REGION — An additional $3 million the county Board of Supervisors approved to help migrants and asylum seekers will be turned over to a nonprofit assistance firm in the near future, a county official said Wednesday.
Supervisors voted 4-1 late Tuesday to approve the money for SBCS.
According to a statement from board Chairwoman Nora Vargas, the $3 million will be used to help migrants released on the street and for a transitional center to help asylum seekers reach their final destinations, while also providing them with WiFi access, food, water, hygiene kits and other services.
“With the expiration of Title 42 restrictions earlier this year, San Diego County has experienced an unprecedented surge in arrivals, surpassing existing capacities and putting immense pressure on local resources,” Vargas said in the statement.
“The board’s further action today will continue processing asylum- seekers and providing essential services while the county seeks additional funding.” Vargas added she was grateful to SBCS and other local non-governmental organizations for giving basic necessities to migrants and those seeking asylum.
Vargas and Supervisor Joel Anderson requested the additional money, which is provided via the federal American Rescue Plan Act, although supervisors previously approved a broader framework on how the funds could be spent.
On Oct. 10, supervisors voted 3-0 to spend $3 million for services to help migrants and asylum seekers with various needs, such as translation assistance and transportation. SBCS also handled that funding, as part of an existing agreement, according to the county.
Vargas said during the Tuesday meeting that the moment a migrant enters the United States, his or her safety becomes paramount.
“Looking the other way is not going to make it go away,” she said.
Vargas said the current migrant situation is a global one and will continue, as those coming to the United States see the nation as “a beacon of hope.”
Calls to close the border are not realistic, given how that could affect both the state and U.S. economies, she added.
“This is a very complex situation that we find ourselves in,” one that news media reports don’t always fully explain, Vargas said. “The county can’t sustain this, and we really must continue to implore the federal government to take responsibility.”
Vargas also said the Biden administration had recently requested money to ease the border situation, but Congress didn’t act on it.
Anderson said the county is responsible for the safety of migrants and asylum seekers.
“The last thing that I want is someone street released by the Border Patrol in my district,” and possibly becoming a crime victim, he added.
Anderson said he’s not happy with federal immigration policy, as “it’s not working for anyone,” but he’s not a Congress member who could work improve it.
The county is dealing with a horrible situation, Anderson said, adding that he has received positive feedback about current efforts.
Supervisor Jim Desmond was the lone no vote Tuesday, saying that while he was glad migrants are getting help, he disagreed with the use of county funds for it.
“We’ve already (given) $3 million two months ago,” Desmond said. “How long is this going to continue until we draw the line?”
He also stressed that the federal government needs to step up, as it’s responsible for handling immigration. In a statement after the vote, Desmond said more than 50,000 migrants have entered San Diego County since Sept. 13 with no signs of slowing down.
“Our immigration system is broken, and San Diegans shouldn’t have to sacrifice local services because of this breakdown,” Desmond said. “This situation is unsustainable for our community, both financially and logistically.”
Supervisor Monica Montgomery Steppe said the county was “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” but she supported the funding request.
SBCS CEO Kathryn Lembo told 10News in a statement that her group applauded the county government for its “continued investment in a partnership that has provided basic services such as food, toiletries and through-transportation to more than 30,000 migrants legally processed by Border Patrol since mid-September.
“Without this continued investment, hundreds of migrants each day would be dropped off in our community without the ability to continue on their journey to their loved ones,” Lembo said. “SBCS and our partners are uniquely prepared to respond to this need in a way that is responsive and flexible to the rising demand, with low community impact.”