response Network appreciates the County’s support of our partners’ efforts to provide asylum seekers the dignity and respect they deserve on their journey to their final destinations here in the U.S. These funds will only last a few months. It is not enough. To build infrastructure and to ensure non-governmental organizations can continue operating, a long-term commitment is critically needed,” said Kate Clark, Esq., Senior Director of Immigration Services, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Operator of San Diego Rapid Response Network Migrant Shelter Services. “Additionally, we thank the Board of Supervisors for maintaining the integrity of the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program to ensure immigrants in our community receive due process and representation."


“With completely community funded donations and while maintaining our other life sustaining programs along the rural border, Border Kindness has worked in collaboration with groups and community members who have fed, clothed, and supported up to 1,000 people daily who have been arriving to rural Eastern San Diego County with nothing. We celebrate this and all other allocations of resources to aid in providing our recently arrived community members a safe and more dignified journey, and we urge that this includes support for those awaiting border patrol processing in the several open air detention sites along the border, where already vulnerable migrants have been living completely exposed to the harsh elements. We hope this is the beginning of establishing an infrastructure of support that is proactive in the protection of migrant lives, and we urge that this include the federal government in its overdue support.” - Jacqueline Arellano, director of USA programs for Border Kindness.


“Detention Resistance robust network of volunteers and organizers welcomes the San Diego County Board of Supervisors allocation of $3 million to support welcoming with dignity efforts on the ground, and encourages board members to continue to uphold the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Fund Program (IRLDP). We encourage county leadership to build on these efforts with the urgency of people’s lives in mind. As we await support from the state and federal government, local bodies are able to address the situation with greater speed. While the county is positioned to meet the urgency with approved funding, we continue to call on the board to take the lead and stand firm with organizations on the ground,” said Detention Resistance Collective Members.


“We applaud the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and Chair Nora Vargas for taking critical steps toward making our region more humane – by allocating unspent federal funds to temporarily support the humanitarian work led by our direct service partners to welcome asylum seekers being mass released by U.S. immigration authorities; and more just – by ensuring the county’s groundbreaking Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program serves to expand access to due process,” said ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties Executive Director, Norma Chavez-Peterson. “The essence of good governance is to continually anticipate and effectively address the public’s present, urgent and evolving needs. With these recent decisions, the Board of Supervisors demonstrated a profound understanding of this civic and moral obligation. The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties urges county lawmakers to invest in collaborative, sustainable solutions to ensure people seeking asylum are welcomed into San Diego County with the human dignity that every individual deserves.”

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The network of partner non-profit and grassroots organizations providing assistance include Al Otro Lado, American Friends Service Committee, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Border Kindness, Casa Familiar, Detention Resistance Collective, Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef), Interfaith Community Services, Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (SDIRC), San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), Universidad Popular, and many other local organizations


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