Posted on October 18, 2023

US Releases Asylum Seekers on the Streets. Some Suburbs Bear the Burden.

Daniel Trotta, Reuters, October 17, 2023

Overwhelmed by record numbers of asylum seekers from around the world, U.S. border officials have released thousands of migrants on streets in the San Diego area the past month, including about 1,400 in the beach town of Oceanside.

Twice a day, Customs and Border Protection vans or buses drop off asylum seekers at the transit center in Oceanside, a city of 172,000 about 50 miles (80 km) north of the border, say humanitarian organizations and volunteers who welcome the migrants and help them reach destinations elsewhere in the U.S.

They are among some 18,500 people released on the street in the San Diego area since Sept. 13, according to local government officials and legal and humanitarian organizations that have been in contact with CBP.

CBP said in a statement to Reuters that when non-governmental organizations that normally receive migrants are over capacity, the Border Patrol coordinates with local governments to identify “alternate safe locations where migrants can conveniently access transportation services or accommodations.”

Most of the street releases take place in San Ysidro, the district of San Diego that borders the Mexican city of Tijuana, but they also take place in suburbs such as Oceanside and El Cajon, just east of San Diego.

The arrivals farther from the border show how communities in different parts of the United States can find themselves directly involved in the immigration crisis. Local leaders are clamoring for more federal funds to help absorb the migrants, while the political debate over immigration is certain to intensify ahead of presidential and congressional elections in November 2024.

“California has an overwhelming amount of the homeless crisis. Now we’re dealing with the burden of the migrant crisis. Do we displace our homeless? I’m not displacing our homeless. The federal government needs to address this,” said Ryan Keim, Oceanside’s deputy mayor.

U.S. Representative Mike Levin, a Democrat whose district includes Oceanside, said in an email to constituents the street releases were “deeply concerning” and that he was fighting for more funding to “provide critical relief for our district.” He did not respond to an interview request from Reuters.

Last week the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a $3 million plan using available federal money to create a formal service center to receive all migrants released on the street in the county. Once operational, it would replace the makeshift operation cobbled together in the parking lot of a San Ysidro train station.

Oceanside had been operating a makeshift operation out of a city parking garage next to a transit station where the migrants are released. {snip}